Tech by VICE

Mystery Mobile: There Is an App for Ordering Detectives On-Demand

How to dig up dirt in the year 2015.

by Clinton Nguyen
Jun 10 2015, 11:00am

Here it comes. Another Uber for everything, but this time it's for finding detectives.

Trustify, from Washington, D.C.-based company FlimFlam Investigations, is a service that matches users to a private investigator. Trustify was recently rebranded from FlimFlam, which was initially released in March, and was re-released on May 29 following a successful $1 million round of funding from angel investors.

The service takes you to a brief survey that identifies what you're looking to investigate. Then it puts you into contact with a vetted private investigator to sign on for as little as one hour.

People who use it are all across the board, said Ray Glendening, spokesman for Trustify. The cases they handle range "from potential employers looking for background checks, parents examining the quality of those who would be looking after their children, to the person looking to find an old friend," Glendening said.

Danny Boice, Trustify's CEO, told the Washington City Paper that the idea for the app came from a bad experience with a PI. He paid $1,500 for a retainer, was given the runaround for a week, and came out with nothing he could use in a court of law. In the meantime, he tried others that ended up being more expensive but still ended up with nothing usable. The problem, he said, was with paying retainers: PIs had to be paid handsomely for any amount of work, large or small.

Trustify at least has a safety net against that: pay $59 to get connected with a PI and if they decide they can't help you, the money goes back to you. The company promises to match users up within 48 hours of receiving their case. Base rates start at $59 per hour, of which PIs are paid $30. This works like any sharing economy service: workers hired can justify lower hourly wages in exchange for higher exposure to customers.

So essentially, they hand the marketing off to the app.

"While an investigator on his/her own can make a higher fee through their own marketing, they will not be exposed to the level of demand that Trustify can put them into," Glendening said.

So is this something worth looking into? Maybe. Uber disrupted a $12 billion industry in the US, and the PI industry clocks in at $5 billion for a service that's not nearly as frequently used. It certainly makes it more accessible to people with more than $59 to toss around for background checks.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said PIs are paid $35; they are paid $30.