Going Underground

Private Investigation Techniques IV


Indonesia Private Investigation Agency (IPIA) performs a variety of duties for private and business clients. For business clients IPIA has had many anti-corruption and fraud cases. We also regularly run business due diligence checks as part of our services.

Perhaps one of the more “exciting” types of business cases IPIA works on is when we are asked to go “undercover”.

When undercover the private investigators will basically be assuming a false identity. Aims differ but in general an IPIA agent undercover will be trying to get some kind of secret information. It’s traditionally a strategy that is often employed and utilized by IPIA to gather evidence on suspected subjects or criminals.

IPIA’s undercover work has often seen our private investigators posing as an employee for a company where illicit activities are suspected. This has been anything from till dipping, employees stealing stock to middle and senior managers running major (illegal) deals with traders using the company name.

Usually when a client calls IPIA there is already some indication of some wrongdoing. In the majority of the cases where someone is using their company credentials but dealing privately our private investigator will be required to:

  • identify the perpetrator(s) and the chains of involvement and responsibility;
  • identify the scope and extent of the activities (including the amount of money/goods changing hands).

Usually posing as an employee will allow the private investigation to get close to the sources of information and people who know exactly what is happening.

Preparing for Undercover Assignments

At the simplest level going undercover as a private investigator requires some basic skills and traits:

  • the ability to change your personality and play a role;
  • the ability to fit into different situations without raising suspicion;
  • good people skills and ability to talk to anyone from wide range of backgrounds.

These are only a few of the skills you need to be able to undertake undercover private investigation work in Indonesia.

Perhaps the most important skill for an undercover private investigator is the ability to learn new skills and knowledge in a very short space of time.

An IPIA private investigator can be thrown into any number of undercover scenarios. For example IPIA has run undercover operations in the following business areas:

  • paper and pulp;
  • electrical components;
  • fruit processing;
  • hospitality;
  • clothing.

This is quite a diverse range of areas. The undercover agent needs to operate smoothly and convincingly. IPIA can take up to two weeks training our undercover agents in the needed skills and knowledge.

Risks of Undercover Work

Going undercover may be quite thrilling in most cases, but undercover work in real life is much more involved than what the movies show. There can be great risk to the private investigator and care and attention needs to be taken at all times.

Living double lives can become very stressful for IPIA’s private investigators for a number of reasons:

  • undercover work involves extended periods of time where the private investigator will need to be separated from his/her family and his/her usual environment;
  • If left undiscovered or unchecked, various pent up feelings may develop in the form of depression and anxiety;
  • since undercover work, by its very nature, assumes a sense of secrecy, a private investigator has to work alone for long periods of time. This can result in an inability of sharing his/her work related issues and challenges;

In addition to these, there’s also a possibility of corruption of the private investigators themselves resulting from close association and involvement with various criminal elements.  Fortunately this has never happened to IPIA as yet, but we are very aware of this possibility and always place our most highly trusted and experienced private investigators in any undercover work.

Going undercover can also involve playing some very dangerous roles as the private investigator may portray street prostitutes, drug dealers, crime gang members, and many other personalities to collect and gather valuable evidence.

Additionally, a private investigator may also be required to get involved in various activities s/he does not like or agree with or feels are morally wrong. This can be necessary to properly and essentially protect the private investigator’s assigned cover. Psychologically, the private investigator may accept the new role too well, resulting in a loss of the reality of his/her previous identity. Personal integrity is sometimes being sacrificed and compromised to complete an undercover assignment.

Indonesia Private Investigation Agency has found that one of the most common negative elements related to an undercover assignment is a sense and feeling of responsibility and/or guilt. This arises as an outcome of betraying “trust”; the private investigator at some point has to “betray” the criminal. Believe it or not this can be quite difficult, however terrible the crime may be. Most of the time some kind of sympathy and/or empathy may be created for those people whom you’re investigating.

The Positive Side of Undercover Work

Whilst there are negative factors and risks in undercover work, there are also lots of positive attributes as well. Certain investigations actually work very well because of the very proactive role of the private investigator undercover.

It can be very rewarding for the part of the investigator who has successfully investigated a case, regardless of how unique and challenging its nature may be.

Lets not also forget that the preparation for undercover work needs some diverse learning. One of Indonesia Private Investigation Agency’s investigators can now talk knowledgeably on a range of subjects including clothing manufacturing, fruit processing, electronics, paper and the hotel industry.

Indonesia Private Investigation Agency (IPIA) and our sister agency  Bali Eye Private Investigation Agency (BEPIA) are fully registered Private Investigation Agencies offering private detective and private investigator services to the Private and Business sectors throughout Indonesia and South East Asia.


About the Author

IPIA's Director of Investigations is an Indonesian national with a Diploma in PI work (with distinction) from the UK and an Australian Government accredited Certificate in Investigative Services. She has worked on over 400 cases for private and business clients.