I was speaking with one of our clients recently. He mentioned that he received an email from an investigative company that was offering surveillance services for free if they failed to obtain results.

In the advertisement, results equated to obtaining videotape documentation of the claimant.

Tongue firmly planted in cheek, said client asked me if Ethos could make him the same proposal. He laughed, of course, fully aware of the slippery slope involved here.

One of the few things I remember from my college economics course, aside from that haunting feeling of sheer dread, was my professor’s constant referral to the old adage, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” He would expound, “In other words, nothing, and I mean nothing, is free. Ultimately you will pay for it one way or another.”

Quite frankly, the dangling of free investigative services is a desperate marketing ploy that could actually cause the customer a myriad of problems.

First, and arguably most importantly, there are legal ramifications to consider in this scenario.  Any good plaintiff attorney would have a field day in court with an investigation company that made such an offer.  Any suggestion of being remotely impartial (which investigators should be) goes out the window when payment for services is tied to getting “positive” results.

Incidentally, discovering that a claimant is truly injured and not fabricating their claim IS A POSITIVE RESULT. However, that’s a different topic for a future blog. 

Getting back to my point, it stands to reason that any investigative vendor whose goal is to stay in business needs to be paid for its services. Seriously.  I can tell you first-hand that properly operating an investigative company is an expensive endeavor.  The costs involved are significant—payroll, insurance, case-related, overhead, etc.  I could go on, but I’m getting heartburn.

The concern then for free surveillance is that the investigative company will likely be compelled to take matters into its own hands to ensure claimant activity.  Now you’ve stepped into a legal AND ethical minefield. Numerous lawsuits have befallen investigators employing pretexts that forced claimants outside their residences or enticed claimants to commit actions they otherwise would not have undertaken. Such behavior is an ethical violation that can adversely impact both the investigative company and its clients.

Professionally speaking, and here I realize I’m pouring salt in the wounds of the above-referenced sued investigators, such measures are unnecessary.

Trust me. There is enough fraud out there that too-good-to-be-true promotions are not warranted.  A professional investigative company that does its work on the front end will, more times than not, reward its clients with useful investigative information.

Finally, this free-services-for-no-results sham gives the investigative industry a bad reputation.   Certainly a diligent investigator who plans accordingly and patiently sits on surveillance deserves to be paid fairly regardless if a claimant is active or not.  Professional investigative companies should always put themselves in the best position to obtain results; however, they cannot force someone to be active.

Truly, the simple gist is this. If it sounds too good to be true, then it usually is.