Top 10 Online Private Investigator Services Explained (2024)

Hiring a private investigator used to mean dimly-lit offices. But the world of private eyes has moved online, with investigators offering their services digitally through innovative tools and database access.

a female detective gazing at a computer screen


Online private investigators leverage the power of the internet and technology to conduct efficient investigations remotely. If you need discreet help getting to the bottom of a case, online PI services may provide the solutions you need from the comfort of your own home.

But with so many online options to choose from, what services should you look for? Here are the top 10  to consider when hiring a professional.


1. Public Record Searches

One of the cornerstones is accessing expansive databases of public records. Online PI services should provide access to billions of records spanning criminal histories, court filings, marriage/divorce docs, lawsuits, business registrations, and more.

Top services offer simple search tools to instantly comb through various databases to uncover addresses, aliases, relatives, criminal offenses, bankruptcies, assets, and other critical details about an individual’s background.

Public record searches provide the fundamental intel needed to conduct background checks or dig deeper into a case. API integrations also allow automating searches for high-volume screenings.


2. Reverse Phone Lookups

a detective using his phone while driving a vehicle

Many cases start with an unknown number—whether it’s repeated hangup calls or a suspicious text from a stranger. Reverse phone lookups allow investigators to enter any phone number and instantly reveal the owner’s name and address.

Quality services leverage comprehensive phone registries and databases, including both cell phone and landline numbers, VOIP, and non-listed numbers. This provides the key lead to propel investigations forward.


3. Social Media Investigations

Social media contains a wealth of insights into an individual’s life and connections. Online investigators can scour all the top social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn to uncover posts, photos, friends/followers, comments, and online activity.

Digital forensic tools allow aggregating, analyzing, and preserving social media data to paint a clear picture of someone’s movements, relationships, and more. This social media intelligence can provide critical evidence in cases.


4. Email Lookups

two icons (a globe and a lock) are displayed over the image of a woman using a computer.

Finding the email addresses associated with an individual can help unlock additional information and connections. Investigators can use email lookup services to identify active and old email accounts tied to a name or phone number.

This can illuminate leads and communication channels that may hold vital clues for cases. Some services also allow verifying if an email account exists on different sites.


5. Online Reputation Monitoring

A person’s digital footprint often contains red flags or compromising information. Online reputation monitoring services aggregate mentions of your name across social media, news sites, forums, blog comments, and more.

This allows investigators to construct a 360-degree view of an individual’s online reputation, relationships, movements, and history. Continual monitoring also identifies any new threats or activity.


6. Dark Web Monitoring

a man in a black suit in a dimly lit space

The dark web allows users to anonymously share information, request services, and engage in illegal activity. Private investigators can monitor the dark web using special tools and access.

Services should scan closed forums, chats, and marketplace sites for mentions of your personal details, like SSNs, passwords, or usernames, which can signal identity theft. Ongoing dark web surveillance provides alerts of any compromised information.


Locating an individual’s current and past assets provides key details for investigations and risk assessments. Quality asset search services uncover property ownership, vehicle titles, aircraft registries, watercraft registrations, bankruptcy filings, foreclosures, civil judgments, and tax lien records.

Compiling a complete record of assets and their statuses helps private investigators connect the dots in financial crimes, fraud investigations, and more.


8. Criminal Record Checks

Accessing up-to-date criminal records forms the crux of many private investigations. Online criminal record services aggregate nationwide criminal data into easily searchable reports.

Quality checks should include all counties and jurisdictions and cover felonies, misdemeanors, sexual offenses, incarceration details, probation status, upcoming court dates, and more. Robust criminal intel aids various cases.


9. Background Check Reports

a man in a suit holding a sign reading investigations

For comprehensive due diligence, online investigators can provide full background check reports that synthesize various records into a single clear profile.

Thorough reports may include criminal records, court filings, marriage/divorce details, address history, relatives, bankruptcies, assets, professional licenses, social media activity, and more.

Background checks help assess risks when vetting potential hires, tenants, contractors, partners, dates, and other new acquaintances.


10. Missing Person Services

Online investigators leverage various tools and databases to help locate missing persons or reconnect with lost contacts. Some top techniques include:

  • Advanced name and location searches using filters
  • Birth record lookups to confirm identities
  • Criminal record cross-checks for arrest details
  • Relatives and associates locators
  • Social media cross-referencing
  • Historical address tracing


Quality missing person services provide experienced investigators and researchers with proprietary strategies for tracing individuals who can’t be found through regular searches.


Tips for Hiring the Best Online Private Investigator

Zoom in on two people working on a computer.

