Cartoon Detective Smaller sizeThere 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 no less – it was a no-brainer to apply for the part-time job. I am that woman and got the job (yay!) 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. Most were from insurance companies who suspected potential 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?

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. You 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, for the most part, show up to work. People with late payments tend to call in sick more 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 a psychologist 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 house fires. What kind of a person burns down their home? I’ll tell you, it’s either a desperate person or a bored kid. And it’s generally split down the middle.

And most important, in this day and age, don’t put everything out there. Future employers don’t like seeing you dance on tables even if it was all in good fun. In fact, those pictures of you drinking – put your drink behind the person standing next to you. I’m not saying you can’t have a great time, just don’t document said great time. And if you think it will disappear because of a certain app, think again. If it’s out there – we can usually get it.

Private Eye VanI eventually became a licensed PI and  though my career trajectory has shifted to 100% writing, I think back to this time, which only ended a year ago, and 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 those around you will benefit when you’re fulfilled.


Lessons Learned from a Part-Time Private Eye
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