Mobile Forensic

What apps do private investigators use?

In today’s technological world, it is almost guaranteed that there is an app for everything. From games to dating to photo editing applications, we have the world at our fingertips as soon as we unlock our phones. In addition to personal use, apps have professional applications as well.


With the rising popularity of smartphones, many people treat this technology as a part of their everyday lives. This is a reality for many Private Investigators who view smartphone use as a way to make their work more comfortable and more convenient.


The use of these phones has changed the way we obtain information. We no longer need to log onto our computers to print directions from online mapping software. We aren’t limited to only being able to take calls on our phones. With a simple swipe of our fingers, we can access all the information we need to assist an investigation. Private Investigators are quickly learning and adapting to this new technology and the useful apps available to help with their studies.


 Below are the top apps many Private Investigators use rely upon while doing their important work. These apps offer a wide variety of support services that not only make getting information more straightforward but save you valuable time.


There is plenty of fun and exciting apps that are practical for private investigators which I will list in a future article but for this article, I wanted to share the apps that I use daily. These apps are the ones that I use every day in some capacity for work as a private investigator, entertainment, education, and managing my days. Are there much more relaxed or more interesting apps private investigators use? Yes, there are. I just don’t use those apps as frequently as I use the ones listed below.


Most people know about Evernote and Dropbox, which are great apps for data collection, file sharing, and syncing across multiple devices. These and other popular digital information apps, like Google Maps and Google Translate, are commonly used. Still, there are other useful, less common mobile apps that are great for private investigators. 


Private Investigators and the private investigative industry historically have been shrouded in mystery. The nature of its practice is to acquire information discreetly and covertly, utilising various investigative methods and technology for the benefit of the hiring client. Some of the technological equipment used is commonplace; however, the plans are industry-specific.


The phone has become so powerful that if I forgot to take it to work, the job would be over. I could forget my wallet, my camera, my notepad, food, my GPS and my laptop and I would probably be fine IF I brought my phone.


My phone receives my emails, contacts my clients, conducts opensource background checks, markets my business, takes my notes, gets me to where I am going, orders food, pays for goods and services, takes photos and videos, networks with other investigators. The potential for what this device can do for a Private Investigator is massive and hasn’t even been fully realised.


Technology plays a vital role in any investigation business. Detectives use a combination of private investigator software such as online search tools, OSINT resources, computer software, and mobile apps to support many aspects of investigations.


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Private investigator software is a general term that encompasses both the programs and applications installed to a computer or web server and online, web-based solutions known as SAAS (Software as a Service), which is a software licensing and delivery model that is offered on a subscription basis and is centrally hosted. Users access the service via a web browser on a P.C., tablet or mobile device. Also, it includes apps installed on tablets and mobile devices.


Private investigator software can be used to:

  • Manage business operations such as accounting, billing, invoicing and customer contact management
  • Manage cases, including assignments, case documents, photos, contacts, interview notes, expenses and more.
  • Search for public and non-public records such as criminal histories, divorce records, address histories, driving records, financial records, and more.
  • Conduct online research and due diligence, download documents, compile dossiers and prepare reports for court cases
  • Manage communications with clients, vendors, witnesses, business partners, and other investigators. This includes correspondence via phone, text, video messaging, walkie-talkie, chat and more.


Case Management Software programs help P.I. ‘s manage information related to investigating cases such as entering and storing client records, managing billing information, employee and payroll records, billing, contacts and more.


The latest case management solutions come in the form of cloud-based services, allowing access via computer, tablet and mobile devices from anywhere in the world. Case management software is particularly useful for larger private investigation agencies and law offices. 


In the technologically advanced world of today, information is definitely power. For lawyers, businesses and individuals looking for information on another party, hiring a private investigator is a must. Most of the private investigators out there use modern technology when on a stakeout. The following are just some of the apps private investigators may use in the line of duty.


No matter whether we accept it or not but with the rise in Infidelity, Dishonesty, Fraud, Corruption, and Scams, Surveillance has become a matter of primary importance. And it’s been observed that people generally like to hire Detectives for this purpose.


But hiring a detective could turn out to be very expensive and doesn’t guarantee excellent results. Moreover, with the advancement in technology, culprits are now using technologically advanced methods that further turn out to be untraceable with lame human detection procedures.

Mobile Forensic

What is Detective Apps?

Detective Apps are smartphone compatible applications that let you spy on targeted person’s cell phone usage by providing you full access to their cell phones. These detective apps can be used for the following three surveillance need.


