Lessons Learned from a Part-Time Private Eye
There once was a woman who dreamed of becoming a private investigator; a solver of mysteries; a seeker of truth. When she stumbled upon the opportunity to make this happen – at a neighborhood bunco party – it was a no-brainer to apply for the part-time job. I am that woman and got the job mostly because I could write. The fact that I had read every Encyclopedia Brown and watched every episode of Scooby Doo was an unnecessary bonus.
While the kids were at school, I spent my days reading new case files about people suspected of committing insurance fraud. My job was to scour everything in the file and write a synopsis for the investigators. Was it a staged auto accident? A suspicious robbery? A mobile home fire? A cheating spouse? Each day I couldn’t wait to find out.
My duties also required me to conduct background checks. Tons of them. Pre-employment screening is becoming a necessary evil for employers. We ran the typical criminal and civil backgrounds for local, state, and federal levels. You can tell a lot about a person when you run one of these, not only with the types of charges, but how the case was settled. Did a divorce take three years to settle? Drama. Was the DWI adjudicated? Accountable. He filed for bankruptcy protection how many times? Run!
A good indicator of a person’s character is the good ole credit report. Everyone should run a credit report on themselves to see, but statistics show people who pay their bills on time and live within their means, show up to work and are dependable. People with late payments tend to call in sick more often and people who are in collections will often quit without notice.
The phone call reference is also great. People say the darndest things. A standard question is “What skill could [Jane B Jobseeker] improve upon.” People really take this to heart. Like they’re psychologists all of the sudden. One lady told me the applicant could improve by quitting smoking. [Insert buzzing sound here.] Guess who didn’t get the job?
The most fun was going out to the scenes of the crime. My fav, for some sick and twisted reason, were home fires. What kind of a person burns down their home? I’ll tell you, it’s either a very desperate person or a very bored kid. And it’s generally split down the middle. Only 1% are would qualify as serial arsonists.
I eventually became a licensed PI and worked for the firm for over ten years, and though my career trajectory has since shifted to 100% writing, I think back to this time, feel such pride. Did I help keep your insurance costs low due the discovery of fraudulent claims? I hope so. They sure as hell didn’t go up because of me. But my recommendation is if you have a dream, no matter the size, big or small, go for it. You’ll be glad you did. And second, watch what you put out there about yourself. Others are watching as well.