Investigative Services

1Why shouldn’t you just hire the cheapest investigator you can find?
Would you want the cheapest doctor, lawyer, or other professional you could find? If the answer is yes, then you should go ahead with the cheapest investigator. Otherwise, consider this: Almost one-third of our business is and has always been from clients who have gone to the cheapest first, found out why they were the cheapest, and then come to us to rescue their cases. Unfortunately, at that point they are spending twice as much as they originally needed to. Logic dictates that, no matter the profession, a firm must charge an amount sufficient to employ the very best individuals in their industry, and that amount will necessarily be more than other firms to retain those highly skilled staff persons.
2How do I employ Prudential Associates?
You can confer and hire us by e-mail, telephone, or in person. Just make contact via one of these means and describe your needs. We will give you an estimate and provide you with case intake forms and a retainer agreement. For more information, please see our contact us page.
3Is Prudential Associates licensed, bonded, and insured?
Yes.
4How long has Prudential Associates been in business?
Since 1970.
5Does Prudential Associates handle Domestic/Adultery matters?
Yes, and on any given day we have several surveillance operations underway.
6What constitutes “Proof of Adultery”?
This is a good question, and the sad part is that many investigators do not even know the answer. We do, however, and would be glad to e-mail or fax to you a New Client Information Letter that explains exactly what and how we go about documenting evidence of adultery so it is usable by your counsel should you take that path after its acquisition. Request this letter from us via e-mail.
7Do Prudential Associates’ agents testify in court if that becomes necessary?
Yes, all of the time and quite effectively.
8I do not have a lawyer. Can Prudential Associates help me decide upon capable counsel?
Yes. We can recommend attorneys with whom we have worked who specialize in your specific needs.
9What are the licensing requirements for a Private Investigator? Can anyone claim to be a private investigator?
Each state is different. In Maryland, a private detective agency must hold an agency license issued by the Maryland State Police.
10What should I do before hiring an investigator?
Call several law firms and ask for their recommendation of a reputable firm. Attorneys regularly place their own professional reputations at stake when they commission investigative work by private investigators, so they will not often recommend a firm that has not performed well for them in the past.
11Who hires a private investigator or private detective? Me? An attorney? The court?
Usually your attorney hires the investigator; however, frequently you, a party to a case, will do it. You should ask that all investigative work products and reports be sent directly to your counsel so it is protected under attorney-client privilege.
12What investigative services does Prudential Associates specialize in?
Prudential Associates has operated for 45 years and provides the full spectrum of investigative and digital forensics services. Please peruse our site for details and feel free to submit questions if you have them. We will answer any questions promptly.
13If I hire a private investigator, are telephone calls, emails, and consultations between the firm and me confidential?
Yes, by law as set forth by the relevant sections of the Maryland Business and Occupations law pertaining to the provision of private detective/investigative services.
14Can Prudential Associates guarantee the outcome of an investigation?
No, other than guaranteeing diligent, honest, and skilled efforts. Anyone who does make any guarantees as to outcome is likely just trying to compel you to give them money and demonstrating a lack of integrity, professionalism, and honesty while doing so.
15After the initial consultation, how quickly can you begin an investigation?
Usually within a day or two, although that depends on many factors such as case type, scope, objectives, technical prep time requirements, and of course our project caseload at that time.
16What evidence will I receive at the end of an investigation? Who else receives this information?
That depends on the type of case. Usually we supply a written report and all evidence obtained during the investigation, which may include digital forensic exam datasets, photographs, video, results of interviews and statements, and anything else obtained with relevance to the matter.In most instances it makes the most sense to have all investigative work products go directly to your counsel; however, there are instances in which they would go to you. In some digital forensics examinations it will be necessary for you to assist us by examining some data during the execution of our case activities to help us determine relevance.
17Do I need to hire a local investigator for surveillance?