Employee Monitoring

For all those who are worried about their employees misbehaving or showing unethical behaviour at the workplace can use these Detective Apps as an Employee Monitoring Software and track down all their activities at the workplace.


Teen Monitoring

All parents who are worried about their teenage kids being addicted to the Internet or being influenced by the wrong company can use these Private Investigation Apps as Child Monitoring Software and continuously keep an eye on their online activity.


Spouse Monitoring

These apps are a miracle app for all the lovers out there suspicious about their partners cheating on them as they can use these Mobile Detective Apps as Spouse monitoring Software and catch their cheating partners red-handed!


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Features Offered By Private Investigation Apps

There are a wide range of features that a Detective App offers for both Android and iPhone. These apps provide tracking of the following:


Text Messages

These apps let you read the targeted user’s sent as well as received messages along with the date and time stamp.


Call Logs

Detective Apps can even help you go through your child or partner’s call logs and also offer call recording features.



Private Investigation Apps let you keep an eye on all inbound and outbound emails that have either been sent or received by the targeted user. 


Instant Messaging Applications

You can even track your lover’s I.M. Chat messages, shared multimedia files, and even stickers and GIF’s sent via these instant messaging applications. 


Web Browser History

You can even track URL’s of most visited websites as well as trace all bookmarks that have been saved by the suspicious user. 



These investigator apps let you track the current location of your teenager and also give you an extra privilege to Geo-Fence specific locations that you find dangerous


Private Investigation Apps


Vault is an excellent app for those who want to ensure any confidential investigative material is protected. This app enables the user to lock data on his or her phone, such as pictures and call logs. P.I.s need to be sure the information they obtain is safeguarded, and this app ensures optimal protection. The app can even take a picture of an “intruder” in the event that someone attempts to break into your phone.


Encryption and privacy are critical security features that many Private Investigators should have in mind when storing sensitive photos and videos on their phones. Vault provides high-level security for confidential media. First, Vault encrypts and saves files on your phone’s S.D. card, not in the usual photo album feature on your phone. You can only access these photos by entering a programmed touch I.D. or personal password. If someone attempts to access this application and doesn’t have the credentials, the software will immediately take a photo of the person trying to gain access.


Ultimate Public Records

This app is a must for a P.I. they are seeking to obtain relevant information on a person. Using the app, users can search personal details listed as a public record, all with the click of a button. Especially practical when first obtaining information on a new subject, this app can be used as a convenient alternative to laptop or desktop record searches.



This free social navigation app allows the user to navigate quickly and efficiently to his or her destination. Leveraging user-reported data, the app also notifies drivers of traffic congestion, weather issues, construction roadblocks and even speed traps.


Waze is a community-based traffic and navigation app which helps many Private Investigators get around the cities they are working in. The app is exciting because it uses information shared by other drivers in the area one is driving. This means one learns about traffic jams, speed traps, construction delays, or even low gas prices in real-time. Because it is working off of a live map system, Waze can reroute its users automatically when road conditions change.


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Hidden Camera Detector App

The Hidden Camera Detector app is ideal for Private Investigators who must be alert of their surroundings. The app scans and notifies users of hidden cameras nearby, providing investigators added security during investigations.


GPS Phone Tracker Pro

Knowing your current location, destination, and all that stands in between is vital for any Private Investigator. The GPS Phone Tracker allows you to maintain all three. It even has a feature to help locate your phone in the event you may misplace it, minimising the risk involved with losing vital information stored on your cell phone.


Although nothing beats old-fashioned detective work, our society has become so technologically progressive that it is now imperative to leverage technology to adapt to new conditions. Utilising cutting-edge apps is an effective way of staying ahead in the field of private investigations.



Evernote is a dynamic application that allows the user to take notes in different formats, but also to save content found online. Additionally, the app offers an automatic syncing feature between the users’ favourite smart devices like tablets, laptops, desktops, and smartphones. Scanning, digitising, and organising of documents with the use of one platform is another bonus of this program. The convenience of being able to access its features from virtually anywhere makes this an ideal digital notepad and simplified online research tool for Private Investigators.



Last-minute background checks are routine for many Private Investigators. This frequently occurs when working out in the field, and IRBmobile was designed to make these types of searches more easily accessible. Because it allows users to run searches from their smartphones, one doesn’t get stuck having to go to the office to use a desktop to conduct the check. There are some limitations as to who can use this application because of the sensitive material being shared. IRB only allows Private Investigators to use their program and must approve users before using their services. Despite this limitation, IRB has grown in popularity quickly, and when trying to decide on apps to enhance one’s investigative resources, this should be at the top of the list.



