California State Controller's seal

About Becoming An Investigator

Am I required to be licensed?

No. California Law does not require you to be licensed.

However, you should check with your local city, county, and/or the Bureau of Investigative and Security Services (California Department of Consumer Affairs) for licensing requirements for related services. If you reside outside of California, you should check with your local city, county, and/or state to find out what licensing requirements to which you may be subject.

Although the State Controller’s Office does not require licensing, to better serve you and your claimants we request that you provide us with the following so that we can better assist you and your clients.

  • A list of your employees who are authorized to represent your business via written correspondence (letters, e-mail) or telephone
  • The list should include: the physical and mailing address of the  business, the email address of each employee, and each employee’s photo identification (i.e., driver license, passport, or other photo identification card)
  • Copy of a document that displays the Social Security number or tax identification number to be used for claim payment
  • A list of all current email, telephone, mobile, and fax numbers used by your business
  • A copy of your Private Investigator’s License (if applicable)

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Do I need to notify you that I am an Investigator or run an Investigator Service?

We strongly encourage you to contact the State Controller’s Office if you are an investigator or run an investigator service. When you notify us we will send you a copy of our Standard Investigator Agreement which we highly recommend you use, filing instructions, and a supply of investigator claim forms. Using our materials and following our instructions for investigator claims will help ensure that your claims are processed in a timely manner.

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Do I need to notify you when I hire or terminate the employment of staff?

Yes. We ask that you notify us of all changes to your business. This includes notifying us of staffing changes and providing us with the identification and contact information of all persons authorized to represent your business.

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Do I need to register my business with the California Secretary of State?

It depends on the type of business entity.

  • If the business is a sole proprietorship or a general partnership, you are not required to register with the Secretary of State.
  • All other business entities are required to file with the Secretary of State. California Secretary of State.

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Does the State Controller's Office provide training on becoming an Investigator?

No. The State Controller's Office does not offer training for Investigators.
The Investigator Handbook has been prepared by our office for investigators to use as a reference.

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Will I receive a letter that identifies me as an "official investigator" with the California State Controller's Office?

No. We retain your Investigator information in our records to allow us to better serve you and your claimant(s). You will receive a letter from us confirming that we received and processed your information.

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Will the California State Controller's Office issue me an “investigator number”?

No. The California State Controller's Office does not issue “investigator numbers”.

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Are there restrictions on what I can charge a client?

Yes. It is against the law for Investigators to charge a fee greater than 10% of the value of the property that is returned to the owner or their heirs. (California Code of Civil Procedure Section 1582) This fee includes all services connected to returning property to an owner. There is no fee restriction for a County Probated Estate claim. For more information, refer to the Estates of Deceased Persons Escheated Funds from County Treasurer Offices in our Investigator Handbook.

Under the California Code of Civil Procedure (Title 10, Chapter 7, Section 1582) an Investigator may not enter into a contract with a property owner to locate, deliver, recover, or assist in the recovery of property that is pending transfer from the business to the State Controller’s Office (SCO) after the business has identified the property in its Notice Report filed with the SCO.  An Investigator may only legally enter into contract to assist a property owner after the property is transferred to the SCO and the SCO has published a notice in a newspaper of general circulation.  Any agreement with a property owner to assist in recovering the property entered into between the date the Notice Report is filed and the date of publication is invalid.

Publication of notice can occur anytime within one year after remittance of the property to the SCO.   Typically, when a Notice Report is filed with the SCO before November 1 (for example, October 31), newspaper publication occurs sometime in June of the following year.  In this example, in accordance with Section 1582, no contract entered into during the period of October 31, 2012, and June 2013, an 8-month period, is valid.  This means any such contract entered into is legally invalid and will not be honored by the Controller and is unenforceable against the owner by a court of law.

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Can I create my own Investigator Agreement?

We strongly recommend you use our Standard Investigator Agreement. This agreement is designed to meet all legal requirements. If you create your own agreement, it MUST meet all of the same legal requirements.

We are not able to process claim packages for Investigators whose Investigator Agreements are not in compliance with the law. Non-standardized agreements cause delays in the evaluation process because we must ensure the non-standardized agreement conforms with the California Code of Civil Procedure.

If your Investigator Agreement does not meet all legal requirements as determined in the law, your investigator agreement will be rejected and the claim packages will be returned to you.

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Does the Standard Investigator Agreement form need to be notarized?

No. You are not required to notarize the Standard Investigator Agreement we require valid signed documentation that your client has agreed to allow you to submit their claim on their behalf.

However, Claim Affirmation Forms may need to be notarized depending on the value and type of property.

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