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FAQ about private investigators

A licensed private investigator is allowed to investigate the following matters:

          • Searching for missing persons, lost or stolen property. Example: tracing an heir-at-law.

          • Gathering information on the marital status, conduct, morality and assets of individuals. Example: a background check of a potential employee.

          • Gathering evidence or establishing facts which give rise to or are likely to give rise to conflicts between persons, or which may be used to put an end to these conflicts. Example: investigation into the whereabouts of a sales representative.

          • Industrial espionage. Example: an employee provides sensitive information to a competing company.

        (We refer to the law of 19 July 1991 regulating the occupation of private detective {B.S., 02.10.1991}, amended by the Law of 30 December 1996.)

Depending on the type of research you require, we obtain information from/via:

          • publicly available resources and business directories, which are checked for authenticity and “fake news”

          • advanced searches on the internet and darknet as well as discrete social media analysis (as an Open Source Intelligence Expert ®);

          • door-to-door enquiries, if there is no risk of “incineration” (read: failure) of the assignment;

          • witness statements, interviews and questioning subject to the prior consent of the person in question;

          • desk research, e.g. a detailed analysis of records, photographs and video recordings;

          • analysis of legitimate interview recordings, if the investigator himself participated in the interview;

          • our select network of multidisciplinary experts, subject to your prior consent;

          • legitimate data extraction using API’s or open sources;

          • digital data analysis, when the client -as entrepreneur- provides the data and figures;

          • discrete, goal-oriented, short-term, mobile and static surveillance missions (no long-term monitoring; no investigations without a clear description and without a legitimate interest);

          • short-term, targeted undercover missions, if there are no other investigative options for truth-finding.

The profession of private detective is a legally recognized and protected profession. Anyone who carries out legally regulated investigative activities, who usually does so, whether or not in a subordinate context, in return for payment and on behalf of a client, is a private detective from a legal point of view.

One cannot simply use the protected title of private detective. The profession of private investigator is regulated in Belgium. Ask for the identification card of the private investigator during the introductory meeting. Every identification card mentions a validity date and a unique identification number. A private investigator completes a specific training at a certified academy and learns continuously through substantial investment in life-long learning and retraining. Each private investigator has been screened by various government departments before receiving a licence.

Certain professionals are not regarded as private detectives, even if they carry out investigation services on a regular basis and in return for payment. For example, the profession of bailiff, lawyer, notary, journalist, genealogist, social assistant and expert whose access to the profession is regulated by law.

(Source: the law of 19 July 1991 organising the profession of private detective {B.S., 02.10.1991}, amended by the law of 30 December 1996).

From time to time clients ask us if they can cooperate during the surveillance mission. We also notice that some clients are in the vicinity of the observation sites during the investigation of our private detectives. However, this is not appropriate due to the risk of “incineration” (read: failure) of the assignment. Our investigators have every interest in working in complete discretion and anonymity. In this way the research results will not be affected by an unnecessary presence of the client.

In both private and corporate investigations, it is very important that as few employees / local residents as possible are aware of the investigation. If the fraudster is suspicious, he/she will change his/her testimonial or his/her behaviour. In such a case, it becomes very difficult to collect objective findings. However, you can help us with useful tips on the “target”, his/her professional contacts and his/her habits.

As a stakeholder, e.g. as a victim or as a suspect of a crime, you can search for exculpatory or incriminatory elements concerning your criminal proceeding. You have the right to gather evidence, e.g. a audio recording of a telephone conversation in which you participated. It is appropriate to confer with your solicitor as much as possible, including on the gathering and preservation of legitimate evidence.

As a victim, you can decide to take a civil claim to court. In that case you report to the investigating judge that you have suffered damage as a result of a misconduct or a crime, e.g. the crime of slander and defamation. In such a case, you can hire a licensed private investigator.

A private investigator is allowed to investigate the civil consequences of a crime, for example an investigation into the damage caused by a theft. Another example is a case of stalking, in which the client is a victim and urgently needs evidence.

Together we consider the most suitable scenarios to investigate the consequences of the crime. This can be a combination of several methods, for example an interview with an employee, a surveillance mission at a factory and an internet research for certain stolen goods. EQ-Investigations always respects Belgian and European legislation. We want to avoid that research results are invalid as a result of e.g. “incitement” or “invasion of privacy”. When drawing up the action plan, we take the proportionality and subsidiarity principles into account. Each researcher tries to choose the least onerous or burdensome method in order to achieve the research objective. And the research method(s) chosen must be proportional to the objective of the assignment and must be applied as briefly and as specifically as possible.

Any Belgian researcher investigating the civil consequences of a crime should respect “the duty of notification”. Your contact person will discuss this (discrete) procedure with you in advance, so that you know exactly what to expect.

It is often not easy to gather evidence about a behaviour or a fact. The known presence of a private investigator can change the behavior of the swindler and alter the reality of things. Sometimes a ruse -or some kind of artifice- is the only way to get information, in order to bring the truth to light. A ruse is, for example, assuming another capacity (character), telling a fictitious story in order to obtain the evidence sought from the person concerned. A ruse can be used if there is no other efficient way to obtain equally reliable evidence.

For instance, an entrepreneur who suspects that his stolen goods are being sold online and therefore engages a private investigation agency. In such a case, the private detective tries to make online contact with the seller and to book an appointment to find out whether or not the serial numbers correspond to the stolen goods. If the investigator is 100% sure that the purchase is a transaction prohibited by law (e.g. narcotics), then the test purchase may not take place under any circumstances.

