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While private investigators are more famous for wearing fedora’s and trench coats, digging through trash cans and doing surveillance on cheating spouses, the majority of information comes from publicly available records. Surprising? While there are hundreds of sites that could have made this list, here is a list of some links that any professional or amateur private investigator should have on speed dial:

PIPL

If you are trying for people, whether it be a long lost relative, business contact or if you are just trying to find some information on a person, this is a great place to start. In addition to providing some basic information on a person, such as addresses, birthdays and work history, PIPL also provides information from the invisible web, which doesn’t show up through most search engines.

Google News

In addition to to being a great source of national and international mainstream news, Google News also has a great collection of historical news articles (and in some cases scanned newspapers). It also has a great feature called Google Alerts where you can set up an email alert any time a particular company, individual or topic that gets posted on a blog, in a newspaper or on the Internet.

Google Books

In the age of the Internet, an often forgotten source of information is current and historical books. While there has been some ongoing copyright issues, this remains the best source available for searching books. Due to ongoing copyright issues, not all books can show full text, but once you find the information you are looking for, you can always go the old fashion route and go to your local library.

Search Systems

This is a directory of public records available in the U.S. and abroad. Whether you are looking for criminal records, property records, marriage records, birth records or federal, state or local records, Search Systems is an excellent source of information.

USNPL

While a lot of news aggregation websites such as Lexis Nexis, Factiva and the aforementioned Google News have information from mainstream news media, sometimes the best information can be found in the local small town newspapers. Many of these sites allow you to search current and recent articles for free but most of these sites require a fee to retrieve historical information.

FINRA

If you are thinking of hiring an investment advisor or looking to find some information on an investment advisor, this should be the first that you look. FINRA provides a array of information regarding a persons work history, qualifications and any disciplinary/regulatory issues. FINRA currently only has information who have been actively registered over the last two years; anything beyond that, you would have to contact your local state securities regulator.

Whois/Domain Tools

If you are wondering who is behind a website, these are two great websites to visit that can provide valuable information as to who is running a website and contact information. Domain Tools has some great free tools and paid tools that can also review historical registration information as well.

Archive.org

One of a private investigators best kept secrets, archive.org keeps a historical snapshots of websites for several years. This can be helpful to identify former executives at company or if a website is no longer operational, you can see what information was previously on the site.

 

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