The classic image of the private investigator is of a trench-coated gumshoe trailing some crim or cheating spouse through shadowed streets. Maybe that was true once, but the reality today, while perhaps less romantic, is that private investigators offer such a wide range of services they can be found operating in almost any personal or business situation.

Whether you’re an employer checking out a prospective employee, a wife with a cheating husband (or vice versa), a business owner with a theft problem, or a credit agency pursuing debtors, hiring a private investigator could be a confidential and effective solution to your problem.


To work as a private investigator in New Zealand a person must hold a private investigator’s license issued by the Ministry of Justice. If you plan to engage a private eye make sure they have one.

Licenses can be held in the name of an individual investigator, or in the name of a firm of investigators. If held by a firm, all operatives of that firm must hold a Certificate of Approval as a Responsible Employee of a Licensed Private Investigator.

Professional Body

You can further ensure confidence in your choice of private investigator by checking whether or not they belong to an appropriate professional body. In New Zealand this is likely to be the New Zealand Institute of Professional Investigators Inc. (NZIPI).

Experience and Specialisation

A licence and membership of the NZIPI, however, may not be sufficient to ensure a particular investigator or firm is the right choice for your particular situation. Certain private investigation companies specialise in certain areas. Make sure the one you choose is right for the job.

Individual investigators, too, will have different levels of experience. Many are ex-forces or ex-policemen. The contacts and experience gained during these previous professions will often be advantageous during investigations.

Area of Operation

Consider where your operative will have to conduct their investigation. Do they service certain areas only? Or can they operate across the whole of New Zealand? Will they need to conduct investigations abroad – in Australia, say? Are they able and allowed to do so?


For the first-timer, selecting a private detective can be difficult as you’ll have no pervious experience upon which to base your decision. Look for the two “Rs” – recommendations and reputation.

If you can, find others who have used the firm you’re considering. Were they satisfied with the results? Do some research on the internet. How well regarded is your private investigator? Do they operate with integrity, speed and confidentiality? Are their fees reasonable?


When choosing a private investigator the range of services they offer is an important consideration. Services offered by today’s private detectives include:

Spousal infidelity – Is he or she cheating on you? Private investigators can employ a range of techniques to get the evidence. Chief among these may be sophisticated surveillance and tailing techniques.

Due diligence – Planning to buy a new business? It’s at this early stage you’ll need to confirm that the information provided to you by the seller is accurate. This so-called white-collar investigation is often conducted by specialised firms.

Debtors & repossessions – Street level work tracking down debt defaulters and repossessing physical assets. Adherence to professional standards and lawful practices is essential here.

Workplace theft – Inventory going missing? Competitors using your intellectual property? Private investigators do everything from going undercover to installing pin-head cameras to monitor employee behaviour – yes, it’s legal in New Zealand as long as they don’t record sound without the target’s knowledge.

Insurance fraud – We’ve all heard the stories. An employee off work with back problems, seen playing tennis or kicking a ball about. More than likely this kind of fraud has been exposed by a private investigator after suspicions were raised at the insurance company.

Computer crime – Denial of service attacks, pornography in the workplace, data leaks, unauthorised access, industrial espionage… These are all areas where the cyber P. I. can help.

Pre-employment checks – Wondering if that prospective employee is just too good to be true? Not sure those university certificates are really genuine? Private investigators can often provide the reassurance you need within 24 hours.

Document serving – A service often employed by law firms. A thorough knowledge of court processes is essential here.

Wide Ranging

The world of the private investigator is wider than ever before. Specialisation has increasingly become a feature of the industry, with private operatives now regularly working in areas of white-collar crime and internet abuse.

Situations that require private investigators are almost always unfortunate. But if you ever happen to find yourself in one it’s reassuring to know there’s someone to turn to.

Private Investigators – What They Can Do for You, 4.5 out of 5 based on 2 ratings

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