When most people think of private detectives, they think of a scruffy bloke with a long camera lens trained on a bedroom window.
This quaint notion is far removed from reality.
Anyone who thinks pulling down the bedroom blinds is enough to ensure their privacy nowadays is in for a rude shock.
Mick Featherstone, a former organised crime unit detective and now a Queensland private investigator, said modern spy technology had advanced so quickly that often PIs can know everything they need to know about someone without even leaving their office.
Cars can be tracked by satellite, computers hacked, hidden miniature cameras planted, mobile phones diverted and even deleted SMSes retrieved – all with technology that is widely available to the public.
Mr Featherstone, of Gold Coast firm Phoenix Global, said the proliferation of James Bond-like technology had led to a boom in the "infidelity" business.
Growing numbers of clients are convinced that, if their spouses are cheating, modern technology will catch them out, he said.
"Technology is really sophisticated these days and clients want me to use any gadgets and devices available to catch out whoever they suspect of infidelity," he said.
"Over the last three years there has been steady growth in what already is a massive industry."
Mr Featherstone said that, when it came to spying on spouses, the sexes were equally suspicious.
"We get an even number of males and females wanting us to carry out surveillance," he said.
Despite the impressive technology available to PIs, Mr Featherstone advises potential clients to become gumshoe detectives before contacting the professionals, who charge as much as $90 an hour.
"People often get really hung up on the James Bond technology scenario but I usually tell them that there are far cheaper and easier ways, such as checking telephone and credit card records," he said.
However, some clients demand the full service – no matter what the cost.
Mr Featherstone said an international client pays him to spy on his Australian wife and his family.
The PI said he uses computer software to copy everything the subjects do on their computers.
Each day he sends the information, including transcripts of phone calls and text messages to the client. He said he can even retrieve mobile phone and text messages deleted weeks before.
In Australia, there are laws against trespass and invasion of privacy.
It is legal to buy bugs but it is illegal to use them unless the target knows he or she is being bugged. But Mr Featherstone said someone who has been caught out will rarely take the matter to police.Read more