The burner is an app that acts as a secondary phone within your smartphone. You create temporary phone numbers which can be used to contact you without having to give out your name directly. This is also an excellent way for investigators to conduct phone calls to those that aren’t expecting to hear from them. Burner integrates with numerous other popular apps such as:

  • Google
  • Slack
  • Evernote
  • Dropbox


Integrated features include uploading multiple file-formats to Dropbox or Google Drive with a simple button touch, or forwarding text messages through Evernote. Private Investigators everywhere are enjoying the convenience of data sharing brought by this app.



Have you ever needed to send a self-destructing message to a potential target or client? Well, Wickr enables you to send secure, self-destructing texts, photos, videos, files, and other words from any mobile device. All Wickr communications are encrypted locally on each device, with the ability to sync messages across multiple devices. Each new key will be generated for each word, and all the correspondence and data transmitted will be wiped by Wickr, which means that no one other than Wickr users can decipher their content. This app is not only available for iOS and Android, but is available as a desktop download for Windows, Mac, and Linux.



Available on Android, iOS, and Blackberry, the Layar app is the world’s most used augmented reality app. Combining the accelerometer, GPS, compass, and camera/lens of your mobile device, Layar is a multifaceted app that allows you to bridge the digital and physical components of our world. You can use your phone to observe, gather, report, and share a vast array of geolocated, real-time data from anywhere. Basically, you can use your mobile device to check out your surroundings both physically and digitally, all while you’re on the go.



The Audible app allows you to listen to books right from your phone or another device. I don’t have time to read books as much as I would like to, so when I want to learn about a topic or read a text from my favourite author, I pick a book from audible and listen to it on my drives to work or listen to books while on surveillance. Listening to books allows me to stay focused on what I am doing.


If you are new to Audible and want a 30-day free trial and a credit towards one free book, go to I trust that you will like Audible as much as I do. Let me know what booked you picked out in the comment section.


I am currently listening to Delivering Happiness (written by the creator of the Zappos company). The last book I finished Onward (written by Howard Shultz, the Starbucks CEO) and I loved it. It talks about how Starbucks made it through tough times around the recent financial crash. This app is in the iTunes app store as well as the Google Play store.



You hear people complaining about it all the time. “People are always on Facebook; they need to get off Facebook”. To that, I say exactly. 


Facebook has become so powerful that everyone is on it. It has become one of the most potent tools for private investigators to gather intel; it has become one of the most potent tools for private investigators to Market themselves and their business. A Facebook check of an individual, group or company on Facebook for myself as a surveillance operative is mandatory. I can’t imagine the embarrassment of conducting 20 hours of surveillance, coming up with nothing and having my client tell me that according to their Facebook they moved country several months ago.


Some features unique to Facebook include;

Check-ins –

Knowing where a Subject likes to go, or even where they are right now is like fishing with dynamite for the P.I. I personally have found people thought to have been lost due to them checking into somewhere and publicly sharing it on Facebook.


Likes –

Similarly, to check-ins what they like may give you an idea of where they want to go, but also may give you an idea of what they might do once they get there. If they like several camping pages and they start driving towards the bush, it can be a great indicator of what to prepare for, and if you lose them, it may help to know where the local camping grounds are.


Groups –

 Groups can be broken down into categories including but not limited to interests/hobbies, community groups, buy swap and sells, crime watch and news. All of which are potentially useful to the investigator.


Before going out on surveillance in an area, I am unfamiliar with I always join a couple of local and relevant community groups in one or more of those categories, mainly if the Subject is a member. You can search their name in the posts and find out what they’re worried about, what they’re buying or selling, what they’re concerned about, what they like to do or where they like to go.


From that point, you can get a finger on the pulse of an area. You don’t want to show up to a city dressed as a cowboy. You don’t want to show up to a town with a population of a few hundred people and park next to the post office/gun store and be caught wearing a suit. You can also gauge the awareness levels of a neighbourhood by looking for posts on unfamiliar vehicles or persons hanging around.


Events –

Relatively simple, if the Subject happens to be going to an event created on Facebook, you can see where and when it will be, and it makes things much more comfortable. You can meet a Subject at the Event, and you can follow them from home to the event, you can use the attendance at the event as evidence.


 Marketplace –

A relatively recent addition to Facebook but it has become a useful tool particularly for Test Purchases, Brand Protection and Loss Prevention.

