This post was originally posted on March 27, 2014, but was updated on May 3, 2019 with new information.
As private investigators, it’s safe to say that we use thousands of online websites and databases on a monthly basis. While the types of websites that we visit depend on the case that we are working on, below we have outlined some of our “go to” resources.
While there are many sites that offer free access to information, the best sites usually have some sort of fee. In some cases, access is restricted to private investigators, but in most cases, the information is available to the public.
You may notice several New York based links, which is a bit bias, but it’s where we are based and it happens to be the financial capital of the world. You will also notice quite a few links from places like California, Florida, Texas and Illinois, which are some of the most populous states and / or have awesome public record laws (hey Florida!)
Without further ado, here’s our list of 101 research and investigative links for a private investigator (or amateur sleuth), in no particular order:
Professional Investigative Databases
1. Accurint / IRB ($): The reliable veteran of database for investigative professionals which has “billions” of records from numerous public and proprietary sources. Great for identifying historical addresses.
2. TLO ($): The emerging star for investigative databases. They have a user friendly site, with fresh information and is highly recommended. Great for identifying current contact information.
3. IDI ($): The new kid on the block of investigative databases. Still finding its legs, it has proven valuable in identifying contact information not found on IRB or TLO.
4. BellesLink ($): Another new tool in our database arsenal, this site is also great for assisting with mass phone calls and reverse phone number searches.
5. Transparint: Great tool for narrowing down negative news and searching dozens of watchlists.
Court Searches / Public Records
6. LexisNexis CourtLink ($): An oldie-but-still-goodie. Provides docket research and access to one of the largest collections of federal, state, and local court records.
7. LexisNexis ($): The industry standard for public records searches.
8. Westlaw ($): Always the second fiddle to LexisNexis, but make no mistake, they can go toe-to-toe with them.
9. PACER ($): Provides U.S.-based civil, criminal and bankruptcy case and docket information from federal appellate, district and bankruptcy courts.
10. BRB Publications, Inc.: BRB’s has more than 3,500 vendors who maintain, search or retrieve public records in local counties.
11. The United States Tax Court: If the IRS has determined that an individual has a tax deficiency, the taxpayer can dispute the deficiency in US Tax Court.
12. Alacourt – Alabama Court Records ($): Access To Alabama State Trial Court Records
13. Alaska Court View: Access to District Court records for Alaska
14. Arizona Judicial Branch: Access to Justice, Municipal and Superior Court records in Arizona
15. Connecticut Courts: Access to Superior Court records for Connecticut dating back 10 years.
16. Court PC of CT ($): Third-party resource for Connecticut Court records dating back to the 1980s
17. Virginia Courts: Access to General District and Circuit Court records for Virginia
18. Los Angeles Superior Court ($): An index of defendants in criminal cases in the Los Angeles Superior Court.
19. Wisconsin Courts: Access to public records of the Wisconsin Circuit Courts
20. Maryland Courts: Maryland judiciary case search
21. Missouri Courts: Case management system for Missouri state courts
22. Indiana – mycase: Case management system for Indiana state courts
23. Iowa Courts Online ($): Case management system for Iowa state courts
24. Michigan Courts: Case management system for Michigan state courts
25. Delaware – State of Delaware Courts: Case management system for Delaware state courts
26. Texas Secretary of State ($): Texas corporate records and UCC filings
27. Georgia Property Records ($): Property records throughout the State of Georgia
28. Search Systems Criminal Record Search ($): Searches more than 450 million criminal records in the U.S.
29. California Secretary of State: California corporate records and UCC filings
30. Google: Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and it is a pretty good place to start any research inquiry.
31. Bing: Not ever search engine is created equally. Bing provides alternative search results so be sure to search here.
32. DuckDuckGo: For anonymous searches and unique search results. DuckDuckGo is a great source.
33. Google Search Operators: Because typing a straight search string is not enough.
34. Yandex Image Search: This image-based search engine is another recent addition to our arsenal.
Employment / Degree Verification
35. National Student Clearinghouse ($): National Student Clearinghouse provides a service to verify students majors, degrees, dates of attendance, and dates of graduation.
