real life

'I usually find someone cheating.' A day in the life of a female private investigator.

What comes into your head when you think of a private investigator?

More often than not, the portrayals on TV and movies are of middle-aged men, in a hat and trench coat lurking behind the shadows. But these days, the private investigations industry, at least in Australia, is pretty diverse. 

Katherine* is from Lipstick Investigations and for over a decade she has been a part of the private investigations industry. She sat down with Mamamia to share her story and the fascinating cases that have landed on her desk over the years. 

"I grew up watching shows like Veronica Mars, and I thought her job was so cool. I looked into seeing if being a private investigator was a possibility in Australia, I studied, did my TAFE course, got my license and here I am now."

Her experience working full-time as a private investigator has been varied to say the least, working with different clients and their unique cases and being confronted on a few occasions...

Watch: An American woman hires a 'cheater catcher' team to set up her boyfriend. Post continues below.

As for the cases themselves, Katherine does "absolutely everything you can think of". This can range from infidelity, background checks, family law investigations, 'find my family' scenarios, suspicious or noisy neighbour disputes, missing persons and more. 


"The range is astronomical: every single day is different. Once I had a girl who met a cute guy in a bar but she couldn't remember his last name. She felt a connection with him and had lost his phone number, so we had to trawl around and find this guy," Katherine said to Mamamia.

In another instance, Katherine helped a woman find her half-brother.

"Her mother had opened up about the half-brother while she was on her deathbed. So with this shocking news, the woman decided to try and locate him. When they finally met, they had always lived an hour away from one another without realising. The reunion was lovely."

But the majority of Katherine's time is spent examining cheating suspicions. In terms of gender stereotypes, it is more often than not a female client looking to see whether their male partner is being unfaithful. Sometimes it is also the adult kids who have one of their parents investigated for infidelity. 

"On average, I would say the partner is usually found to be cheating. But sometimes I'll follow the boyfriend or girlfriend in question, and they'll simply be down at the beach enjoying their time or going for coffee by themselves."


As for some of the classic signs that someone is cheating on their partner?

"It's in the small details. Say someone always has their phone facing up and then all of a sudden their phone is facing down, being secretive with passwords and taking the device with them everywhere. Often they're hard to reach when not at home as well, quite emotionally distant. Perhaps they've just started going to the gym randomly, in a bid to start impressing someone else. Or they are working late nights, coming home and immediately taking a shower when that isn't part of their usual routine."

Being a female in this industry also has its benefits. 

"Communication is important, and also being a woman means you can often get into places quicker."


For example, if tailing a subject in a nightclub and it's a long line, generally a bouncer will let the woman into the venue quicker than if it were a man - which Katherine uses to her advantage as a young woman in her early 30s.

But of course, the pendulum can swing the other way. 

"If ever confronted by a subject, which happens very rarely, they can become very aggressive towards you. Especially being a woman as well. I've had instances where I've had my car door kicked in or I've been followed," Katherine shares. "You can get a little scared, but I know what I'm doing and how to de-escalate a situation and do my job."

Katherine*. Image: Supplied. 


With this in mind, common sense, some serious street smarts and discretion are key skills any private investigator needs. 

"As a private investigator, you have to remain hidden, whether it's hiding behind poles or trees, hiding in cars to get the perfect shot," Katherine shared.

Some degree of invisibility is also needed, but alas Katherine enjoys some brightly coloured hair! 

"For many years I had bright red hair, and when you're walking down the street looking at your subject, you don't want them to remember you and go 'that's the girl with the bright red hair I saw last week'. But hey, I've got to live a little!"

When it comes to the legalities behind being a private investigator, it is important to note that Australia has some of the strictest privacy laws worldwide, and for good reason.

"We have to follow them to a tee because if we break any of those privacy laws, we end up losing our license. Any private investigator needs a license to do the work we do otherwise it's classified as stalking. Sometimes we have clients that ask us to bug their partner's phone or put spyware on a computer, but that is completely illegal. That's why the laws are so important to follow in this industry."

Cost-wise, for Katherine's services with Lipstick Investigations it is $125 an hour and a minimum of four hours each time the private investigator goes out on the case. Ultimately, the additional time spent on the case is up to the client. 


Image: Unsplash. 

"On one case, I had a male client who wanted to see if his partner was actually working as a beautician as she said she was. So this client paid me to go to the beautician spa to see if his girlfriend was working there - which she was," Katherine said.

But even though the job can have its perks, it can also have an impact on someone's personal life. 


"I used to be on dating sites and wouldn't put my job description on there, as it often makes dating more difficult," Katherine told Mamamia.

"If you mention you're a private investigator, they will either block you straightaway (maybe they have something to hide!) or they're obsessed with your job and that's all they ask you about."

And as you can imagine, the consistent cheating investigations can also play on Katherine's mind. When you're constantly seeing partners being unfaithful to their loved ones, it's easy to take that home with you. But at the end of the day, Katherine says it comes down to instincts and a gut feeling. And even though delivering the bad news can be challenging, it is for the greater good.

"Sometimes you feel bad: I especially do when delivering the news to women, it just breaks my heart. You see people who have been together for 20 or 40 years and you tell them 'your husband is cheating on you'. I just know I've done my job and given them the truth and it is then up to them how they wish to proceed."

For more information, visit the Lipstick Investigations website.

*Name has been changed. Katherine is known to Mamamia but has chosen to remain anonymous for privacy reasons.

Feature Image: Supplied/Unsplash.

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