A mother-of-one who swapped her job as a carer for elderly people with dementia for a career as a private investigator has revealed social media and a dog lead are the best tools for tracking down cheating spouses and missing people.
Alison Harris, 51, decided to retrain as a PI in her forties after losing her father at the age of 98 and struggling to continue to work with older people.
She studied a psychology degree at the Open University while still working, as well as diplomas in forensic science and profiling, intermediate criminology and two separate ones in private investigation.
Now she charges clients around £70 per hour to look into cases of missing people, marital affairs and shady characters who owe money.
Alison Harris, 51, decided to retrain as a PI in her forties after losing her father at the age of 98 and struggling to continue to work with older people. Pictured: stock image
But despite how private investigators are often portrayed in films or television dramas, Alison admitted it can be rather ‘boring’ in real life.
‘A typical day is quite mundane,’ she told FEMAIL. ‘I spend most of it searching on the internet, as everyone who uses technology leaves a virtual footprint.
‘There are no car chases or having a friend in the police who can give you help – unfortunately!
‘I very often work closely with senior executives in legal firms and corporate organisations, safeguarding against fraud and intellectual property as well as tracking online scams and money laundering.’
She added that Facebook is normally her first port of call when looking up a person, especially if they’re of a certain age.
Alison said being a private investigator is nothing like what you see in films and on the TV – admitting she spends most of her time on the internet. Pictured: stock image
Her job can also involve hours of surveillance, which can be ‘really dull’, and going from door to door seeking information.
Alison admitted she found it ‘really hard’ to get back into the routine of studying when re-training as a PI, but relished in being able to combine her interests in psychology and crime.
She said the feeling of being able to help people get justice is what makes her job so rewarding.
‘The best part is giving clients who come to you when they feel that they have nowhere else to go answers and honesty,’ she said.
‘My first case was helping a lady get her money back from people that she thought were friends.
‘I work with heartbroken families desperate for answers and large employers who have been unsuccessful in tracking down former employees.’
Alison, who has a 25-year-old daughter with her husband, deals with a lot of missing person cases and once traced the missing author of a popular Netflix series, which took her a couple of weeks.
‘It takes a lot to surprise me,’ she admitted. ‘But one case involved a lovely lady who had absolutely no idea that her husband had a secret business.
Alison admitted she found it ‘really hard’ to get back into the routine of studying when re-training as a PI, but relished in being able to combine her interests in psychology and crime. Pictured: stock image
‘Another was a bit hair-raising, but I can’t go into too much detail as it is going to court next month. It involved a man who was looking for his fiancée, but not for the reason that you may imagine.’
Alison said being a good PI involves being methodical, thorough and interested in people, as well as being patient, emphathetic and quick-witted.
She recalled one incident where she visited a client’s husband’s rural home early in the morning to investigate whether he was cheating.
Alison could see the other woman in the window after driving past, so rather than drive by again and blow her cover, she went to the door with a dog lead and her phone and told the woman she’d lost her dog.
Alison advertises as being available 24-7 and tries to get back to people who contact her within 24 hours. Pictured: her website
‘While we were talking, my phone was taking pictures of her,’ she said. ‘It was purely to cut my waiting time down. Always have a dog lead – you can get out of any situation with a dog lead!’
Alison advertises as being available 24-7 and tries to get back to people who contact her within 24 hours.
Even if she can’t help them, she’ll still call them back and try to help them find someone who can.
Her job has certainly made her more wary of trusting people and ‘a bit more suspicious’ – admitting it still surprises her ‘how devious people can be’.
For more information about Alison’s work, visit MissAMInvestigations.co.uk.