“We are only investigative superheroes; we’re not demigods.” ~VP
As private investigators, we wish we had superhero powers; sadly, we don’t. We rely on some tools, certain databases, instinct and know-how to find information about someone.
They certainly do not involve magic, but here are 10 places private investigators go to find information about someone (in no particular order).
Investigators have access to professional-grade investigative databases that compile public records, credit header information, telephone information, social network information and other information about people and businesses. There are a number of high-quality databases – available only to licensed private investigators – including Merlin, Accurint and TLO that compile information from wide variety of sources.
Current and historical court records provide an array of information about a person’s or even a business’ past. While criminal records might be the holy grail of relevant information, don’t overlook the value of civil lawsuits. Disputes with employees, litigiousness and sexual harassment allegations can tell a lot about a person’s character.
In addition to court records, a vast amount of public information is widely available in the U.S., including records relating to property transactions, corporation records and various government records. The problem is that the information is fractured and not quick and easy to search and review. That is why investigators use services such as LexisNexis and Westlaw, which gather millions of public records into searchable databases.
Whether you like them or not, social networks are gaining popularity every day. There are more than 800 million active users on Facebook and 100 million active users on Twitter, and 40 million people joined Google Plus, released earlier this year. In addition to the most popular social networks, there are hundreds of other niche social networks. Although users of social networks are becoming increasingly cautious about the information they post, social networks continue to be a treasure trove of information.
Despite what people think, most historical news coverage is not available on the Internet without paying a hefty fee. Millions of current and historical news items are available through services like LexisNexis, Factiva and Proquest, each of which has a vast array of news publications not widely available on the Internet or through Google.
Military records, state government records, lobbyists’ records, Securities and Exchange Commission records and federal government contract information are just a sampling of the types of records available through various state and federal government agencies. And if the information is not immediately available online, there is a good chance you can request it under the federal Freedom of Information Act or similar state legislation.
Did you know that, in most states, your garbage is no longer considered your personal property once you bring it out to the curb for disposal? Consider what you don’t shred when you throw out your garbage: medical records, credit card bills, telephone bills, etc. (If you don’t have a shredder, maybe you should buy one.)
What we like to describe as human intelligence comes in various forms, including surveillance; contacting sources; or interviews with a person’s neighbors, colleagues or former friends. You might be surprised by what people will say.
With more than 1,300,000 domains and bajillions of pages, the Internet is filled with information about people, businesses and topics of interest. The difficult part is harnessing the information and weeding through the bajillions of pages of information to find credible and reliable information.
The state motor vehicle department not only provides details about a person’s traffic infractions, a person’s date of birth, and details such as a person’s height and weight, but in many states it’s the only place to determine if a person has ever been charged with a DWI (driving while intoxicated) offense (some states consider driving while intoxicated a criminal offense). Additionally, in some states, such as New York, you can discover if a person’s license has been suspended for failure to pay child support.