Suspicious parents are now hiring private investigators to secretly track their teenagers and report back on what they get up to when they’re not at home.
Although she is most commonly hired by parents to find out about their children’s dating habits, drug use, online activity and the company they are keeping, the cases can also be a lot more sinister.
Julia Hartley Moore from New Zealand has revealed that she has seen an increase in parents hiring her services to follow their children
One case that still sticks with Julia is when she discovered an older man had been grooming a teenager and bought her a ticket to visit him in England.
‘The girl was still at school and her parents noticed her completely alienating herself from her friends, becoming introverted and not looking after her personal hygiene like she used to,’ she told FEMAIL.
‘She would stay up all night and they’d notice her phone light under her blanket in her room.
‘She was talking to a guy she thought was her age but he lived in the UK and was 39.’
The young girl had a passport and without telling her parents, she jumped on a plane and went to meet him after he bought her the ticket.
Julia’s team followed her overseas and found out that he was married with children.
‘We had to tell his wife and her parents. I’d never thought he would go through with it but he did,’ Julia said.
‘By the time the young girl went to England she was completely in love with him and she had shut everyone out of her life.’
‘She was talking to a guy she thought was her age but he lived in the UK and was 39,’ she said
What are the signs your child is hiding something from you?
– The common thread is that children withdraw from their friends
– They stop mixing with kids from school
– They change in the age group that they mix with
– They become very secretive and aggressive
– You can’t say anything right, more so that when dealing with regular teenagers
– Their hygiene isn’t the same as they become consumed by what they are doing
Julia said the girl’s parents were horrified to find out this man had been grooming their daughter for so long.
The private investigator said that some parents may think that they can’t interfere with their children’s privacy but secrecy and privacy are ‘two different things’.
‘You need to be a parent and you need to know what’s going on, after all they are children. Parents don’t always know that it can reach this stage,’ she said.
‘I think hiring an investigator is a wise thing to do if you notice changes in your child, which all these parents noticed.
‘In this case the grooming had been happening for months, it was only gradual.’
Although Julia can’t tap into phones as that’s illegal, the parents of the girl who flew to England gave her their daughter’s laptop to comb through.
The private investigator said that some parents may think that they can’t interfere with their children’s privacy but secrecy and privacy are ‘two different things’
Her team forensically examined it and received all of the images and data they needed.
This aside, surveillance is the main way they come to a conclusion with their cases.
As these parents often buy their offspring cars Julia’s team are able to put trackers in them, making their job a lot easier.
In another instance Julia said her team had been following a teenage girl after her mother had noticed some expensive clothes that she knew her daughter couldn’t afford.
Through investigation they found that the girl had been working as a prostitute to earn money so that she could purchase the clothes so to fit in with her peers.
‘You need to be a parent and you need to know what’s going on, after all they are children. Parents don’t always know that it can reach this stage,’ she said
‘Parents often have no idea this could happen, it takes a long time before they understand it but these days there is a lot of pressure on kids and there are a high amount who are prostituting themselves for clothes and drugs,’ she said.
‘I take my hat off when these parents actually hire a private investigator as many feel it’s a breach of privacy which is a tad naive in this day and age when teenagers are so accessible to so many people on the net.
‘It’s been hard for these parents but if they hadn’t done what they did the results could have been so terribly different.’
Julia believes people like herself are being hired more regularly these days because parents are realising their children spend so much time online.
It is also due to the fact that parents are more and more aware that these kinds of services exist.
Through thorough investigation they found that the girl had been ‘prostituting herself’ to earn money to purchase them to fit in with her peers
‘Despite everything that we read and hear in the world people are so naive when it comes to people’s behaviour, it staggers me,’ she said.
‘If you get a flicker of a feeling that makes you think something is happening with your child stop and ask yourself why you’re feeling it.
‘Everyone that has come to us have come with the same sort of signs and their hunch often turns out to be right.’
The average price Julia charges for her service ranges between $1,000 and $5,000 and when cases take her overseas then the cost can be a lot more.
Julia’s clients tend to be from a wealthy socio-economic group and are willing to pay the money for peace of mind.
‘The price can be anything from $1,000 to a couple of thousand more, it depends how long we’re working for, if it requires us to go overseas and if we need more than one investigator,’ she said.
‘I’m a parent myself, I would have done this myself if I’d ever needed to.’