We are told that the first impression many people have when they visualize what a private investigator looks like is usually Sherlock Holmes or some rugged character under a Fedora hat or an old wrinkled rain coat, hiding in an alley or inside a car with tinted windows. Let’s get real! Here is how a Private Investigator goes undercover in the twenty-first century.

Professional private investigators actually look nothing at all like those in these photos for several reasons; A private investigator’s goal is to successfully accomplish their assignment without anyone knowing they are a private investigator. To do that successfully is best described as a Private Investigator turning themselves into human chameleons by blending into their investigative environment. Knowing how to do that is an acquired and practiced skill that requires a fairly high degree of intelligence and finesse. Private Investigators are often at risk while conducting their investigations and there is a strong likelihood that an investigator could cause the subject of their investigation to become very upset upon the subject learning that someone is either spying on them or looking into their background. The most essential rule for a Private Investigator is to remain innocuous at all times.

Unfortunately, TV characters acting as Private Investigators often do not portray what a true private investigator looks like. In almost all instances it is very difficult to pick out the private investigator in a crowd of people because they concentrate on being able to blend in to their environment.

Private Investigators Avoid Appearing Awkward, Boisterous or Out of Place

Contrary to popular belief, private surveillance investigators do not always remain in their cars for an entire day. They actually do exit their automobiles to follow subjects into various locations such as retail stores, office buildings, shopping centers, bowling alleys, movies and restaurants. Rest assured private investigators do a great deal of walking and of course, a great amount of driving. An investigator can be conducting surveillance in New York City and within a half hour they could be following their subject onto an expressway to Philadelphia or following a subject on a Los Angeles Freeway and the next thing they know they are on the way to Las Vegas. You might ask, what about their clothes and toiletries if they find themselves having to travel away from their resident city. Experienced Private Investigators always take a small overnight suitcase or duffle bag with them hidden it in their vehicle. Their suitcase is usually filled with dress cloths, casual and worn clothes and they also take plenty of water with them. The often pack disguises like thick reading glasses, hats with low brims, homeless clothes, tattered and dirty so they can sit on a street right in front of a subject’s location usually working in tandem with a second investigator nearby in a vehicle each using two way radios with hidden ear pieces.

You might wonder how does a private investigator know how to dress when undertaking an undercover investigation assignment? The first rule is to conduct an advance survey of the business establishment and observe how the employees are dressed. Then check out the employee parking lot to see the majority of the cars parked. Knowing the make and models of most of the vehicles usually establishes if the workers are blue collar, white collar or executives. In addition to the parking lot, the undercover investigator position themselves in a strategic location to observe the employees exiting at the end of their work day and also trying to listen to the conversations between the employees whenever possible. Observing whether the employees are bringing their lunch to work or buying their lunch off a food truck or if they are going to restaurants tells the investigator what to bring to work for lunch or to have cash available to go to a Denny’s, Mc Donald’s or an upscale restaurant.

Some of these assignments are quite dangerous and they are not for the faint of heart. Take for an example that a business suspects they have been victimized by corporate espionage. Those businesses could be facing the loss of millions of dollars if their proprietary intellectual property is stolen and the thieves who stole the intellectual property also have millions at stake and will do whatever it takes to protect their anticipated investment during the commission of the corporate espionage. It takes experience, intelligence and years of likewise assignments to infiltrate and identify who the perpetrators are. Knowing how to dress or disguise one self and how to precisely fit into the environment as an undercover operative requires exceptional preparation and fortitude. What comes out of an undercover operatives’ mouth can be extremely dangerous if they accidently misstate something that compromises the assignment. Having control and self awareness to avoid stating the wrong thing is paramount to the success of an operation.