By Ralph Thomas

List serves can be a good resource for networking with other investigators. They can be used to find help when help is needed. They can be used for finding assistance outside of your coverage area or area of specialization. They can be used to find assignments in your geographic area and area of specialization. They can be quite useful. However, there are groups disguised as investigative resources like this but in effect tend to be used for something else and will do nothing but waste your time. At one time, I was on a good 50 or more groups or list serves, whichever you want to call them. Over a period of time, I have dropped out of some of these groups because they do nothing for anyone but waste time. We will call these list services the good the bad and the ugly. It’s important for you to understand the difference.

The Good
Good list serves, unfortunately need to be moderated. This is because if they are not, the small group of people found on the bad and the ugly groups (which I might add are very small people in very small numbers) can turn a good list serve into a bad and ugly one very quickly. Time has proven this again and again. Since people who want to have good networking groups and don’t want the list controlled by a few trouble makers who always want to hog the microphone and attempt to control the list, groups must be moderated for the benefit of the people who want to use the group for it’s intended purpose.

The Bad
These list serves are there mainly to Serve The Ego needs Of A few Internet groupies who have no work. These list serves are mainly there for ranting, complaining, bashing, and tearing the industry apart. They are an embarrassment to the professional investigative profession and tend to attract late night substance abusers, and those who have not developed the emotions of adult. People in these groups talk big but when you look closely, the overwhelming majority of them are just barely paying their phone bill and office rent. Most of these types have no business as, instead of developing a professional practice, they engage in long chants, rants, email tricks and so forth and actually have no time for business development because of their obsession with and addition to self-ego gratifying three to ten page posts to prove to themselves how smart they are.

These groups do serve a very useful purpose. You can tell very quickly who is busy with investigative work and who isn’t. We all know that people that are successful in this business have no time for Jokester groups. The people who are successful in this profession are never pounding on another member of the profession for posting this or that because their time on such groups is very limited. If you see one consistantly posting multi-page responses to this or that and never seem to be outside the office working cases, you CAN assume they have no or very little business and are not interested in developing any business. Instead they are simply obsessed with their computer and email. This will give you a good idea who to assign and who not to assign cases to when you need assistance.

The Ugly
The very bad groups have all of the above features but are there mainly to serve as attack and ridicule forums for a few childish groupies. They tend to pick a subject of the week to attack and are almost totally negative. These lists attract very ugly unprofessional people in this profession and you should let them stay there and soak in their own doo-doo. Some of these ugly list serves disguise themselves as helpful places but are really just an entertainment group for a few sick minds. That is, they draw newer people in only to ridicule them for asking "stupid" questions. The good news is the uglies have, for the most part; been removed from most of the good groups for misbehavior and failure to follow group rules of gentlemanly conduct.

How Do You Spot The Bad And The Ugly

Quite frankly, it’s very easy to spot a bad and an ugly list serve. Join one and in a few days you can find out yourself. Some of the better groups have many hundreds and many thousands of people on them. If you see one that has been around for several years that has say, under 400 people on it, you can usually assume that it’s likely an Ugly and Bad list filled with people who have not yet matured as adults. Here are a few other tips.

1) The only people posting is a half a dozen people.

2) A good potion of the subject material is totally negative unless the poster is, of course, talking about themselves and how great and smart they are.

3) The group is not moderated.

4) The group is filled will long winded people who seem to have the time to write three and five page responses to any post and can do it in a matter of a few hours.

5) The group has been around for a long time but other than the typical churn of a few members leaving and a few joining every week, the number of people who are on the list is not growing or is deteriorating.

6) The rules of the list say one thing but nothing is enforced.

7) Groupies who appear to have no business run the list.

The important thing for you to understand is that, unless you like childish entertainment, if you are on a Bad or Ugly list, it’s going to do nothing for you but waste your time. I would suggest you get off and find some good lists to be on.

How Do you Find Good Groups
Go to This is a Yahoo service where people can create groups. There are a lot of them. Yahoo offers advanced features such as achieves for each group, chat rooms, file rooms and link pages. You can use the Yahoo search engine for the groups front page to search for groups you might be interested in. Some of them are good, many of them bad and a few downright ugly. To weed through them, I will give you a recommendations of some good ones and ones that serve a specific purpose.

955 Members
SpiesOnline is a very good list and the moderator is always posting very interesting and relevant stuff on it. Subscribe via email:

899 Members
For the posting of case assignments only. There is usually cases every day. A lot of these are small assignments but there are many posts of one, two and three day surveillance's. Subscribe via email:

3307 Members
Dealing with locating missing persons and skip tracing topics. Over 3,000 members. . Subscribe via email:

1653 Members

NewPI is for new investigators with a lot of people in the profession who have been around for a while.
To Subscribe Send an email to:
Or go on the web to:

Members 2283
PIGroups is a well-moderated and good list that is free of spam and ego gratifying clutter. Subscribe via email:

1162 members
The Surveillance forum is topic specific on surveillance topics only.
Subscribe via email:

1112 members
Lots of assignments for process serving.
Subscribe via email:
It’s also worth noting that most associations both national and state have groups you can become part of. Most of the association groups are good. However, a few of them are well, much to be desired.

One of the most valuable groups to join is NCISS sponsored group called Legal Alert. Here is a description of it:

CISS is the National Voice of the Private Investigation & Security Professions. This listserv will alert you to Congressional legislation and action that will have an impact on your business. Please join your colleagues in maintaining a strong legislative effort in Washington, D.C. by responding to requests for action. YOUR PARTICIPATION and SUPPORT WILL STRENGTHEN OUR LEGISLATIVE EFFORTS ON YOUR BEHALF. To learn more about membership in NCISS, please visit our website [].
The listserv is intended for members of the investigation and security professions. If you qualify for subscription to this listserv, please send your request to ALONG WITH A REQUEST to the moderator at, with a brief explanation of your qualification for subscription to this listserve. YOU MUST PROVIDE your name, company name, state license number and address in your email. FAILURE TO DO SO WILL DENY YOUR SUBCRIPTION.
Questions may be sent to the moderator at
To subscribe, go to:
Or send an email to:

There are many other groups that can not be found on public lists and they are by invitation only. By networking with some of the professionals on the other groups and demonstrating that you don't belong in one of the bad or ugly groups, you will likely be invited to some of them. There are a couple of groups that are for the heads of the various investigative associations. Lately, there has been a lot of discussion about what the industry can do about the bad and ugly groups which is quite an embarrassment to the private investigative industry. There is a group for female private investigators. There are groups on topics such as forensics, data recovery and specific investigative related topics of all types. There is even one group that specializes in a place for investigators to go who have been removed from all the other groups. There are hundreds if not thousands of them out there. You, of course, can not and do not want to join them all.

Dealing With Volumes Of Emails
On the Yahoo groups, you can set your subscription to digest. That means, you will only get one or two emails a day with all the posts to the group in it. You can also set your membership to web only. In order to use a group like this, the group must permit access to achieved postings. If achieves are maintained and open to members, you can then set your membership to web only. That means you do not receive emails from the group but read everything on a web page with your web browser.The other tip for group mail is to set up a separate email address just to receive your group email which is quite easy to do.