There is a checklist of priorities you should consider whenever hiring an investigative agency. The very first is the firm’s level of competency, experience, and honesty. Establish these through a request for references. Any firm that has been around for four decades (like Prudential Associates) has many legal field professional references who stake their reputations on the quality of the work product all the time. The second priority is that they are able to serve your needs in the relevant geographic location. The main office of the firm does not need to be in that city, town, or state; however, they do need to have a vetted, competent, trusted affiliate or employee there. Prudential Associates has these assets throughout the United States and, in fact, the world. We are frequently called upon for services in South America, Europe, and the Middle East.
18Is it legal to conduct surveillance on another person?
Yes, if you hold proper licensure, which Prudential Associates does.
19What do surveillance services include?
Our licensed agents conduct surveillances by vehicle or on foot, fixed camera (automated) video surveillance, and in some cases electronic surveillance of computers and networks.
20If the person under surveillance travels out of state, will the surveillance continue? Do you sub out this work, or do it personally?
Yes, it would continue as long as that is consistent with the agreed upon scope and strategy. Generally our agents conduct the surveillance unless the client has, in advance, asked us to initiate and manage subcontracted work outside of Maryland.
21Can Prudential Associates determine if my telephone is tapped or if there are listening/video devices in my home or office?
Yes. Technical surveillance countermeasures (TSCM “sweeps”) are among our specialties. Send us an e-mail requesting our information sheet regarding these services.
22Should I hire a private investigator to find a missing person, or contact the police?
First you should contact the police and be sure to follow their instructions and process. Then, if you want to meet with us and discuss how Prudential Associates might be able to contribute and increase the likelihood of a faster resolution, please do call us.
23Does Prudential Associates do child custody investigative work? Are these findings shared with my attorney? The court?
Yes, we do child custody investigations all the time. Generally our work product is provided to the attorney, who in consultation with you will determine the best way to use it, which can include submitting evidence to the court and requiring our testimony.
24Does it help if I do my own investigative work first, before hiring PA? Will this keep down the costs?
That will almost never help and will very often impair the likelihood of later successful work by us. In cases involving digital forensics work you will almost always be doing yourself a great disservice and increasing cost of the work that you have us do. We have had many clients come to us with cases in which their efforts have ruined the prospects for any success and made the hiring of an investigative firm a waste of money, as there can be no recover from the damage done by them. We have also handled cases successfully that unfortunately have cost exponentially more than they originally would have if the clients had not taken actions on their own. We respectfully ask all potential clients to refrain from doing their own investigative work and we ask this for their benefit.
25Is your investigative proof admissible in court?
Yes, and we are subpoenaed to testify in cases on a regular basis.
26I’ve already been to the police. Can I still use a private investigator?
Yes. The police have limited resources and priorities. They also cannot assist with civil (non-criminal) matters, so we are the appropriate resource.
27What happens if the investigator does not find what I asked for?
We are finders of fact. Consistent with scope, objectives, and budget, and to the extent that they can be determined, we find facts. If the facts are not what a client suspected or hoped for then we would sympathize with that client; however, our duty to that client would have still been fulfilled, and that is our top priority.
28How do you keep track of costs during an investigation? Will I receive an itemized bill when the investigation is over?
Prudential Associates charges consistent with fees stated clearly on the very first page of our retainer agreement, and we charge in quarter-hour increments. Yes, all clients receive itemized invoices and refunds of any unused retainer monies.
29Can I hire Prudential Associates to:
  • Tap someone’s telephone? No.
  • Harass a debtor? No.
  • Vandalize my former spouse’s property? No.
  • Get my FBI file? No.
  • Conduct counter-surveillance while I break the law? No.
  • To conduct legal investigative, surveillance, and security operations in furtherance of lawful objectives anywhere in the world? Yes!

Digital Forensics

1What is the difference between the terms digital, computer, and mobile or cell phone forensics?
