Frequently Asked Questions
27 QUESTIONS WITH MIKE EVANS
These are the most frequently asked questions in no particular order. Keep in mind; you cannot get work as an investigator unless you have a license relevant to the State in which you live.
Q.1. WHAT IS THE AUSTRALIAN CIVIL INVESTIGATION INDUSTRY?
A.1. Civil investigation is the conduct of non – criminal investigations. In Australia we have police who handle all aspects of criminal investigation, and despite what you read in sensationalized headlines, the police are very successful at it.
Non – criminal investigations involve matters such as Insurance, Sexual Harassment, Work Place Bullying and Internal Corporate Investigation.
The differences are police are involved with Criminal law – involving offences against the legislation of the State (e.g. rape, stealing) and this is applied on the criminal burden of proof, “Beyond a reasonable doubt”. The two parties are referred to as: Prosecutor vs Accused, if the accused is found guilty, punishment is determined.
Civil law – involves one person enforcing their private rights against another (e.g. breach of contract). This will be determined by a court, applying the civil burden of proof, “Balance of Probabilities”. The Law of Torts is applied in these matters. The two opposing parties are referred to as: Plaintiff vs Defendant, if Negligence is determined, damages are awarded.
Q.2 WHAT ARE THE SPECIFIC INVESTIGATIONS THAT A BEGINNER CAN EXPECT TO CONDUCT?
A.2. A beginner entering the industry must know how to conduct these investigations:
- Workers Compensation
- Motor Vehicle Accident (CTP Liability)
- Public Liability
- General insurance
Q.3. SOME OF THOSE ARE QUITE COMPLEX INVESTIGATIONS, WHICH SHOULD A BEGINNER START WITH?
A.3. General Insurance Investigation because it is the most common form and thus there is a large demand Australia wide for it.
Q.4. SO WHAT DOES GENERAL INSURANCE INVESTIGATION COMPRISE OF?
A.4. General Insurance is any form of Investigation that falls under the Insurance Contracts Act. It includes such investigations as:
- Stolen Motor Vehicle Investigation
- Home Burglary
- Any form of Home Contents Public Liability
Q.5 YOU SAID CIVIL INVESTIGATORS DON’T HANDLE CRIMINAL MATTERS; SURELY STOLEN MOTOR VEHICLES ARE A CRIMINAL MATTER?
A.5. A vehicle is stolen every six minutes in Australia . There are many reasons they are stolen. The vehicles that are Insured are the ones we, as investigators are interested in. Yes the police take details and file reports, but Insurers have a vested interest in ensuring the authenticity of stolen motor vehicle claims, and that is our task.
Q.6. SO WHAT IS INVOLVED?
A.6. It’s all in your Certificate III Investigations course. If it is not in your course then don’t do the course.
Q.7. YOU AVOIDED THE QUESTION?
A.7. OK as the investigator in these matters, you will conduct a Record of Interview with the Insured owner. You will request relevant documentation, interview and take a statement from any witnesses, and if the vehicle is recovered, inspect the scene and the vehicle. You will then provide a report to the Insurance Company.
Q.8. WHAT IS A RECORD OF INTERVIEW?
A.8. A Record of Interview is a method of interviewing a person that simply asks a question, and records the answer to the question, written or recorded. It is very specific and similar to a police interview.
Q.9. WHAT IS A STATEMENT?
A.9. A statement is a narrative account by a witness regarding what they saw, touched, tasted, smelt, and heard or any combination of those.
Q.10. SO AS AN INVESTIGATOR I WILL CONDUCT INTERVIEWS IN TWO DIFFERENT FORMATS?
A.10. No you may conduct interviews in several formats, Records of Interview and Statements are just two ways. You may conduct very informal interviews and eliminate witnesses without writing or recording anything.
Q.11. SO DO PRIVATE INVESTIGATORS AND INQUIRY AGENTS CARRY GUNS, GET INVOLVED IN SHOOTOUTS AND ARREST BADDIES?
A.11. No, only on American Television, and perhaps in America they may in certain situations, where investigators are quasi police.
A Private Investigator is not a judge and jury. Most importantly no citizen has the power to take a life, threaten harm against any other person act above the law. If any one is thinking that by becoming a Private Investigator they will solve other people’s problems they should consider an alternative career. Private Investigators do not fix things. They simply collect and present facts.
Q.12. SO IT’S QUITE BORING WORK?
A.12. No quite the contrary. No two days are the same and the work is challenging and interesting. If you enjoy variety, have an inquiring mind and the ability to get people to relax and tell you things, you can be a very successful investigator.
Q.13. SO WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY IN THE WORKING LIFE OF A PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR LOOK LIKE?