With this overview of the top services offered by online private investigators, you can look for providers offering the solutions your case requires. Here are a few tips for picking the right online PI:

Verify licensing & credentials – Legitimate investigators should provide valid registration numbers, PI licenses, certifications, and staff qualifications.

Look for specialties – Some PI services specialize in areas like due diligence, infidelity, fraud, etc. Pick one matching your needs.

Ask about information sources – For quality searches, they should use official databases, not just crowdsourced material.

Review costs – Fee structures range from pay-per-search to monthly/annual plans. Find the best value.

See sample reports – Quality PIs will provide samples of previous background checks, asset reports, etc. to showcase work.

Discuss security – Ask about data encryption, confidentiality measures, legal compliance, etc. to ensure your privacy.

Get references – Reputable investigators will gladly provide client references to vouch for their services.


Protection of Personal Information

It’s important to ensure your personal information remains protected and secure. Reputable companies should detail their data encryption standards, confidentiality practices, secure portal access, and compliance with privacy laws.

Investigators should only access sensitive records and documents with your explicit written consent. They should be transparent about data handling and have personnel with security clearances when needed.


Membership in Investigative Associations

Many reputable private investigators have active membership in professional associations like the National Association of Legal Investigators, Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, and High Technology Crime Investigation Association.

Membership signals commitment to ongoing education and adherence to codes of ethics and standards of practice. Association resources help investigators refine their craft.


Client Testimonials and Investigative Case Studies

Look for detailed reviews and published case studies demonstrating their practical experience conducting specific types of investigations and applying online services to real-world cases.

Case studies should showcase capabilities across areas like due diligence, locating missing persons, tracking down cyber criminals, intelligence gathering, and more while protecting client confidentiality.


Additional Things to Consider

a detective checking into another individual

Consulting Experts on Complex Cases

For high-profile or highly complex cases, top investigators can provide consulting and advisory services drawing on their veteran expertise. Their insights on strategy, evidence gathering, and legal principles can help guide attorneys, executives, activists, and individuals navigating sensitive multi-faceted situations.

Experienced consultants become involved in case strategy and planning, providing a seasoned perspective. This high-level advisory role differs from active investigations, instead focusing on threat assessment, risk mitigation, and incident response.


Computer Forensics

A digital forensic analysis can recover deleted files and uncover online activities like website visits, searches, logins/passwords, emails, instant messages, app usage, and more.

Forensic computer exams are often needed in cases involving:

  • Intellectual property theft – Determine what files were accessed, copied, or transferred.
  • Employee misconduct – See if an employee visited illegal or inappropriate websites on company time.
  • Custody battles – Reveal a parent’s online activities that may endanger a child.
  • Infidelity – Uncover emails or dating site usage proving an affair.


Situational Awareness Training

Beyond digital searches, some offer supplemental training for clients focused on situational awareness and personal safety. This equips individuals to better protect themselves against threats by remaining vigilant and alert to their surroundings at all times.

Training modules may cover proactive topics like securing your home or vehicle, detecting physical surveillance, being aware of escape routes, and insulating your online presence. Skills-based courses provide clients with lifestyle changes for increased safety.


Specialists for Corporate Investigations

While many online PIs focus on services for individuals, some specialize in digital investigations and intelligence for corporate clients. This can include competitive intel gathering, intellectual property protections, vendor/partner due diligence, compliance audits, and insider threat assessments.

Experienced business investigators understand legal limits when collecting data on other companies. They leverage insider resources and strategies tailored for the corporate sphere.


Final Thoughts

With online providers offering a wide range of services, the digital environment has brought the private investigation industry into the 21st century. By leveraging huge public records databases, social media data, asset registries, and other digital footprints, experienced investigators have innovative new tools to uncover the truth and resolve cases efficiently. With this overview of the top 10 services, individuals and businesses can find the right partner to address their unique investigative needs. Do your due diligence to pick an established provider that offers the specific solutions you’re seeking, robust capabilities that align with your goals, transparent practices, and discretion with confidential data. The right online investigator brings accuracy, insights, and answers to your fingertips.


How much do online private investigator services cost?
Costs vary widely based on the search complexity, tools required, and case circumstances but are reasonable for most consumers.
If you suspect infidelity, need to vet new people, receive threats, require evidence for legal action, or have an unsolved mystery.
Yes, by using reverse phone lookups they can identify who owns a troubling number for clients facing harassment.
Criminal records, court filings, phone numbers, address history, bankruptcies, professional licenses, and more. Reports are customizable.
Skilled online PIs can conduct asset searches globally and may partner with forensic accounting firms to uncover and trace finances.
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