As we enter the 21st century, the functions and capabilities of most private investigators are far removed from the popular, media-spawned image of the private investigator. As a general rule, private investigators do not carry firearms, peer into windows in alleyways, accost “suspicious-looking characters” in the backrooms of bars, beat up ne’er-do-wells, or engage in the other activities typical of television and movie caricatures.

While private investigators come in many stripes — and there is still a minority who try to live up to Hollywood’s regrettable depiction — today’s private investigator is, by and large, a true professional. In fact, high-end private investigators usually have master’s, doctoral, or law degrees. Private investigators can be certified public accountants who have worked for the “Big Five” accounting firms, computer scientists, investigative journalists, former federal prosecutors and former federal law enforcement officers and intelligence analysts.