A. 13. Starting quite early about 7.00 am the investigator would drive to an accident scene, and make an inspection. This may include taking measurements, photographs and locating local witnesses. Then following that a series of interviews may be held with witnesses and relevant people to where the accident occurred.
Q.14. WHAT ARE THE CURRENT DEMANDS BY INSURANCE COMPANIES IN TERMS OF INVESTIGATIONS?
A. 14. Currently Clients are asking their investigators to return all instructed investigations within 14 days. This is a significant decrease in time, as previously it was 21 days.
In other recent developments, investigators are now being asked to confirm instructions directly with the Client, by email within 24 hours and confirm the first appointment as instructed within 48 hours, and give investigation updates every 3 days.
All this is being done by email, and the Clients are issuing instructions by email. Emailed instructions and reports represent significant time saving, for the client.
But don’t throw away your fax machine just yet!
Q. 15. IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE IMPORTANT OUR READERS SHOULD KNOW IN THIS AREA?
A. 15. Yes. Tenders are still the flavour of the month, for securing permanent Investigation Panel Membership. As an investigator it is important to have a portfolio for the tender process, for the Investigation Agency you sub contract for. This includes:
- Up to date resume
- Certified copies of your qualifications
- Current investigation license details
- Copies of previous licenses
- Drivers license
- Criminal history
- RTA driving history
- Public liability insurance
- Vehicle insurance
- Equipment list
Q.16. WHAT ARE PANEL RATINGS?
A.16. Ratings systems have been creeping slowly into investigations for some years now. For Clients who employ this system every investigation is rated. The ratings are on what is important to the Client. They may include but are not limited to:
- Confirming instructions within 24 hours
- Progress updates were made every 3 days
- Finalising the investigation within 14 days
- Ensuring the report is error free and unbiased
- Obtianing all requested information in the investigation
- Ensuring all attachments are in order, numbered and included
- Billing is accurate and in agreement with the service level agreement
- Adding value to the investigation
- Surveillance is not compromised
- Surveillance video is in focus
The NRMA have a one way rating system, where they judge the lot themselves. WorkCover do it in conjunction with the investigation agency manager. The Client is paying for a professional investigation, so the Client is entitled to use a monitered performance management system.
If an investigator scores 8 or more out of 10, the s/he is paid a higher rate, under performers are counseled, and deleted from panels if performance does not improve.
Q. 17. WE ALL WANT NEW BUSINESS, WE ALL WANT MORE BUSINESS, WHAT DO YOU SUGGEST WE DO TO ACHIEVE THAT?
A.17. This is probably the question I am asked the most. I won’t give away all my secrets because they are in my courses, and I only want my students to benefit from those, however, I can tell you what is not working.
People come to me and say,” I have had 20 years experience as a police officer, I have written to the Insurance Companies, and the Investigation Agencies and they don’t want to know me!”
Well that is true, the same happened to me when I was starting out. However I looked at what I was doing, what I was expecting and when it should have happened. I realised I should have been focusing on what the Client was doing, what the Client expected and when the Client was in most need of it. I adjusted my activities accordingly, and I now have an excess of work.
It takes time, relationship building, trust and high standard of final product, and as any established Investigation Agency owner will tell you, sometimes some good luck and good timing. If you are consistent in your efforts, the work will flow, there is no easy way to riches in Investigations or any other Industry- hard work and commitment will reap benefits every time. Strive to be the SOLUTION to your Clients needs!
Q.18. IS IT POSSIBLE TO GET WORK IF I AM NEW TO THE INDUSTRY?
A.18. Yes, it is and there are some strong reasons why. Firstly all Investigation Agencies have to return investigations to insurers within 14 days. Secondly people leave the investigation industry regularly and vacancies are created. Generally the investigation work force is older, and many retire. The third important factor in your favour is your location. Regardless of where you live in Australia , there is investigation work in your area.
Q.19. WHO DO I GET WORK FROM?
A.19. Investigation Agencies win tenders placed by Insurance Companies for a period of three years. This is called being awarded Panel Membership. An agreed price per hour is made and Investigators are paid an agreed rate. Your best chance of securing work is through an investigation Agency. This will enable you to gain experience and eventually start your own company. MOST IMPORTANTLY NO ONE WILL EMPLOY YOU OR EVEN INTERVIEW YOU UNLESS YOU HAVE THE INVESTIGATION LICENSE RELEVANT TO YOUR STATE.
Q.20 WHAT ARE YOUR BEST TIPS ON BREAKING INTO THE INDUSTRY?
Q.20. Realise that work is there and those who are committed and competitive will get it. If you are the type of person who gives in after a negative experience in seeking work, you will never become an investigator. Take a mid-term outlook toward securing work and do not give up your current position until you gain investigation work. Keep trying, and you will get what you want. If you give up or are the type of person who does not adjust to the requirements of employers, do not enter this industry.
