“That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche

If you spend any time around a private investigator or consume any kind of shows, podcasts, movies or other media about PIs, you’ll quickly notice they have their own lingo or jargon. They have a set of terms that have specific meanings within the scope of their work. Let’s explore some of these terms and learn the lingo.

Subject – The person, business or entity being investigated.

The Set – The location. There can be multiple “sets” in an investigation. When an investigator has arrived to the set, they’ve arrived to the designated location.

Surveillance – Closely observing a person, place or thing (i.e. “surveying” it/them). There are a number of types of surveillance. A few include technical surveillance which is documenting something via photos or videos. Electronic surveillance involves wiretapping or bugging a place or object for the purposes of gathering audio evidence. Other forms of surveillance include interviews, digital or social media surveillance and auto surveillance (following a subject’s vehicle).

Burned – An investigator is burned when the subject they have been surveying has become aware of their presence or aware that they are being surveyed.

Pretext – Disguising one’s identity for the pretense of gathering evidence. For example, an investigator that dresses as a delivery person to assess whether a subject is home or not. Pretext can be controversial and in some cases or instances, it might be flat out illegal.

Skip Tracing – Locating a difficult to find person. This could involve locating a witness in a court case, estranged family, missing persons or a subject that has gone off the radar. PIs are experienced skip tracers who know how to find people who don’t want to be found.

Hidden Asset – An asset someone attempts to hide from a person, entity or court. Assets are often used to determine factors in family law cases, divorce cases, personal injury cases and bankruptcies. Hidden assets can make a big difference in the financial outcome of many of these cases, so PIs are hired to uncover and find assets a person or entity has tried to hide.

Due Diligence – Analysis of a person or entity to uncover any risks before hiring or performing a business transaction of some kind to reduce liability issues. This can include background investigations into people or businesses among other forms of investigation.

How many of these PI terms did you know? Are you hip to the lingo? Now you can talk like a PI or just better understand all the terms they throw around on TV shows and movies.