Definition of Private Investigator Ghosting and 4 Real Examples of Those Caught Doing it #150

The Industry Definition of Private Investigator Ghosting

I am not sure where the word ghosting came from in the private investigator vocabulary but I can speculate.  The definition of private investigator ghosting is when a private investigator acts as though he/she is on a surveillance however they are not on the surveillance at all.  In other words the private investigator is attempting to trick the company or the client they are working for into believing that they have worked or are working when they are not.

Ghosting is by far one of the biggest sins a private investigator can make during a surveillance.  

The act of ghosting can be when an investigator doesn’t show up for a surveillance assignment or when they leave an assignment early but indicate they worked the full duration of time.  I talked about this a bit in this other article.

Here Are 4 Examples of Actual Investigators Who Ghosted and Were Caught (No Names or Company Names are Mentioned)

Private Investigator Ghosting Example #1

Many moons ago I was a field supervisor for a company and I wore many hats.  One of the things I was responsible for was periodically checking on investigators to make sure they arrived and departed from surveillance files as they would report.

There was one investigator I was interested in checking on as I had my suspicions that the investigator was ghosting.

One indicator that the investigator was ghosting was the investigator never answered their phone when I or anyone else called. The call would always to voicemail and the investigator would return the call shortly thereafter.

After reviewing the investigator’s history of files I noticed a very low video percentage (number of days worked versus days of subject video).  

Furthermore it was determined that whenever the investigator did get video of the subject it was prior to 10 a.m.  

So one day I conducted a surprise spot check of the investigator’s surveillance assignment.  The investigator arrived at the appropriate time and had an appropriate surveillance position.  I parked on what I believed was the primary route of departure.

At around 10 a.m. the investigator drove passed me yet he wasn’t following anyone.  I stayed on site and didn’t want to necessarily jump to conclusions.  For all I knew he was just leaving briefly to use a restroom.

By around 11 a.m.  he had not returned to the surveillance location.

I gave him a call and he told me that he had followed the claimant from the residence lost him and had canvassed to find him. He told me that he had returned to the residence.   

The problem is he hadn’t returned to the residence.  I looked everywhere for him.

I had some conversations with upper management regarding the situation.  Upper management spoke with him that day and let the investigator know that I was working in the state.  The investigator then told the manager that he ended his surveillance early.   He completely changed the story of events that took place that day.  Management played along with his story despite the investigator ghosting.  

A decision was made by the company and management to not take corrective action at that moment.  I will share why in another story.  

A month later another manager took over this investigator and the territory he worked in.  Management decided to let him go. They pulled his company cell phone records which showed phone calls made from areas that were nowhere close to where he was suppose to be and they terminated his employment.

Over the time that I worked with this investigator I had determined that he was an individual that found it easy to lie and to lie about the smallest things.  

Years later he started working for a company that I knew people at.  I warned them about his character but they didn’t think it would be a problem. It wasn’t long after that they let him go because he wasn’t completing assignments and they didn’t even know if he was going to his assignments.  

Our paths crossed one more time after that.  I was on a conference call with a company I was working for part-time.  Roll call was taken and his name was called.  I couldn’t believe the company I was working for even hired the guy.   Truthfully I couldn’t wait for my name to be called so he knew, I knew he was on the call.  

I later made the recruiter aware of his history.  

He left the company shortly thereafter for reasons I was not privy to.  

Definition of Private Investigator Ghosting

Private Investigator Ghosting Example #2

Another investigator who just happened to be good friends with the previously discussed investigator was also a ghoster.  

This investigator would literally not show up for his surveillance assignments on the scheduled day.  He would then show up to the assignment on his days off, change the date on his camera to reflect the day he was suppose to work.  

I am not sure whether he worked complete days or not. Nevertheless he too was let go from the company and I am not sure that he stayed in the investigation industry.

Private Investigator Ghosting Example #3

I didn’t know this investigator and only followed a few of his surveillance assignments.  He never seemed to get any activity from the subject at their residence  after 10 a.m.  Another thing I noticed is that his hourly time shots were exactly at the start of a new hour.  (6:00 a.m., 7:00a.m., 8:00 a.m.) and there were never any mistakes.

This investigator’s ghosting eventually caught up with him when he worked a surveillance day and the subject he was watching went to a medical appointment. The investigator didn’t know about the appointment and the client only learned about it after the fact.

The client wondered why the investigator said the subject never left their home yet went to a medical appointment and drove themselves in the very vehicle the investigator stated never left the home.  

Private Investigator Ghosting Example #4

This last story was told to me second hand.  I honestly can’t remember who told me or who the investigator even was.  The story itself of how the investigator ghosted remained in my head because it was brilliantly stupid.

This unknown investigator videotaped his computer screen of Google Maps Street View every hour and then submitted the video to the company as if he had worked a full day.

The only problem is that there was a watermark on  Google Maps Street View at that time which the investigator didn’t realize was on there.  

Definition of Private Investigator Ghosting
Google Street View

Final Thoughts On Private Investigator Ghosting

It can be tempting to leave a surveillance early. No one is watching (or at least you think no one is).  There are many signs and ways of finding out if someone is ghosting.  Don’t be the investigator that does it.

In my opinion once you begin going down that path you are no longer the good guy/girl.  You are no longer someone that can be trusted.  You are now the fraudulent one. That type of work ethic has no place in the investigation industry.  



  1. My mentor told me something early in my career that made a lasting impression. In this industry all you have is your integrity. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. You’ll never get it back. You will never be able to testify in court, no client will ever believe your findings, every case you worked will be questioned. Your career will be over. I say it to every investigator that I train. “If your word means nothing, you mean nothing.”

  2. Cant believe someone is that lazy!
    -New PI