Private Investigations and Personal Security/Insurance investigators


QUESTION: Hi Nic. Just wondering, I know it is a common practice for insurance company's to hire private eyes to do video surveillance on people claiming compensation. But is it also common practice for the private eyes to do audio surveillance on the people claiming compensation? To see if they can record any conversations which may become useful for the insurance company in court.If so where do they usually place the audio bugs?

ANSWER: Hi Brad-

It is a violation of Federal Law , a felony,  (18 U.S.C. Section 2511 (10(a) to "intercept any wire, ORAL or electronic communication.

The only exception to this rule is that Federal Law allows the recording of telephone conversations, provided  one party to the conversation consents to the recording (that could be the person making the call, i.e. the insurance agent who has consented to the recording). HOWEVER, many states, such as California require ALL parties to consent to the recording.

Federal Law further makes it a felony to utilize any information obtained by any wire, oral  or electronic communication.

If you tell me which state you are in, I can tell you whether you are in an all party or one party consent state.



---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Sorry Nic, I forgot to tell you I am in Australia. In a state called NSW, if you don't know the laws here that's okay. You have still been very helpful, as I think laws in the U.S could be similar.

Hi Brad-

I reviewed the relevant legislation in Australia (that which applies to all States and Territories) and the rules and regulations are at least as strong in your country as they are in mine (and given our past administration's propensity to wiretap without warrants, actually stronger).

Its clear that no insurance company could undertake any type of surveillance, other than that of physically following someone and videotaping them in public places.

Hope that helps!

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Nichols (Nic) J. Smith


I can answer almost any question with regards to the individual state laws concerning private investigators; best practices and procedures used in private investigations;how to determine if the agency or investigator you are contemplating using is sufficiently qualified to do the work and if an investigation was conducted in accordance with the standards of practice and care used in the professional investigative industry. I can also direct you with regards to doing your own research in certain situations, such as finding someone who owes you money. I can steer you through the database "minefield" with regards to which databases contain useful information and which don't. I can also advise regarding the kind of information that you can legally obtain and what's not legal.


Awards and Honors
Life Fellow- American College of Forensic Examiners

Past/Present Clients
Morgan Lewis and Brockius (Int'l Law firm) Sedgwick, Detert (Int'l Law Firm) Bingham McCutheon (Int'l Law Firm

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