Digital forensics refers to the process of collecting, recovering, analyzing, and preserving digital devices for an investigative or evidentiary purpose. The field of digital forensics includes use of specific methods and tools, designed to preserve the original evidence and ensure that all changes are conducted in a controlled environment. Digital forensics encompasses analysis of a wide range of digital devices, beyond just computers and cell phones. Digital forensics includes computer and cell phone forensics, which could be described subcategories of digital forensics.
2What is mobile or computer forensics and how does the process work?
Computer forensics and mobile forensics require both a technical and investigative skill set. Every step in the forensic examination process is designed to preserve evidence and maximize recovery of data. Generally, during a computer or cell phone forensic exam, the examiner will first create a forensic image or extraction from the device. The examiner will then process the forensic image with tools designed to carve and recover data from the forensic image, including items that have been deleted. The examiner will then conduct analysis based upon the search/tasking criteria provided by the client and will provide a detailed report outlining all items that have been recovered.
3What types of digital devices can potentially hold data?
Any digital device can potentially hold data, including deleted data. Our examiners have recovered digital evidence from a wide range of devices including computers, cell phones, USB flash drives, digital cameras, memory cards, routers and cable modems, game consoles (Playstation, X-Box, etc.), and a variety of other digital devices. For example, our examiners have recovered thousands of deleted images from a “simple” digital camera. Depending on the needs and goals of your investigation/digital forensic exam, analysis of these devices could be critical.
4What type of evidence can be found on a computer or mobile device?
Generally any user activity that occurs on a computer or mobile device can be recovered through forensic means. This includes the history of a stored cache of websites visited and other Internet activity, web searches conducted from the computer, chat conversations, pictures and other files that have been downloaded, e-mails sent or received from the computer or cell phone, logs of user and system activity, and much more.
5What types of cases require digital forensics?
Digital forensics can benefit any cases in which a computer or cell phone is involved or may contain evidence. In today’s world, almost every case has a digital component.

Prudential Associates regularly conducts digital forensics examinations during domestic/adultery/child custody cases, criminal/civil investigations, corporate investigations relating to terminated/resigned employees, and other corporate security and risk management activities. Theft or misuse of proprietary data and intellectual property is also an active area for our digital forensics case services.
6When should I consider contacting a computer forensics’ examiner?
As soon as you recognize that a computer, cell phone, or other electronic device may contain evidence in your case. It is important that a trained and certified examiner be involved as soon as possible. Every minute that the target computer is used it could be overwriting, changing, or deleting critical evidence. It is important to process the device in a forensically sound manner as soon as possible to preserve the evidence and ensure that it is recovered thoroughly and in accordance with established forensic practices.
7If I think evidence exists, is it ok if my IT staff to take a look for the information before I get in touch with a computer forensics expert?
Absolutely not. Although IT staffers are trained at performing their day-to-day functions necessary to support and repair computers and networks, they are not forensic examiners. A well-intentioned IT person could unnecessarily alter and destroy digital evidence. We see this on a regular basis and are often called upon to rescue corporate clients from this situation.
8What risks are there if I don’t consult a computer forensics expert at the start of a problem?
Attempting to recover data in a non-forensically sound manner can lead to disaster. Just the act of opening a file will change critical file properties and other data that may no longer be recoverable.
9A computer in my organization may contain important evidence. What do I do now?
Limit access to the computer; do not allow others to turn it on or off or use it. If the computer is on, leave it on. If possible, remove it from any network connectivity (i.e., disconnect any network cables). It is important to prevent anybody from using the computer or turning it off or on. Just the act of doing so could alter or delete critical evidence. If necessary, a computer forensic examiner can talk you through shutting down the computer properly to preserve critical evidence.
10Can deleted emails be recovered?
Yes. E-mails, like any other data or files on a computer, will remain on the hard drive or mobile device until overwritten. Even if a user has deleted an e-mail, it can still be recovered forensically.
11If someone uses a webmail account like Gmail, Yahoo or Hotmail, is it possible to find that email?
Yes. Generally, any user activity that occurs in a web browser, such as Internet Explorer or Google Chrome, is stored locally on the hard drive. This includes webmails and other e-mails as well as chat activity and other stored communications.