 It can also be an indicator of a person’s financial situation or what they do for work or be an indicator that they genuinely are not working. As an example, a tradesperson might sell his tools.




 Instagram could be seen as Facebook’s little brother. It has many of the same features. However, the features it doesn’t have are not necessarily a bad thing. Instagram is tidier, more simple and very user friendly.


The following is a few points I’d like to make about its uses for Private Investigators.


More adoption than ever before –

Question? When is it time to accept that an app has become a giant?


I believe the answer to that is when people start to adopt it that you never thought would have. Instagram’s users have become so diverse that I’m no longer using it for Intel on Subject’s aged 18 to 24, I’m checking the App for information on almost everyone.


Less adoption than Facebook –

Instagram still only has a fraction of users compared with Facebook, and this might seem like bad news; however, when a platform has fewer adoption, people tend to be more relaxed on it. 


 In short, if your Grandparents aren’t there, you’ll be more likely to be yourself.


 – Location Tagging


 When someone is creating a post on Instagram, they are presented with an “Add Location” option. This can be either based on their GPS, or they can add a specific location by using a search feature.


The benefits of this are obviously similar to Facebook Check-Ins; however, on Instagram, there’s far less stuff to get through as Instagram is based around just photos and videos. In contrast, Facebook mixes in the Political Opinions of your weird family members.

Stories –

It seems like every App has stories these days. The strength of stories is they are recent. They disappear after 24 hours of posting. Accounts can also link up to Facebook directly, and they can share location, times, dates even the temperature if that’s of any relevance.


This can be useful to know what a person has been up to almost in real-time, however just because it’s been posted on a story doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a current event, you can post old photos and memories to the same account.

Post notifications –

If you manage to follow someone without it being too creepy or obvious, and they post regularly, you can “Turn On Post Notifications”.


In doing this, you will receive a notification each time the Subject posts. Therefore you’ll be staying as up to date as possible on that person and their activities.


The alternative is to check the person’s posts regularly, which is much more time consuming and inefficient.


 Hashtags – 


Not exclusive to Instagram, as a matter of fact, Hashtags got their start on Twitter, but certainly utilised heavily. Hashtags are used to categorise content making it easier for users to find topics that interest them.


From the Private Investigators perspective, it can be a yellow brick road to Intel that may have otherwise gone unnoticed about a person or group.



Private Investigator Guide

The private investigative industry has been glamorised by the film noir genre of movies, mystery, fiction novels and through various adaptations and variances of the theme of the “Hard-Boiled Private Eye”. However, the modern-day private investigator is inclined to be active in his professional capacity in a corporate environment as much as in the dark alleys frequently depicted in pulp fiction literature.


Private investigators are usually competent individuals who provide their investigative services to individuals, attorneys, corporations and insurance companies to help them find answers and address concerns relevant to their interests. The concerned issues can be of a city of criminal nature which requires the knowledge, experience and skill of a private investigator to resolve or provide clarity. A competent investigator seeks information without bias; the collected data is formalised for the client’s assessment and usage without the investigator’s prejudice or personal opinion. Most private investigators will not guarantee the results of an investigation for as the case unfolds discovery might affect the outcome, negatively or positively, supportive or unsupportive of the client’s objective. The process of conducting an investigation is to uncover and provide the relevant facts and disseminate this information confidentially to the hiring client. The documentation of the findings in the investigative report may be crucial to the Trier of Facts in a court proceeding, provide closure and solace to aggrieved parties or help establish a course of action to management personnel.


The private investigative industry is vast, and practitioners usually develop competency in one or a few areas. Many times this is resultant from previous employment in law enforcement or other professions. This creates the body of knowledge and experience from which the investigator taps to assist his/her clients with their own investigative needs. The professional investigator will also keep abreast of industry developments through networking with other investigators, reading industry journals and attending seminars, etc. to expand his knowledge base. This effectively makes the private investigator provide more value to the client, which usually results in a higher level of satisfaction and possibly a referral to other prospective clients.


A lot of my work is done through my phone and shooting critical footage of a Subject is no exception. Phone Cameras are high quality, and they’re so easy to conceal that you don’t even have to try to hide it anymore. You can walk down the street holding a phone, and no one is going to question it. 


However therein lies a problem. Trying to obtain footage using a phone, while trying to pretend you’re doing something else, lead to poor quality. 


Horizon is a stabilisation App that allows you to tilt the phone while filming, but the picture will stay levelled out. That means if you hold it in your hand, put it in your backpack side pocket or pretend to be talking on the phone while obtaining footage, the final product will be beautiful, level professional footage.