Engaging private investigators: when it pays to search for clues privately

6 min

If you feel threatened or are exposed to a dangerous situation, you should of course contact the police. But there are so many situations in life where suspicion alone is not enough to be seen by German law. Or do you have concerns that your partner is cheating on you – which is not a criminal offense – and want to know where you are? In such cases, private investigators can help shed light. In the following article, we at heimwerker.de reveal what you should pay attention to if you want to hire a reputable private investigator.

1. Police or private investigator: which is the better choice?

Where can you find a private detective agency?

There are private detective agencies in almost all large cities in Germany. So you’re just a google search of one Detective agency in Düsseldorf, Berlin, Hamburg or Munich away. If you live a little further away, contact a reputable detective agency in the next larger city.

If you are in an acutely dangerous situation, if there is a verifiable criminal offense or if relatives are threatened by you, you should always contact the police. Private detectives have no police or public prosecutor’s rights – something a good detective agency should draw your attention to.

Most people hire private investigators in cases where there is no direct criminal offense (e.g. suspected adultery) or when the police cannot (yet) act due to a lack of evidence etc.

Often there is also cooperation between private investigators and the police. The private investigator collects evidence of the crime, for example through observation or discreet questioning, which is subsequently reported. In a good detective agency, the usability in court is strictly observed so that you do not spend unnecessary money or, in the worst case, have accompanied a crime yourself.

It should be noted that private investigators do not have the same powers as the police, for example, without similar powers. You only have so-called everyone’s rights, which are also regulated in the civil and criminal codes. This includes

  • the right to self-defense
  • the emergency law as well
  • the right to arrest
man in handcuffs

Civilians may also temporarily arrest people in emergency situations.

For each of these public rights, however, there must be a correspondingly dangerous situation. As a security guard or detective, one can avail himself of the right to arrest if there is an acute danger situation, for example the possession of a weapon and the associated alleged use.

Most private detectives, however, use methods that do not fall under the rights of everyone, but are not subject to any regulations. such as witness interviews and observations, with the latter in particular, depending on the intensity, in the worst case may be a violation of personal rights. An observation must therefore be planned accordingly by the client and the detective agency and, under certain circumstances, it must also be able to be justified in court at a later date.

2. In which cases does a private investigator help?

was a private detective

If you suspect your partner is cheating, a private investigator can help.

You have the option to hire a private investigator at any time. Common reasons for private individuals are listed and described in the following table:

Suspicion / criminal offense What can a private investigator do?
Suspected adultery / loyalty tests
  • If you have doubts about the loyalty of your partner or are looking for solid evidence of a confrontation, private investigators can help
  • A distinction is made between the accumulation of evidence of infidelity or targeted loyalty tests carried out by decoys
Custody & separation
  • If you have reasonable doubts that your child is not doing well with the ex-partner, you can contact a private investigator.
  • Through observation and interviews with witnesses, incriminating material may be accumulated for subsequent custody proceedings.
Insult, defamation and Co.
  • If there are rumors about you that have an impact on your professional or private life and you don’t know where you come from, a private investigator’s investigation can shed light on you.
  • Adversaries can be identified and the crime reported.
Identity theft / data abuse
  • If you are affected by identity theft, in the worst case it can happen that one day the police suddenly appear at your door.
  • In this case, the innocence can be corroborated with the help of private investigations.
  • However, you should always contact your lawyer first and foremost.
People search
  • If a person is missing, you should always contact the police and not a private detective agency in the first instance.
  • However, especially in the case of adults, the missing person report may not be dealt with with the intensity or speed that would bring you peace of mind.
  • Private detectives can support or deny the suspicion by observing and talking to neighbors, friends and the like.
  • Not everyone would like to contact the police directly in the event of extortion, even if we strongly recommend doing so in order to threaten their own security or that of third parties.
  • People often turn to private detectives who are blackmailed with precarious photos (such as a forbidden night of love). The aim is to preserve evidence in order to subsequently assert the criminal offense with the competent authorities.

How do you become a private investigator? The colloquial detective is not a protected job title. However, you can train to become a ZAD-certified private investigator at the IHK. The training lasts two years and can also be dual.

3. How do you recognize a good detective agency?

There are also many charlatans among private detectives. But there are some indicators that you can use to determine in advance whether the private investigator you want to hire is reputable.

3.1. Legal and ethical advice


Your committed private investigator should be able to explain the criminal offense clearly and, if valid, also advise the police.

As mentioned in the previous sections, private detective agencies have no sovereign power. So even if your private detective is a former police officer, like any other citizen, he must obey the law. To do this, the detective agency must also know that very well.

So if you go to a detective with your concern, he should do the following instead of a quick or over-hasty order confirmation

  • The detective agency asks you extensively about your problem.
  • Depending on the severity, the private investigator even recommends the police as the first instance or at least points out that this should become a concern of the police after the investigation.
  • A specific plan will be discussed with you: What steps will be taken? Deadlines are set.
  • You will be fully informed about the costs of the investigation.

3.2. TÜV certification: DIN SPEC 33452

BiD eV (Association of International Detectives)

The Association of international detectives has been around since the 1960s. Together with him, a training course for private investigators (ZAD) was developed. Certification via DIN SPEC 33452 also emerged from it. The aim is to give clients the opportunity to objectively assess the detective agencies in advance and to be able to assess the seriousness of the investigative work.

If your private investigator, whom you want to hire, can be shown to use DIN SPEC 33452, you are on the safe side. This standard is awarded after a company has demonstrated appropriate standards in terms of data protection, legal knowledge and the like.

The material equipment of the detective agency is also checked. Further training and advanced training courses that have already been completed are also valued. The private investigator you want to hire must also be able to provide clear guidelines for the process. Agreements and deadlines should be adhered to reliably. If you are constantly waiting for updates from your detective, this is usually a bad omen. Right from the start, a very clear forecast must be made about the costs and the expected success of the investigations.

3.3. Permanent detectives instead of subcontractors

If you are in the detective agency for the first time and present your case, your contact person should be able to know the private investigator. Dubious companies rely on subcontractors and therefore often do not establish a direct line between clients and investigators. Communication in a reputable detective agency must therefore always be direct and immediate.

4. How expensive is it to hire a private investigator?

The prices vary greatly depending on the case and the effort involved in the investigation. Nevertheless, we at heimwerker.de want to give you an approximate orientation to be able to recognize exorbitant prices.

For ZAD trained investigators you pay approx. 50 € net per hour worked. Make sure, however, to have the evidence of the work carried out appropriately proven. Detailed reports, photos and / or video material should be presented to you in any case. Extensions of the detective work should always be communicated openly with you in advance.

Photo credits: stock.adobe.com/Andrey Popov, stock.adobe.com/BortN66, stock.adobe.com/Vasyl, stock.adobe.com/Brian Jackson (sorted chronologically or according to the order of the images used in the buying guide)


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