As an investigator we can, amongst other things, assume the capacity (read: character) of client or purchaser, as long as we do not assume a protected title. Thus, a private investigator cannot assume the capacity of, for example, architect, notary, doctor, etc. unless the investigator meets the legal requirements. Assuming the capacity of a civil servant is also prohibited by law.

Even if we impersonate someone else during a mystery guest assignment, we still objectively determine what person concerned says and does. It is absolutely inappropriate to ask suggestive questions. The use of a ruse in combination with putting pressure on the person involved is legally unacceptable.

Our investigators will use every legal means necessary to find useful information for our clients. We provide a legally valid report that can be used in court. Together we discuss the options and limitations of the legislation. If necessary, we will look for feasible and legal alternatives to help you on your way.

Any private detective must comply with the law regulating the profession of private detective of 19 July 1991. In addition, investigators must take into account the privacy act, the law concerning electronic communications, the penal code, labor act, the ECHR,… . The privacy of every citizen is protected in a variety of ways. For example, every private detective has to respect the legislation concerning the spying of citizens, the prohibition of collecting certain privacy-sensitive information and restrictions on means and methods, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), … .

A number of means and methods are, in well-defined cases and situations, prohibited by law so that it makes no sense to use them. In their capacity as victims of a crime, clients sometimes ask us if we have access to privacy-sensitive databases and data, such as the National Register, the criminal record information system, Vehicle Registration Service (DIV), documents from telecom providers, data from GPS tracking, … Our investigation team has no access to these types of information sources, for reasons of privacy and GDPR legislation. We use advanced search methods and applications, which are always checked against the legislation in advance.

When a private detective conducts unauthorized investigative acts, the evidence will be rejected. If we are almost certain that the investigation report will be rejected, we will refuse your investigation request, based on deontological ethics. At no time during the course of the investigation, a private detective will break the law or violate ethical standards. However, our reseachers will use every legal means possible to detect fraud.

The Belgian law of 19 July 1991, regulating the occupation of private detective, applies to investigation services that take place on Belgian territory. We regularly get the question whether or not we, as private investigators with a Belgian licence, can carry out investigations abroad. For example, we might be thinking of a case of a cross-border investigation, where the person concerned lives in the border region on Belgian territory but regularly travels to a neighbouring country to carry out his/her professional activity.

It is certainly possible for a Belgian investigation team to go abroad to carry out an investigation. Each case is considered individually, as we have to take into account the specific regulations on private investigation in the region where we will be conducting the investigation. Therefore, before accepting an assignment abroad, we check the local legislation and contact the regulatory agency if necessary. Usually, we prefer to cooperate with a certified detective agency in the relevant region, in order to avoid that the investigation report would be rejected.

For practical and legal reasons, EQ-Investigations limits its field investigations to the European territory, taking into account the AVG (GDPR). When carrying out international online deskresearch assignments, we respect the privacy legislation. Most of our clients are entrepreneurs, citizens and lawyers. For example, an alimony investigation or a quest to recover a stolen company car.

We only accept an assignment abroad if there are any leads and if a clear briefing is given. We discuss a transparent offer in advance, with clear agreements on rates, costs and accommodation expenses. We will keep you informed on a daily basis. The final report includes a chronological description of facts and events, with photos or video recordings.

We keep the affairs of current and former clients confidential. You can count on us. We are used to handling delicate and highly confidential cases without passing unnecessary judgement. We act in an inconspicuous manner during surveillances and door-to-door enquiries. When we carry out an internet investigation or a data analysis, we make sure that no digital traces are left behind.

Our duty of confidentiality is regulated by contractual agreements (subject to the provisions of Article 16, § 2 of the law regulating the profession of private detective, the contractor undertakes not to divulge the information obtained in the performance of his assignment to persons other than the principal). In certain exceptional cases, private investigators are subject to the duty of notification (for example: when the investigator suddenly witnesses a burglary during his investigation).

If requested, EQ-Investigations can contact certain experts to increase the success rate of the investigation. In this context, we think, for example, of hiring an interpreter or a cybercrime specialist. This only happens if you give us your prior written consent. The identification details of these third parties are clearly stated in our agreement. In addition, your right to privacy is guaranteed by means of a data processing agreement between the client (as a data controller) and our detective agency (as a data processor).

Detective agency EQ-Investigations only takes on assignments with (a possibility of) a high succes rate. Our team does everything possible reveal the truth, to fight injustice and fraud. However, we will never promise you a 100% success rate because in our profession it is impossible to make predictions. Human behaviour and associated fraudulent activities can never be predicted in advance. Thanks to our cooperation with experts and experienced private investigators, there are many opportunities.

You can consider the combination of a private detective and a bailiff. In such a case, our private detectives carry out the preliminary investigation, after which your bailiff will come to the scene to make the official determination. In order to handle your case in court, the judicial officer can make a determination and draw up an official report, the content of which is covered with special probative value. The final report of our private detectives can also be used in court at any time.

A lot of (un)expected factors can have a positive and negative influence on the outcome of the investigation. The more data you provide us with, the higher the chance of success. Every detail can be important sooner or later. It is in your utmost interest to inform as few people as possible throughout the investigation. In this way a so-called data breach can be avoided.

We inform you on a daily basis about the action plan and consider all the pros, cons and possible risks beforehand. There is usually a “plan B” with other working methods and other detectives available, in case the situation suddenly changes. We do our utmost to find evidence, 7 days a week and also during the night, if necessary. At the same time we always respect the current legislation.