With thanks to Alain Bernier (French PI Association)
Cheating, fraud and secret lives – The real life of a private detective in Wales
These specially-trained detectives are experts in surveillance and tracking people who don’t want to be caught…
By: Amy Coles – 4 OCT 2017
Brothels, nightclubs, hotels and even the local Tesco – these are just some of the places private investigators in Wales have found themselves following people to.
Also known as ‘agents’ these specially-trained detectives are experts in surveillance and tracking people who don’t want to be found.
From putting tracers on cars to using hidden cameras and microphones, there is little they can’t uncover.
But what is it really like to investigate the ins and outs of people’s private lives?
We spoke to one private investigator working in Wales who revealed:
How you can tell if your partner is cheating;
The equipment and techniques used to catch people in the act;
The dangers of the job and how much it costs to hire one.
One agent, who has worked as a private investigator in Cardiff for 17 years, has dished the dirt on the cloak and dagger profession and says it is actually a lot less seedy then people think.
The detective, who has to remain anonymous as he’s an “active agent in the field”, said the era of the mac and trilby is “long gone”.
Instead, agents now use the latest technology and gadgets to get to the truth.
One thing they regularly use is tracking devices on cars.
A mobile phone app then tells you where the vehicle is at all times.
The private investigator said: “It tells us exactly where they are. I will get a text telling me if the car has moved or if the car stopped.
“We won’t follow someone for more than 30 or 40 minutes without a tracking device.”
This is perfectly legal as long as you have permission from the owner of the car. This works when the person under surveillance is driving a company car, or one owned by a friend or partner.
The agent, who works for investigative firm Reynolds Confidential in Cardiff, said they insist on seeing proof of ownership before they do this.
They can also carry out forensics on mobile phones which can reveal anything that has been deleted. Again, they need permission from the phone’s owner to do this.
When it comes to cheating partners, the investigator said 99.9% of the time a spouse’s suspicions are proven to be correct.
Before agents will trail a client’s partner they have to ask the client personal questions about the relationship.
The investigator said: “We go into detail and ask about intimate details, looking for anything that suggests something is awry.
“When people come to us with affair claims, generally the trust is already gone from the relationship.
“The biggest clue someone is cheating is if their mobile phone habits have changed.
“That’s the biggest indication. They now take their mobile phone into the shower and don’t leave it behind like they used to.”
All clients get footage of the surveillance the private investigator has carried out.
Agents use hidden cameras and microphones to collect evidence and often follow people to nightclubs or hotels.
Who are the clients?
The private investigator said his clients are a mix of men and women wanting him to investigate whether their partner is having an affair.
One client, who met his partner in a brothel, asked Reynolds Confidential to follow her after becoming worried she had gone back to her old job.
Some wealthy clients have even asked the firm to follow their partner abroad on European stag or hen dos.
Another married client asked them to follow his mistress to France for the weekend to check she didn’t cheat.
The agent said: “I’ve travelled quite a lot all over the world. People can go anywhere. People can drive anywhere they need to.
“We’ve sent agents all over Europe to stag and hen dos.
“It’s usually people with quite a lot of money at their disposal.
“I’ve followed someone’s mistress. They had a wife and kids at home but wanted their mistress followed to France at the weekend to make sure they didn’t go off with anyone else.
“We get asked to do all sorts but obviously do have to have a line where we say no.”
He said the company refuses to organise ‘honey-traps’ where situations are set up to catch people out.
They also don’t do surveillance for partners who are estranged or divorced.
How much does it cost?
Getting the help of Reynolds Confidential isn’t cheap.
Prices start at £100 an hour and it typically costs £1,000 for a day’s work.
Agents also carry out work for companies. This typically involves investigating people off sick or people suspected of fraud.
The agent said: “Some people are claiming thousands of pounds. For example, someone could say they have no use of their right arm but then we film them going to shop in Tesco and they can use it.
“Unfortunately, we are then able to build up evidence of them using it, particularly when they said they injured themselves at work.”
‘Pulling a sickie’
Due to the recession, more and more companies are turning to private detectives to investigate workers they believe may be faking a condition to get sick leave.
He said: “Business has been increasing since the recession. Companies can’t keep their heads above water, let alone pay staff on the sick.”
One “unusual” case saw a group of disgruntled employees club together and approach the company to investigate another worker who was off sick after they became fed up of doing the extra work to cover them.
Another case saw the investigators follow an employee who said they were sick when they were actually working for a rival company.
The agent said: “This person had been sick for about three months. They were working for a rival company and trying to poach their employer’s clients.”
Just how dangerous is it?
The job of a private investigator is also dangerous.
This agent has been threatened with a baseball bat when serving someone with court papers.
All agents wear stab-proof vests but, despite speculation, cannot carry weapons.
Bizarrely the company has also been hired to look for missing dogs and on one occasion a missing cat.
The investigator said: “One family had lost their pedigree dog. They had called the police but nothing was happening at all.
“They were a wealthy family who brought us in to look for it.
“It was clear the dog had been stolen – that’s why the police were involved.
“We made enquiries and a lady who lived five or six doors down had seen a particular van hanging around before this dog went missing.
“She had actually taken down the full reg plate of this van.”
When the agent went to the house where the van was they found it full of animals, including the missing dog.
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