#105: How Long Does A Private Investigator Follow Someone? Why Do They Stop?

How long to private investigators have to follow someone?  This is a question I am sure some new or soon to be private investigators have as well as the individuals that find that they are being watched by a private investigator.  In this article I share the most common answers to this question in relation to how many days surveillance cases are worked and when then cases come to an end and why.

The real question really isn’t how long they will follow a person but why they stop following a person.  Technically a private investigator could continue to document someone’s activities forever but that just doesn’t happen because of the reasons below.

Below are 5 reasons investigators stop conducting a surveillance on someone.


They conduct surveillance until the money runs outs

Clients of private investigators typically have a specific amount of money they are willing to spend on an assignment.  If they want to catch their spouse cheating  (depending on their standard of living)  there is a finite amount of money they are willing to spend to see if their spouse is being faithful.  The amount they are willing to spend can vary on the amount of money they actually have or how important the assignment is to them, especially when it is a private party.

When it comes to insurance companies requesting surveillance, typically the company has encountered a red flag of some sort which is triggering the need to document someone’s activities.  They will provide a budget which typically varies from 2 to 5 days to begin with.  Once that budget runs out the insurance company will review the information (video/observations) and determine if there is reason to pursue more surveillance time.  If the person being followed shows signs that they might not be as hurt as they claim, it might be in the best interest to allocate more money to surveillance to determine if they are paying on an insurance claim that may no longer be valid (like the person is no longer hurt).


They conduct surveillance until they are caught by the person they are watching

A private investigator conducting surveillance will stop following you (at least for a few days) if you let them know you are aware that they are following you.

Following someone that knows they are being followed is called rough shadowing and is extremely frowned upon in the industry.

Furthermore it doesn’t matter why a private investigator is following you.  When a person knows they are being followed their habits change.  Everything they do is tainted  in my opinion because their behavior is not that of a person that is unaware of surveillance.  Let me give you an example.

Someone with an insurance claim (a claimant) for a hurt leg that has fully healed might start limping again when the investigator is caught conducting surveillance. The claimant might not go about their normal day if they know they are being followed, hence the results of the surveillance are not an accurate representation of their daily activities.

The investigator might recommend to the client to continue the surveillance on a later date with a different investigator after time has passed. The investigator might also recommend adding additional investigators to the surveillance so they can maintain more distance from the claimant when conducting surveillance.

They conduct surveillance until the client wants to stop

The client may want to stop the surveillance for a variety of reasons and they might not even tell the investigator why they want to stop the surveillance (we aren’t always kept in the loop).

The client might be an attorney who feels they have enough evidence and no longer need the services of the investigator.

It might be an insurance adjuster who feels either that the video documentation or information secured by the investigator is enough to deny someone’s claim.  The insurance adjuster might feel as though the information they received from the surveillance supports the claim. They then know that they are paying on a good claim and no longer need the investigator’s services.


They conduct surveillance until it is unsafe to do so

There are times where it is no longer safe for a private investigator to continue surveillance.  This might be because the person they are watching has found out and has done something like chase, attack, threaten or even contact the investigator.  A private investigator doing a surveillance is in the business of collecting information without being detected.  We are not looking for fights or confrontations.  We don’t make enough money to have to put up with that.

Sometimes it is not the person we are conducting surveillance on that makes it unsafe but the neighbors or neighborhood itself that make it unsafe.  People make up their own reasons in their head as to why a private investigator is working in their neighborhood.  They might think you are there for them or someone else.  In many cases if they feel threatened they will do their best to get you out of their neighborhood.

They conduct surveillance Until the job or the objective is completed

As previously stated sometimes a surveillance just comes to an end because the objective is complete.  An investigator might be asked to follow someone from point A to point B and document their activities during that time.  Once they have followed them to point B then the assignment is over.

Sometimes employers will have private investigators follow their employees during the work period to make sure their employees are doing what they claim they are doing.  I have followed employees in the past that aren’t working and spend the day running errands or driving around aimlessly and claim to their employer that they are actually working (of course these are very specific to certain jobs)

I have followed employees from their place of employment to see if they are really going to doctors appointments like they tell their employer as that is the reason they are stating they need to leave work early.  Once I follow them to their location my day is over (typically).


The reasons a private investigator may continue to follow you will vary and the reason they will stop will vary as well.

We like our privacy and that privacy feels violated knowing that we are being watched or possibly being watched.

Whether it is a domestic surveillance or an insurance related surveillance just remember if you aren’t doing something wrong then you really have nothing to worry about.  I know that many people feel as though whether they are doing something wrong doesn’t make being watched feel any better.   I understand that.

I highly recommend that you read my article on what to do if a private investigator is following you.  This article will give you some perspective as to what to do if you suspect someone is following you.