A private investigator explains how he conducts an infidelity investigation and signs to look for if you think someone is cheating.


Surveillance cases – like those done for infidelity cases – don’t follow a script like they do on television or in the movies. “Sometimes I can’t even find a parking space,” joked Joe, one of the private investigators in Trustify’s marketplace. With 30 years of experience in the industry, he’s seen how infidelity cases have both evolved and stayed the same.

We sat down with Joe to talk about how infidelity investigations work – and some of the common misconceptions that people have about them. He explained how the case evolves: why many people start a case, what a typical working relationship between investigator and client is like, his advice on handling suspicions as an experienced investigator, and some general misconceptions.

We started at the beginning: how does a client finally decide to start a case and have their significant other investigated?

1) Sometimes Clients Are Already Certain That They Are Being Cheated On

“By the time the client (or would-be client) reaches out, they know in their gut what’s going on,” Joe said. For many people, contacting the investigator is more of a confirmation process than anything.

However, it’s definitely not an easy decision to make. “Most of the time, depending on what the answer is to that question ("Am I being cheated on?"), it’s going to alter their life. It’s going to alter their path. Are they going to stay with the person? Are they going to try to work it out? Or are they going to terminate that relationship and move on to something else? All of those (decisions) have great consequences in whatever they decide to do. So when they do reach out to me, it’s usually beyond suspicion.”

Joe caught us off guard with another point: the client might also be the cheater, using the investigation to “check-in” on their spouse, because they know they are capable of being unfaithful. “And it’s kind of a projection of that behavior onto the spouse. And I think part of that might be if their spouse is cheating, they (can) justify their behavior a little better, a little bit more.”

2) Just Talking to An Investigator Can Be Helpful

Not only can a private investigator offer good advice and guidance, they will be able to answer questions before a client says or does something they might regret.

Joe reminded us that the investigators aren’t emotionally attached to the situation, they are an objective third party doing their job. “(The client is) not hiring us to make their spouse cheat. They’re hiring us for our time and expertise and to give them the information, no matter what it is.”

The initial consultations and conversations are a chance for the private investigator to learn more about the client and find out where they are mentally, how strong they are emotionally.  

People often use private investigators as an unofficial counsellor – and they’re used to that. “This is a conversation that they couldn’t have with another family member, or their girlfriends, or their best buddies," said Joe. “Because they don’t want them to know what’s going on. So by default, you become an ear for them to talk to. Someone to listen. As well as understanding where they’re at.”

So, if you’re thinking of hiring an investigator, here’s Joe’s advice: “It doesn’t hurt to have the conversation. Private investigators are used to these conversations. They understand your apprehension. They understand the need for privacy and confidentiality. A private investigator is never going to talk about your individual case. They’re never going to reveal that to anyone. So you should feel secure in the fact that you would have a private, confidential conversation.” 

3) Don’t Confront Your Partner Until You Have The Facts

Joe advises clients who have information – whether it’s through their personal investigation or information from the private investigator – should keep it to themselves until the investigation is concluded. “One of the worst things that can happen for an investigator is that the client reaches out to us after there’s already been confrontation – after they’ve already done a lot of snooping and violated that person’s trust before they talk to me.”

Once the cat is out of the bag, it’s out permanently. “They can’t help themselves. They get emotional about it, maybe in the spur of the moment, in heated debate, a conversation. They say something that they have no business knowing under normal circumstances. And once that tips off that person, either the case can unravel at that point, or it opens up a whole new path of the investigation, and problems for both my client and for us.”

Other times, clients reach out to the investigators to make sense of what they’ve uncovered. “Depending on what they find sometimes, they’re not sure what they find. So they end up reaching out to an investigator to see if they can put what they’ve found on their own into perspective, and then maybe clean it up a bit and finish an investigation.”

Having an investigator confirm suspicions is safer than having them try and back up accusations a client has already made.

4) This isn’t Hollywood - There Are Laws To Follow

If you’re looking for the guy in a fedora and trenchcoat who can plant a listening device on a person of interest’s collar and solve the case before the end of the TV episode, we’ve got some news for you.

“I think that’s important that the client understands some of the limitations that are on us. You know, it’s not Hollywood. This isn’t TV. We cannot trample all over people’s privacy and people’s rights and things of that nature. So we are restricted to some things we can do, but what we can offer is first of all is a third party independent look at everything.”

Investigation methods change from state to state, too. “Let’s take for example, GPS legislation. A lot of times, laws haven’t caught up with the technology that we have. GPS technology has jumped leaps and bounds. In some states, you cannot use GPS tracking devices under any circumstances whatsoever. Other states you can if your client you know has control of registration of that vehicle. They can do whatever they want as far as tracking on it. A lot of investigators don’t want to be the test case for GPS, so they stay away from it.”

5) When it Comes to Relationships, Investigators Help With More Than Just Cheating

As relationships change through time, so do the persons of interest that private investigators are researching. “You know a long time ago, when I was a young investigator starting, it was often one spouse or the other spouse trying to get custody of their children. Today, I get a lot of grandparents who are trying to get custody of their grandchildren from their own children. So I’ve seen that shift when it’s happened.”

Joe has also seen an increase in pre-marital investigations, working for clients who have already been married and divorced and they are looking at a possible second or third marriage. “These clients are typically a little older, you know mid-thirties, or in their forties, or even fifties. And they have gone through oftentimes a bad breakup and a bad divorce. And before going forward, going further in the relationship or popping the question, they come to a guy like me and they want to have a background check and they want an investigation done before they get into that situation again where they’re looking at marriage and possibly another divorce.”

It’s not just spouses that ask for these sorts of investigations either. “I’ve had cases where the parents have come because their son or daughter are getting involved with somebody and they want the prospective spouse checked out before their child goes any further.”

Cheating has been going on since the dawn of time – but over the years, Joe believes that more people are turning to private investigators to get the truth, sooner. “People are more apt to check it out today I think. It’s become more common to reach out to an investigator than it might have been years ago.”

After all, that’s why Trustify was started – for people who aren’t content to live in the dark, not knowing whether their trust is misplaced. If you’re not sure what’s going on, even talking to a PI confidentially can help you know where you stand.

Video by Stacy Blackburn

Danny Boice
Danny Boice

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