Taking advantage of people at their lowest is ugly. Whether it's done intentionally or not, when an investigator pledges to provide services to someone in need, takes money for these services, then doesn't honor that pledge, the result is ugly. Depending on the situation, it can also be criminal.
One ploy unscrupulous investigators use is to accept a job from one person, locate or film incriminating evidence, then offer to sell that evidence to the target instead of delivering it to the client. The investigator tells the client that he hasn't located any hard evidence. In this way, he obtains payment twice; many times, the target is willing to pay even more than the client has paid. This happens most often in divorce and child custody cases where outcomes are so important to each party. To protect himself, the con artist attempts to gain the discretion of the purchaser and, more often than not, his duplicity is never discovered.
Innocent people are hurt by this con. There is more at stake than the obvious loss of client funds. Lifestyles and even children's lives are at risk. The con artist doesn't care who will be shafted because of his actions, nor does he care who the better parent is. However, at the worst, his actions could condemn a child to life with an abusive parent. He has taken the decision out of the hands of the court and has determined the outcome of the case.
Because of heightened emotions during divorce and child custody cases, the target is often unable to resist informing the client that he now has information for which she paid. The client usually goes directly to the police, and investigators who are caught turning evidence over to their targets are subject to several criminal charges — among them, extortion and fraud.
There are times when a client is so embarrassed at having been duped that she does nothing. This isn't likely when children are involved, but it happens. If she does report the crime, however, an investigator may spend time in prison. More often than not, the PI closes up shop and reopens somewhere else under a new business name — and perhaps a new personal identity. In states without PI oversight, this can be a real problem.
This type of investigator thinks he's John Wayne or Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry. He brandishes weapons in most inappropriate ways. He roughs up suspects for information. He talks at length about law enforcement subjects that he knows very little about. He bluffs his way through everything. If his responsibilities weren't so serious, he would be humorous — think of Barney Fife with bullets in his gun. This investigator is also about as capable as Barney, blundering his way through investigations and stomping through people's lives with just as much finesse and bravado.
The shyster looks for ways to take advantage of clients. She pads bills with hours she hasn't worked and mileage she hasn't driven. She spends unnecessary nights in hotel rooms charging meals and incidentals when she's close enough to drive home. She drags the case out, providing bits and pieces of information as long as money is forthcoming. When the money stops, she moves on, usually leaving clients with very little information. This type of investigator has been known to charge for several investigators when only one actually works the case — and sometimes the case isn't worked at all, but the shyster collects her money.
This investigator is afraid of everything. He's afraid of offending suspects and witnesses. He's afraid of being burned, afraid the target will see that he's surveilling or following her. He's so afraid that his behavior is altered to the point that he appears suspicious. His fear produces the very situation he's afraid of encountering.
Because of this, whether he's been burned or not, he doesn't get video of the target because he believes he can no longer follow her. He tends to invest in wigs and makeup in order to change his appearance. While this is not always a bad idea, it doesn't do him any good because he still feels burned. Incomplete disguises can backfire: What if you see the same person in different parts of town, wearing different hats or wigs? Disguise is an art; don't try it unless you can really pull it off.
The Poorly Informed
This investigator thinks she has a natural talent for investigation and doesn't need training. She reads PI and mystery books and always knows the ending before reaching it. She's followed her boyfriend and kept up with him fairly well, so she hangs out her shingle, buys some equipment, and goes to work. She usually doesn't last. Unless this investigator obtains professional training, she tends to fade out of the business — and she should.
The Corner Cutter
This investigator defrauds the client. Giving anything less than the best is defrauding. The corner cutter is lazy, always looking for shortcuts. She becomes tired of sitting on surveillance and leaves too soon. Other times, she falls asleep or decides to do errands, returning only to find that the target has left and she's missed her chance. She doesn't take the time to record pertinent details, so she turns in reports that aren't sufficient for use in court. This investigator knows the right way to investigate, but she doesn't put forth the effort.
The Spy Master
This investigator thinks he's in a James Bond movie. He sees conspiracies and hidden meanings in every situation. He's in love with the idea of being an investigator, but not crazy about the day-to-day work. He longs for a glamorous, exciting lifestyle and tries to create it amidst the humdrum of his normal life. In other words, he lives in a fantasy. He's no good to his client; he's likely to string the client along, claiming that something is just out of reach, and may actually manufacture evidence in support of his claims. However, he cannot produce real evidence no matter how much he wants to. His reports are likely to be as colorful as any fairy tale.