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Is There an App for Private Investigators?

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By Christopher Coble, Esq. on August 25, 2015 10:21 AM

It's all about disruption these days -- Uber disrupted the taxi industry; Airbnb disrupted the hotel industry; Facebook disrupted everyone's productivity at work. So what's the next industry ripe for disruption?

One company will tell you it's the world of private investigations, and considering the recent Hack That Shall Not Be Named, the demand for P.I. services may never have been higher. So is it a good thing (or even legal) to have private investigators at the touch of an app?

There's a P.I. for That

Private criminal investigators are perfectly legal and are regulated by state law. Most states, outside of Alaska, Idaho, South Dakota, and Wyoming, require private investigators or private detectives to register and have a license to legally practice (and some cities or local jurisdictions within those states also require a license).

Florida has five different licenses for private investigators and agencies; California's licensing could take six to eight weeks to complete; and Washington D.C. has extensive application, registration, and reporting requirements. The idea that anyone could paint an eye on an office door and be the next Philip Marlowe or Magnum, P.I. is long gone.

Find Someone on Your Phone

A startup called Trustify is attempting to bring the P.I. game even further into the 21st century, giving you access to investigators via an app for only $67 an hour. What isn't clear is whether those investigators (or Trustify) are licensed in the states in which they are practicing. It's also unclear as to the kind of vetting process Trustify uses to make sure its clients aren't stalkers or otherwise subject to restraining orders or non-contact orders.

The company has also come under fire for exploiting the Ashley Madison hack by contacting those whose emails were leaked and also allowing others to search for email addresses that weren't their own among the released personal information. Trustify used the contact to sell its investigative and online cleanup services, though not in the most savory way (if there even is a savory way to turn a potential adulterer's leaked personal information into financial gain).

If you're in the market for a private investigator, your best bet is probably to stick to licensed detectives and registered agencies. An experienced criminal attorney near you may also be able to help.

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