36. The Work Number ($): Need to verify employment history? This is a good place to start.
Financial and Government Regulatory
37. Investment Adviser Search: Information about current and certain former Investment Adviser Representatives, Investment Adviser firms registered with the SEC and/or state securities regulators.
38. FINRA Broker Check: Provides information on the background of registered investment professionals.
39. FINRA Arbitration & Mediation: Records on arbitration and mediation awards for FINRA Cases.
40. North American Securities Administrators Association: Links to all 50 state securities regulators
41. National Futures Association: Self-regulatory body for the U.S. Futures Industry
42. U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission: Regulatory body for investment industry protecting individuals interests
43. Governmentattic: Provides electronic copies of thousands of interesting Federal Government documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.
44. U.S. Department of Treasury: Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List
45. Bureau of Industry and Security – U.S. Department of Commerce: Denied persons list
46. System for Award Management: Access to information for federal government awarded contracts and contractors, among other things.
47. Open Secrets: Third-party resource for federal political contributions.
48. Federal Election Commission: Federal political contribution records directly from the source.
49. Follow The Money: Search state political contributions records.
New York Specific Links
50. New York City Department of Finance – Office of the City Register: Property records for the five boroughs of New York City.
51. New York City Property: Provides up to date tax information for properties in the five boroughs of New York City.
52. New York State – Department of State Division of Corporations, State Records and UCC: Search for New York State business and not-for-profit corporations, limited partnerships, limited liability companies and limited liability partnerships, as well as other miscellaneous businesses.
53. New York State Campaign Financial Disclosure: New York State political contribution records.
54. The New York City Campaign Finance Board: New York City campaign contribution records.
55. The New York Unified Court System (UCS): Access to eCourts, which provides access to information on future court appearances in New York and limited historical cases.
56. Westchester County Clerk ($): Access to legal records and land records for the Westchester County, New York.
57. New York Attorney Search: Verify the license of a New York attorney
58. New York Professional License Search: Search for professional licenses in the State of New York, like doctors, accountants and architects.
59. New York Department of State, Division of Licensing Services: Search for other professional licenses including notary public, security guard and private investigator.
60. New York Inmate Locator: Searches New York State Department of Correction records.
61. Council of International Investigators : For over 50 years, this established and well respected international association of over 300 professional private investigators and private detective meets strict membership criteria maintaining the highest quality professionals within the private investigation business.
62. World Association of Detectives: Started in 1921 and was formed as a joint venture by the combined membership of the World Association of Detectives and the International Secret Service Association.
State Criminal Record Checks
66. Georgia Felon Search ($)
69. Illinois State Police ($)
73. Maine Criminal History Record ($)
81. Oregon Open Records ($)
87. Internet Archive: An investigator’s playground. Like a paper library, the Internet Archive is building a digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form.
88. Domain Tools ($): DomainTools offers an excellent searchable database of current and historical domain name registration and hosting data.
89. The U.S. Department of Justice: National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW): National source of sex offender data
90. Federal Inmate Locator: U.S. Bureau of Prisons inmate locator
91. State of Delaware – Department of State Division of Corporations: More than half of the Fortune 500 is incorporated in Delaware and so are many financial related firms.
92. Guidestar ($): Records relating to non-profit organizations
93. Tape Recording Laws: Tape recording laws for all 50 states
94. Ancestry.com ($): There are hordes of genealogical sites out there, but Ancestry.com has the most robust database.
95. TheOnion: Because we all need a good laugh once in awhile
96. SpyDialer: SpyDialer lets you find out who is behind a cell phone number by stealthily capturing a voicemail recording.
97. Newspapers.com ($): Millions of historical newspapers dating back to the 1700s
98. Historical Military Records: Verify historical military records
99. Active Military Status: Verify active military status with the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) Website
100. Open Corporates: The largest open database of companies in the world.
101. Indeed: Massive open source resume database using their advanced resume search.
102. (Bonus) IntelTechniques: Last but certainly not least and probably the top 3 most valuable links on this entire list. Dozens of tools for mining social media activity by username and / or URL as well as other sources for open source and public record investigations.