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What does a private investigator do? Witness interviewing and pretexting

What does a private investigator do? Witness interviewing and pretexting

Interviewing and pretexting are necessary techniques of private investigators and law enforcement agencies. In cases where information is limited, both of these techniques can prove crucial in obtaining critical information.

Interviewing and pretexting are vary drastically depending on the situation. In some cases, a direct interview with a witness may be the best course of action. However, for more covert cases, an undercover pretext may suit the case better. Pretexting is act of lying to obtain certain information. In many situations, it is legal for a lawful purpose. However, there are times where it is both unethical and illegal to do so.


Insurance investigations are certainly the most common in the investigative field. I would venture to say that almost every private investigator, at some point or another, has attempted to or frequented a claims investigation through an SIU department of an insurance company or conducted a worker’s compensation investigation.

When dealing with insurance investigations of any type, witness interviews are mostly important in cases of SIU, claims, and accident investigations over workers compensation investigation. In a claims or SIU investigation, individuals can be interviewed regarding incidents that have occurred in the past. When it comes to worker’s compensation investigations, subjects are normally followed in order to observe their current behaviors and activities. This is when pretexting comes in. If it is unknown where the subject may be heading to and they have been loss, some situations may allow the use of pretexting to confirm if they are home or on their way somewhere.

Employee & Workplace Misconduct

Employee misconduct is a sensitive field. Many companies that I’ve seen in the past tend to ignore problems or take care of them in-house. It is quite rare that problems reach law enforcement or a third part investigator. If you’re in human resources, you may want to consider reading this article (click here).

In cases where there do reach that point, it’s most common to interview employees about what happed. The process generally relies on management preparing a preliminary investigative summary for the investigator to review. The private investigator will then conduct their own preliminary investigation into the employee’s conduct. Their first approach may be to review any documentation on the employee after speaking with management, followed by the actual interviewing.

Although interviewing is the primary method to workplace misconduct, it isn’t unheard of for investigative agencies to go undercover and pretext as employees. There is an agency in the north east that specializes in placing undercover investigators in warehouses for loss prevention.

Child Custody

This type of case is know for it’s surveillance activities but it is not uncommon to conduct interviewing and pretexting for child custody cases. In cases where the subject of the investigation’s whereabouts are unknown, the private investigator may conduct phone or physical pretexts to establish the subject’s whereabouts. Generally, ethics and laws prohibit making contact with a represented subject.

On the subject of interviews in child custody cases, these can be rare. Unless the court or the attorney needs to have written statements of witnessed abuse, then it’s not often involved.

Civil Litigation

Civil litigation is an awfully broad term, it can involve divorce, child custody, property, or business lawsuits. And with all of those cases, there are numerous opportunities to conduct interviews and pretexts, depending on the surrounding circumstances.

Criminal Defense

Criminal defense relies heavily on witness statements. Although pretexting can be used to obtain information from subjects that may not be to keen on talking to investigators otherwise, it is best when witnesses make written and notarized statements under penalty of perjury.

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