Lawrence Ryan Investigations Chicago Illinois
background information

How do private detectives get background information?

If there is one thing private detectives are known for is being very good at gathering information. It’s basically their primary mission, regardless of their cases. Gathering information is what makes this job a captivating challenge for most private investigators in Chicago, Illinois. However, getting background information is not as dramatic and thrilling as some movies, TV shows, and crime novels make it out to be.

Getting background information is a tad less risky than what the fictional world presents it to be, but definitely equally as rewarding if it leads to valuable information that can make or break a case.

What is background information?

Background information on a person typically refers to the professional and personal history of that individual. It is also to acquire background information on organizations. The idea behind obtaining background information of a person or company is to have reliable information from a third party so you can make a better decision.

In this article, we will explore some of the common ways that investigators are able to obtain background information.

This is how private detectives get background information.

Public records

The methods used to get background information often vary depending on the case investigators are working on. Some private investigators can specialize in certain types of cases, like intellectual property theft and corporate investigations, while others can focus more on providing services to law firms or working with law enforcement.

If they conduct a corporate investigation, for example, a company has asked them to perform background checks on one of their potential new employees, investigators can use databases and public records to check the personal, financial, and criminal history of the subject of the investigation. Public records are a reliable source of information, and while many private citizens can access them by themselves, not many know exactly where and what to look for.

Private investigators have a network of relationships and sources they can rely on that facilitate access to complex and exact information. They can check anything from birth and death certificates, marriage licenses, tax records, and real estate transactions to business licenses and court records. They can even get access to DMV records and voter registrations. The decisive step after gathering background information is to know how to analyze the collected information and follow its trail to solve the case. This is when years of experience make the difference!

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Conducting investigations is a full service, which means the work of a private detective doesn’t limit to gathering information from the comfort of their office. Their job often takes them out in the streets to interact with potential suspects, witnesses, or people who might know or have a relationship with the subject of the investigation.

The interviews usually need some time to build a connection and make the interviewee willing to collaborate. Sometimes, clever pretenses need to come into play to get the information from people who might not be very inclined and open to talk to the investigator.

The entire interviewing process needs to be done within the law, so the pretenses used to gather information from certain persons should never involve impersonating an officer of the law, trespassing private property or wiretapping a phone without consent. However, a private investigator can record a private conversation if the conversation takes place in a public space where anyone can hear it.


The “fun” part of a private investigator’s complex intelligence gathering service is surveillance. Private detectives spend a lot of time tracking and following persons of interest, usually from their own car, although some private investigation companies may also use surveillance vans. Surveillance often offers an abundance of information, including details about where the person goes, who they meet with, where they work, and how they behave when they think no one is watching.

Surveillance plays a vital role in child custody cases when a parent tries to prove the other parent is unfit to obtain custody and has a reckless behavior that might endanger the child’s safety. It’s also the main tool used to locate missing persons or skip trace, someone. Moreover, surveillance is the go-to method to solve cases concerning cheating spouses. There is no tool more straightforward to catch a cheating spouse in the act than surveillance.

Although in most TV shows you’ve watched, private detectives often use GPS tracking to follow a suspect, in real life and most states in the United States, private investigators are not allowed to place a GPS device on a vehicle without the vehicle owner’s consent. This rule applies to the state of Illinois too. A surveillance mission might take anything from a couple of hours to weeks, so it’s best to discuss with the private investigations firm to find out how they set and what are their rates when it comes to surveillance.

The internet

The all mighty internet is the gift that keeps on giving for private detectives. Whether they are conducting background checks, gathering information for a divorce or custody case, or running a social media investigation, the internet offers access to an impressive amount of information. It’s true the internet world is vast and often overwhelming, but private investigators with experience in the field will know where to look and what to look for.

Social media platforms are an infinite source of information, so private detectives often use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and other similar channels to get access to photos, locations, and facts that might help with their investigation. It doesn’t even have to be the account of the person of interest. It’s enough for one of their friends to tag them in a photo or post, and the private investigator can follow the trace from there. The internet never forgets, and this is good news for private detectives in Illinois.

Whether private investigators provide their information gathering services to law institutions or they work for companies or private individuals, they always make sure to respect the law. They have numerous methods, tools, and tricks to get background information for their cases, so it’s recommended to hire a private investigator whenever you need information about a person. If you’re using a private detective’s investigative services, you can be sure the retrieved information is accurate and admissible in a court of law if need be.

4 Methods that private investigators use to obtain information.

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