Be Your Own Investigator

Private investigation can be a highly difficult and time consuming enterprise. Unlike the movies, books, television, etc., solving any substantive case can be difficult. For folks that want to do things on their own or for people that do not want to invest in hiring a PI, there are some things that can be done online, at the local court house, local library, county clerks office, etc. I would suggest hiring an investigator for surveillance purposes, certainly if there is a legal aspect to the case, but you can certainly poke around and document what you find. Always remember, there is no magic database, surveillance can take time, and even if you think something can be easy, there are so many variables and curveballs, to use a baseball term, that anything can and does happen. Check with an attorney if you have any questions regarding your investigation, you don't want to get hit with a harassment or order of protection claim. 


There are several websites that offer OSINT (Open Source Intelligence), for more info on OSINT click here. Basically, OSINT is open to the public, it is information that can be had by the public. The list below are websites that offer services that are generally low cost. Be careful, I always suggest using a new email account and a gift card when placing an order, or subscription, on these sites if you can. After you get the info you want, cancel the subscription if you no longer need it, and I suggest deleting yourself from their database. In short, these are fine for basic information. Like any database, they have no idea what you know or don't know, it just produces all the information it has on the data you have provided. Again, no database is magic, so have reasonable expectations, they are not NSA/CIA/DOJ/FBI type services, just open source information that can be had via public searches. Once in a while I hear people say that they can find most of the same information. Well, yes, it is open source, it is available to the public. 

Background Check companies to take a look at

  • Checkr
  • BeenVarified
  • TruthFinder
  • Intelius

Government websites to look at

  • Dawson (US Tax Court)
  • SEC Filings
  • UCC Filings
  • FBI of Prisons
  • OFAC Sanctions 
  • National Sex Offender Registry
  • County Personal Property and Tax Records
  • County Clerk/County Courthouse
  • State Highway Patrol 
  • FOIA (Freedom of Information Act)


  • Salvation Army (Missing Persons)
  • Meta
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • Pinterest
  • Reddit
  • LinkedIn
  • 23 and Me (DNA)
  • Ancestry (DNA and other information)

When all else fails, check with the local library, they have amazing people employed there, and will be a wealth of information to assist in your search. If you either do not have the time, or want an expert to conduct the investigation for you, hire a professional. 

Protecting Yourself

We often get calls on the topic where someone says that they are being harassed, but really they believe they are being followed. If a person is being harassed there will be proof, like voice mail messages, phone number, address, license plate, emails, letters, video, etc., something tangible that can be taken to law enforcement for follow-up. Law enforcement cannot operate with what "you know" it can only work with what you can prove and physically provide. Someone driving by your house a bunch of times likely does not qualify, unless they are yelling at you or throwing eggs at your home, something physical. I think you get the point here, without actionable proof to provide to law enforcement you have inuendo. 

What to do

  • Put cameras inside your house
  • Put cameras outside your house
  • Put cameras in your vehicle
  • Have a camera on your phone

Document what happens

  • Take screen shots of harassing emails and texts
  • Take video of what is going on
  • Save any calls, emails, texts you have received

The bar is pretty high when taking proof to law enforcement, make sure you have plenty of it. If you do not, it is possible they will believe you are paranoid or not serious about the complaint. And a quick note, if you tell law enforcement someone has put a listening device in your home, please provide the device, as it is exceedingly rare that a recording device is placed in a home, but it does happen. Remember, any recording device needs power, either with a battery or regular grid. 

In the end, there are several things that can be done to assist in your own efforts. And please be reasonable with expectations placed on yourself, law enforcement, and professional investigators, it isn't like the movies and TV, and even a million dollars spent on the Donald Trump dossier didn't come up with anything substantive by Christopher Steele.