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Finding your man: using public records for skip tracing and background checks

Updated on August 31, 2014

Utilizing Court Records

While in some cases, paying an investigative company to research the background of a potential business partner or future spouse may be appropriate, there are many ways to use free public information to determine if such an expenditure is really necessary. In many states, public records are searchable online, or from a terminal at the appropriate facility.

In order to determine where to begin searching, go to the Supreme Court website in the state where the person you are skip tracing resides. The website should provide a list of all of the courts in that area by county. If you know precisely where the business or individual is located, you should start your search by going to the courts in the county where you believe your subject lives. If nothing appears there, you should expand to adjacent counties.

Traffic cases are often listed along with criminal cases. By search in the courts in the counties where a person may drive their car, you may be able to find a recent traffic case with a current address. Searching cases will allow you to see what civil, criminal, and traffic matters a person has been involved in, and the end results of those matters.

If you are looking for asset information, a civil case docket may show debts being collected through the legal procedure. If a creditor is attempting to garnish wages or attach bank accounts, those assets may be listed specifically. If you are a creditor, you can use that information to your advantage.

A probate court docket can show marriages and estate cases. Both may provide valuable information, depending on how much is shared online.


Ohio Supreme Court Building

Source

County Auditors and Recorders

If you are looking for an address, or properties that a person or business may own, the county auditor website will show you any and all property registered to that person or business. It will also provide information as to whether the taxes are current, and where the tax bill is sent.

A person or business may own property in several counties, so it is a good idea to search surrounding areas as well.

Secretary of State

The Secretary of State website for your state is a great resource for finding business information. In many cases you can search by business name, incorporation name, or statutory agent name. If you suspect a person is operating their own business, their name may appear as the incorporater or the statutory agent, along with their address. Furthermore, the articles of incorporation are usually public, along with documentation regarding when they last registered their business name and merger documents.

Social Media

Despite the increasing awareness about the need for using privacy settings on websites such as Facebook, many people still have public pages, easily searchable by google. If you know the person's email address, you may attempt to search for your party by typing that email address into the search feature of the social media site you are attempting to search. Some sites, like LinkedIn, are meant to be public and act as a real time public resume. You can often see someone's educational and employment history by going to LinkedIn. Facebook and Twitter may reveal more personal results, sometimes including employment information or education, or other, more personal details about a person's life or personality. However, because these are social media sites controlled by the person in question, you will want to verify any information you find for accuracy. People do not always update their employment or current city information, so this may be out of date, or perhaps it was never accurate.

Conclusion

Depending on the reason you are skip tracing, there may still be a need to hire an investigator or firm to learn more about a person. If you are attempting to collect assets, you may still hire a law firm to perform legal recovery. However, doing the preliminary groundwork yourself is easy and inexpensive, and may save you money down the road, as the company you hire will not need to repeat the work. Additionally, if you are merely looking to confirm or rule out a criminal record, this can easily be done yourself, provided you are aware of the municipalities involved.

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