While their work digs up a lot of dirt on people, can private investigators get phone records? Private investigators have been around for a long time, but it seems many of us are still unsure over what can private investigators do legally.

Can private investigators spy on a cell phone?

What information can private investigators access, and how much of that is legal?

In the first place, what does a private investigator do?

What does a private investigator do?

Private investigators are far from the detective amateurs most people think they are

Private investigators are not police offers. They are not civilian vigilantes either.

But they possess a similar skillset. Just like the police or vigilante heroes who investigate crimes and misdoing, private investigators also research suspicious activity. Their work an be used in a court of law as testimony or evidence. Some can also carry firearms.

But private investigators do not make arrests. They do not take the law into their own hands either. They perform the job of a detective, but stop short of executing any law enforcement action.

While their name suggests that they work as independent contractors, the majority of private investigators actually work for security services, financial institutions, credit collection services or even corporate law firms. When people ask, "can private investigators get phone records?", this is because of past incidents some of these corporate employers have gotten into.

What can private investigators do legally?

Local and federal law determine what can private investigators do legally
Private investigators must abide by the laws of local and federal jurisdiction. Not all do, though.

Private investigators conduct thorough investigations. That’s intuitive, but what exactly can private investigators do legally?

John Cutter Investigations, a private investigation firm founded by former NYPD Deputy Chief John Cutter, has this to say:

PIs can PIs cannot
document a crime make an arrest
can monitor movements cannot impersonate a police officer
use online databases to obtain information trespass on private property (can enter only with consent of home owner)
Can conduct stakeouts take photos through windows of a home
Can conduct interviews with friends and family of subject hack into online accounts
- Cannot obtain protected information (bank accounts, phone records) without consent

This list is not exhaustive. Laws differ between states. Call recording, for example, requires the consent of one party in some states and both in others.

A private investigator must abide by local and federal laws. If you’re planning to hire one, make sure he or she is familiar with specific laws of your jurisdiction so that the collected evidence can be used in court.

So, can private investigators get phone records?

No, private investigators cannot get phone records. Private investigators can no longer spy on cell phones after former president George W. Bush signed the Telephone Records and Privacy Protection Act in 2006. This act meant that private investigators cannot spy on cell phone calls, nor can they get text messages from a cell phone.

In short, it’s officially an illegal practice. Can private investigators get phone records? No, they cannot.

Not until 2006, that is.

Before 2006, cell phone records could actually be purchased off online databases by anyone for just 100 US dollars or less. Cell phone records were bought in a now-abandoned practice called pretexting. This basically means using false identification to obtain confidential phone records.

This practice was problematic. In 2006, it was revealed to the world that Hewlett-Packard (HP) had actually contracted independent security experts who, through pretexting, impersonated important company board members and nine journalists from leading publications.

Pretexting was pretty common before this, but the high-profile nature of the case brought the legality of pretexting into even greater scrutiny. The federal government decided to intervene, and mobile privacy won a huge victory.

But, can private investigators still get phone records?

Assuming they are familiar with the right tools for the trade, the only thing keeping a private investigator from spying on your cell phone is their choice to abide by the law.

Glenn Mulcaire, private investigator at the centre of the 2009 - 2011 News of the World scandal

Take Glenn Mulcaire for example. A private investigator based in the UK, he tapped into the phones of royalty and celebrity alike, creating one of the world’s biggest mobile privacy scandals ever. His misdeeds led to damages incurred by more than 4000 victims around the world.

If you are still worried that your phone records may end up in the wrong hands, we highly recommend hiding your calls and text messages – and all of your phone records – by using a separate phone app like Phoner.

Keep your phone records safe with Phoner

Phoner keeps your phone records safe from prying eyes

Phoner is a fake phone number app that also works as a burner phone app.  You can use it to get unlimited separate phone numbers from around the world to make calls and send texts with.

By using a fake phone number and hiding your actual phone number, private investigators cannot obtain your phone records since they were not made on your actual phone number (or phone plan) and sent through the internet instead.

It may not be the best solution for how to get rid of private investigators entirely, but with Phoner you can easily shake them off your phone trail.

Can private investigators get phone records? Legally, no. Technically? yes. But Phoner leaves no room for doubt. Use Phoner can keep your phone records absolutely safe today!