12Can deleted files be recovered?
Yes. As a general rule, even after a file has been deleted and is no longer visible to the user, it will remain on the hard drive or digital device until overwritten and can be recovered forensically.
13Can encrypted or password protected files be accessed?
Yes. Generally encrypted or password-protected files can still be recovered forensically.
14How does computer forensics differ from data recovery?
A data recovery expert will attempt to recover specific files or data from a computer or other digital device.

Computer forensics is a process of preserving, analyzing, and recovering data in support of an investigative or legal proceeding. It is important that a computer forensic examiner’s results be repeatable and detailed. In a computer forensic exam, however, it is just as important as how the data were recovered. This process must be documented with specificity.
15What documentation do I receive after a computer forensics investigation?
After a computer forensics investigation, you will receive a detailed report outlining the forensic examiner’s methods. The report will include details regarding what digital evidence was recovered from the device, how the evidence was identified and recovered, and the relevance of the evidence to the investigation. It is important for a digital forensics report to include context and properly explain all evidence recovered. Also likely in the reporting stage is the provision of relevant data sets to you or your counsel on a drive, memory device, CD, or DVD.
16How do I know if a computer forensic examiner is qualified?
As with any other professional, ask questions. A qualified computer forensics examiner should freely provide a CV detailing training and experience. In addition, the examiner should be able to provide details regarding certifications and prior expert cases. There are many IT professionals andothers out there claiming to be computer forensics examiners. You can also contact the organization the examiners say they hold certifications from and ask to verify those certifications. Our examiners are perfectly comfortable with you doing so.
17What training or certifications do Prudential Associates’ examiners have?
Prudential Associates’ computer forensic examiners hold several high-level certifications in computer and mobile forensics. Our forensic examiners are highly trained and have been certified as expert witnesses in local, State, and Federal courts. We have several examiners. Feel free to contact us and discuss which would be assigned to your case and exactly which certifications he/she holds.
18Can you refer me to a law firm that understands or works on digital forensics cases?
Yes, and this is very important. Not every attorney or firm has the experience and ability to capitalize fully on relevant digital evidence. Naturally, if you are going to take the prudent and advisable step of obtaining the services of a qualified examiner firm you want to ensure that you are working with counsel who can maximize the strategic benefit of the findings in furtherance of your interests. Feel free to contact us for some recommendations based on your case’s specific factors.
19What is a data breach?
A data breach occurs when a person has gained unauthorized access to your computers, network, or other sensitive data. This can be because of an insider threat (i.e., ex-employee or other person with legitimate access) or an external threat or hacker. Our forensic examiners can investigate data breaches as well as provide guidance on how to prevent data breaches.
20What is metadata?
Metadata literally means “data about data.” This is typically data that are “hidden” to the average user. Metadata can be very useful in an investigation or computer forensics examination. For example, EXIF metadata found in pictures/JPG files could include the make or model of the camera used to take the picture and the GPS location the user was at when the picture was taken. Microsoft Office metadata, for example, will contain details about a document such as all users that have edited the document, when the document was last printed, and other data of value. As an example, through examining metadata, in a case where somebody has “doctored up” photos for a lawsuit, our examiners could show that Adobe Photoshop was used.
21Is it possible to hack a mobile phone?
Yes. Many of the vulnerabilities that your computer has also exist for mobile devices; attack vectors can be similar too. However, there are others specific to mobile, and together they make mobile devices arguably more susceptible to security compromise. Prudential Associates possesses the hardware, software, and expertise to specifically address the vulnerabilities.
22What specialized equipment do you use during a digital forensics examination?
We use specialized equipment designed for digital forensics, designed to recover all data in a forensically sound manner. All of our equipment has been validated for proper functioning in accordance with digital forensics best practices. Our lab is equipped with so many different machines and extraction devices that it would be difficult to list them all here; however, you are welcome to take a look andreceive some explanation of some of the equipment and software when you come in.