Contact as many Investigation Agencies as you can as frequently as once per week. They need Investigations done, and have an excess of work. Often they get last minute work on a Friday night, tell them you can do that at short notice. If you knock back work, you won’t get offered any more.
Q.21. DO INVESTIGATORS CONTINUE STUDY BEYOND THEIR LICENSING COURSE?
A.21. Yes. If you don’t learn something new in your investigation work every day, you are not doing your job properly. I have ex students who keep spending up to $3,000.00 a year on their own professional development. They do this to stay ahead of the competition and make themselves the demand investigation professionals who employers will use consistently.
Q.22. WHAT SHOULD A BEGINNER WHO WANTS TO ENTER THE INVESTIGATION INDUSTRY BE AWARE OF?
A.22. Today there has been an abundant flourishing of fly-by-night investigation training organisations springing up, to separate the vulnerable from their money. They claim to be Nationally Accredited, and have available work for graduates. Their trainers are not qualified, their programs are not Nationally Accredited and they are extremely dangerous to the industry and the community at large.
Be aware of these factors:
- Investigation work has nothing to do with Security Guard work.
- You will not complete a private investigation course and be able to undertake criminal investigations.
- Bugs, guns and lie detectors have nothing to do with the income earning work of an investigator.
- If the course includes an offer of an Investigator Badge – avoid it at all costs.
- If they offer to train you to locate missing persons you are a sucker!
- If the training organisation has 007 as the last 3 digits of the phone number or email address do not undertake any course with them.
- If the training provider is called: Para Trooper Investigations, SAS Investigations, Military Investigations, Combat investigators, Get Even Investigations, do not even contact them because you will be unemployable at the end of their training program.
- Any form of training you do to undertake relationship surveillance will be dodgy.
Q.23 WHERE’S THE HARM IN THAT MIKE, YOUR JUST SCARED OF COMPETITION?
Q.24 OK SO YOU RAISED A BIG ISSUE WITH THE “DODGY OPERATORS” IS THERE ANY OTHER “DODGY” ISSUE YOU MUST GET OFF YOUR CHEST?
A.24. Yes. Locating missing persons. It is generally accepted by the community that Investigators locate missing persons. I get three such inquiries a week in my business and I turn them all down.
A.25. Because the person seeking the missing person will never tell you the truth about why they want them. A lot of people go missing because they are in danger of physical harm or even death. Relationship breakdown, business partnership dissolution, out of hand family disputes can all lead to revenge by an aggrieved party who is psychotic enough to do it.
As a teacher during the last 14 years I have met over 30 individuals who had to change identities, occupations, States and Countries just because of death threats from a former partner, not only on them but also on their children. There are a lot of people who just do not let go, and they will employ Investigators to locate missing persons.
It is a known fact that an ex-police officer who is now an investigator can convince a current serving police officer mate to find some one on a police data base, and sell that information to someone who wants it. This is why Victoria and NSW have introduced logs for any inquiries regarding whom, and why someone has conducted a search on a police data for someone.
This is one of our industry’s biggest Risk Management vulnerabilities.
How do investigators locate witnesses then?
This is our industry’s worst – kept secret. All professional investigation agencies and loss adjusters subscribe to marketing databases. These are current, up to date, inexpensive, and on a good one you will know 60% of the addresses of residents of any street and their name and phone number! People, who have no reason to hide, are added to these databases every time they buy a ticket in a “Win a house” raffle or subscribe to a multitude of other services. Your name and address is big business.
Q.26. IF YOU HAD TO OFFER ADVICE TO A PERSON WISHING TO BECOME A PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR WHAT WOULD IT BE?
A.26. Don’t think you can’t do it, because you can. But know what you are getting into. Insurance investigation is the only way you will get continuous, paid work; you will not build a business on Relationship Surveillance. There are hundreds of people who call themselves investigators who have retail or hospitality jobs and conduct Relationship Surveillance on the weekend.
To excel at investigation study in these areas and you won’t go wrong:
- Workers Compensation
- CTP Liability
- Stolen Motor Vehicle
- Public Liability
- Personal Injury Surveillance
Remember investigation is challenging, but it is also work in which people continuously learn. So with each investigation you complete your knowledge grows. As you become more experienced you become a valuable person to your employer.
Q.27. COME ON IT’S GOT BE HARDER THAN THAT TO GET WORK AS AN INVESTIGATOR?
A.27. No its not. Employers (Investigation Agencies) cannot get people who know how to conduct these investigations, and consequently there is work available. They must have investigators across a wide geographical area, so your knowledge and location are two big plus factors.