Real Life

What do private investigators do? A day in the life

Life as a private investigator isn’t what you’d expect – sometimes it’s even more bizarre.
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Natalija, 28, from Lipstick Investigations in Sydney tells Take 5’s Mitchell Jordan what it’s really like to be a private investigator.

I raced to my car and started the ignition.

Pulling out onto the street, I followed the vehicle in front of me, keeping an eye on it from a distance before it stopped in front of a house.

My heart pounded as I watched the male driver get out of the car and embrace a woman, then they started to kiss.

Gotcha! I thought, filming them on my camera.

I’ve been working as a private investigator at Lipstick Investigations since I was 21 and there’s no better feeling than discovering the truth for my clients – even if it meant telling them something they didn’t want to hear.

It had always been a dream of mine to be a private eye.

Other people’s lives fascinated me and this was a chance to dig deeper.

As a teenager, I’d sit in front of the TV, fixated by my favourite show, Veronica Mars.

I envied young Veronica, who helped her father investigate cases.

“That’s what I want to do!” I told Mum and Dad.

They always encouraged me to follow my dreams, so after finishing school I enrolled in an Investigative Services course at TAFE.

“The job isn’t as glamorous as you might expect,” teachers warned me.

But I wasn’t in it for the supposed mystique; I just wanted to do something I was passionate about and help people in their search for answers.

I love nothing better than uncovering the truth for my clients.

(Image exclusive to Take 5)

After I finished studying, I landed a job with the established firm, Lipstick Investigations.

At first, I worked with other experienced investigators before going out on my own.

I realised pretty soon that my instructors at TAFE were right: being a private eye usually meant spending long hours sitting in the car, waiting for people to emerge from their home, bars, or office.

I investigated whether they truly were who they’d told my client they were or gathered proof if they were up to anything dodgy, like infidelity or insurance fraud.

On a sweltering hot day or when you were busting to use the toilet, this was the very opposite of glamour.

When it came to a uniform, I’d never be seen in a trench coat or top hat, like the books and movies depict – that would make me stand out like a sore thumb.

Part of what makes a PI successful is our ability to blend in unnoticed and be discreet.

Of course, there have been times where the person I’m following has cottoned on to what I’m up to.

Once, I followed a man into a hotel to check whether he was there for a steamy liaison with another woman.

Stepping into the lift with him, I pulled out my mobile to take pictures.

I pretended I was calling a friend when, suddenly, a bright light flashed from my phone.

“You’re taking a photo of me!” the man snapped.

I hadn’t meant for the flash to go off, and he started ranting about how I was following him.

Thinking on my feet, I played dumb.

“Sorry, I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said in my best British accent, trying to convince him I was just a naïve tourist.

Thankfully, he bought my story and left me alone.

Part of what makes a PI successful is our ability to blend in unnoticed and be discreet.

(Image: Getty Images)

Another time I was following a woman who I suspected was on the way to see her lover, when she noticed I’d been on her tail.

When she pulled over, I slowed my car down too, but she took a photo of me.

She then started following me and I knew I had to high-tail it out of there.

But luckily most of my investigations have gone off without a hitch.

I remember a time when an elderly man had remarried a woman half his age, and soon grew concerned she was having a fling.

I followed her, but when she reached an apartment block and a light flicked on, I couldn’t see anything over the tall brick wall that fenced the property.

Kicking off my shoes, I scaled to the top and managed to see the woman and kissing another man.

Luckily, they didn’t see me.

Most lovers are in such a world of their own that they’re oblivious to what’s going on around them.

One time a client was so pleased with what I’d uncovered, they paid for me to go on a fancy holiday overseas as a reward.

Most of the cases I handle involve suspected infidelity and sadly, a lot of it does go on.

From my experience, I’d estimate that at least 60 per cent of the cheaters are men.

Women often ask me about signs to look for if suspect their partner has strayed and I tell them it all starts with changes to their routine.

They should also be wary if he’s spending more time on his phone and placing it face-down so the screen’s covered.

WATCH: Five signs you’re likely to cheat on your partner. Story continues after video…

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But even when I present clients with irrefutable photographic evidence, some don’t want to accept the truth.

I’d been watching a married man having an affair and had plenty of images and footage of him and his mistress as proof, but the wife wouldn’t believe me.

“That’s not him,” she insisted, even though Blind Freddy could tell it was.

In times like this, there’s nothing I can do. My job is to uncover the truth, not convince a person to accept it.

Personally, as a single woman, my job makes dating difficult – not because I’ve discovered more than half of men are cheats.

I get such a buzz from what I do!

(Image exclusive to Take 5)

I like to be upfront when guys ask what I do, but many react with stunned silence and often scurry away.

It seems most men don’t like to idea of dating a private investigator, and if they have something to hide, I don’t want to date them anyway.

Not that my line of work is conducive to dating.

I’ll often get calls from clients or have to follow leads at odd hours and have to rush out, which isn’t exactly romantic.

But it’s all part of the job and it’s work that I love.

No office job could ever give me the same buzz as being a private investigator and I plan on doing it for the rest of my working life.

It’s certainly not a job for everyone, but I can’t think of anything that makes me happier.

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