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Personal investigators also engage in a large variety of work not usually associated with the industry in the mind of the public. For example, many are involved in process serving, the personal delivery of summons, subpoenas, and other legal documents to parties in a legal case. The tracing of absconding debtors can also form a large part of a PI’s work load. Many agencies specialize in a particular field of expertise.

This niche service is typically conducted by those with backgrounds in intelligence , executive protection, and a small number from law enforcement entities whose duties included the covert installation of eavesdropping devices as a tool in organized crime, terrorism and narc-trafficking investigations. Other PIs, also known as corporate investigators, specialize in corporate matters, including anti fraud work, loss prevention, internal investigations of employee misconduct, the protection of intellectual property and trade secrets, anti piracy, copyright infringement investigations, due diligence investigations, malware and cyber criminal activity, and computer forensics work.

Many undercover investigators carry hidden cameras and recorders strapped to their bodies to help them document their investigations. The period of the investigation could last for several months, or in some extreme cases, years. Due to the dangerous nature of the job, their real identities are kept secret throughout their active careers.