Discreet Investigation Service

Can Private Investigators Obtain Phone & Text Message Records?


The Internet has unveiled a storm of misinformation regarding text messages and whether private investigators can obtain them from a phone carrier. The answer is, and has always been, no. The simplest way to look at it is by likening it to listening to someone's phone calls, which is illegal to do. We at Discreet Investigations have worked on both domestic and criminal cases and have dealt with the security departments for many of the major cell service providers, and we know for a fact that text messages and other cell data are only obtainable in very limited situations.

Obtaining text messages is simple if legal circumstances call for it. If a court issues a subpoena for the phone records, it needs to be served to the service provider, which can then have its security division unlock the messages, which are only held for 48 hours and are unreadable without the security department’s intervention.

Getting a lawyer is not a guaranteed way to access cell phone records, though. There are very few documented civil cases where this has actually been granted, and 99% of the time it is for criminal matters and runaway or abducted children.

The best thing you can do is save your money; trying to obtain cell phone records for a non-criminal investigative case will likely never happen. Instead, follow an experienced private investigator’s advice on how to obtain evidence for your case. An experienced investigator will shoot straight with you on this, as they don't want to waste their time chasing something they know they can't get anyway, then dealing with disappointed or disgruntled clients because they could not get the information.