Databases and Public Records
|by Joe Hoover
When we were growing up, adults cautioned us
against doing anything wrong, anything bad, because, “it will go on your
Well guess what: Everything goes on your
“permanent” record - from the time
you were born!
Your birth was recorded at the hospital, at the county courthouse, and in
your state's department of vital records.
With very few exceptions, every American is on file somewhere. Hundreds –
if not thousands - of repositories throughout the country and around the world
have data “of” you - and numerous details
There are of the schools you attended along with your grades and
Your vehicles, aircraft, vessels, and the property you own are all recorded.
Finally, after your death, the Social Security Administration notes your
demise in its Death Index.
Fact: There are 739,000 registered sex offenders in the USA!
Q: How does one go about accessing sex offender
A: Nation-wide sex offender information is available – if one knows where to
Fact: Most people have no idea the number of
databases they are part of nor of the amount of data/information out there that concerns them.
The Challenge: How to sort through the mountains of data and determine what
data is relevant for your purpose. Then, how to organize it be interpreted
into useful content.
Cost effective alternative: Determine which of the experts – like
Information Providers - to hire to accomplish these tasks.
Q: First of all, what is data?
A: Data is a selection of facts that can be translated into a cornucopia of
possibilities. Data is collected on property, businesses and credit
transactions. Personal, individual data can range from magazines subscribed
to, every residence a person has reported when applying for credit.
Q: Who collects this information?
A: It is collected by both the government and the business sector.
Q: Who owns this stuff and how is it distributed and sold?
A: The original collectors of the data - including government entities and
the credit bureaus - own the original collection of facts, which is often sold and resold
to Brokers and Information Providers.
Q: How does one go about tapping those sources,
then translating and interpreting it into useful information?
Value Added Information Providers interpret compiled data so that it
“tells the story,” and “paints a virtual portrait” of the subject in
Q: For what purpose is data accessed?
A: Searches are conducted to:
• Locate people for reuniting family members or collecting on a debt.
• Gather background information on individuals and businesses.
• Learn about births, marriages, deaths, addresses, phone numbers
• Get the facts about the person with whom one intends to establish a
personal or business relationship
• Make sure the information you've been furnished is true and that the
person you're hiring or renting to checks out.
• Learn about a business, its reputation, financial status, and standing in
• Seek information about property and assets to enforce a court order or
• Find out whether or not one is an heir to money or property.
Q: What “types” of
documentation is out there?
A: Public, or “open,”semi-private and private records.
• Public/Open Records:
Open to public scrutiny; you have a
broad right of access, without discrimination, to government information. Data are gathered and cross-referenced by a host of database brokers,
combined, traded and sold to other brokers and systems operators, and
ultimately sold to end-users, like Information Providers.
Note: You do not
need too prove a "need to know" or furnish a reason
"why" you seek certain
information. Plus, once you have that information, you are free to use it
and disseminate it any way you see fit. You can even sell it.
• Semi-Private Records:
Access to semi-private, or semi-open records is
limited. Legal dictates, state statutes, and business policy may limit
access to financial reports, credit reports, medical and employment
• Closed Records:
This often classified data is maintained by the federal
government. "Closed" can be opened only by court order and are not
subject to The Freedom of Information Act.
All involved in this "data chain" must agree to enforce the regulations of
the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the first major Federal law enacted to
protect privacy. The Act is for everyone. It’s a federal law that designates
which public documentation is open to the public for either reviewing or
The Act has really helped the general public in making information
available, but it is not as important as the local statutes when it comes to
Government Data: The government, at all levels,
notes every important
event, transaction, and litigation concerning its citizens.
Note: Most all documentation is created at the local or county level.
County, Local Municipality:
• The Bureau of Vital Statistics keeps documentation pertaining to births,
marriages, divorces, and deaths.
• Court records are kept at the courthouse, including circuit,
county, civil and criminal litigation.
• The Department of Licensing maintains a variety of on-going documentation
including occupational and fishing.
• County courthouse sources will help you with pre-relationship, child custody,
pre-employment, tenant, business background, and asset investigations.
County records are often forwarded to the state
capital in summary form for permanent storage, so if you need to see the entire
documentation, first ask at the
local county courthouse about where everything is stored.
More info on County
States: Most every state's capital has a repository
from all its counties, as well as from state-level departments
and agencies. More info on State Records->
Court records are included with the Department of Justice,
State Supreme Court.
Links to all courts->
The Secretary of State's Office is the central repository for a variety of
things, including the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Included in all Secretary of State's corporate and partnership filings regarding business and financial licenses and judgments,
corporation and Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) filings, plus information
about worker's compensation cases.
National: The laws are fairly consistent here, but at the state and county
levels, interpreting the rules and laws regarding the release of information
varies from state to state, county to county. More
info on National Records->
Each state has an act. For example, Georgia has an
Open Records Law and that
stands side-by-side with
The Freedom of Information Act. These laws vary
from state to state. Anyone can obtain certain information about individuals,
companies, associations, and the like.
Federal: US Government records are maintained in a number of depositories
and government departments. The two largest are The
Library of Congress, the
nation's mega-library, and the
National Archives, a vast repository of
government records and census.
Interstate Commerce Commission and the
Securities and Exchange
Commission keep extensive records about public companies.
The US Government Printing Office provides a selection of directories and
books to help you weed your way through the maze of government. Most
Information Providers have federal sources on-line. All these are open to the public.
Note: Finally, almost every important government department and bureau in
every state is now – at last - on-line, waiting to take your credit card in
payment for information.
Facts collected by businesses are generally used to determine
a person’s credit worthiness or for marketing and sales purposes.
Personal information is routinely gathered and sold to large marketing
companies. Some of these companies, such as magazine publishers, sell
their information to brokers. This information could be very useful if you
are attempting to locate a skip.
The Credit Bureaus: These giant repositories of each
and all of our credit worthiness gather credit facts about individuals from a vast network of
retailers, businesses, and financial institutions.
Data, provided by member businesses, is collected by the credit bureaus. In
exchange for this data, they provide credit information to all their
Here’s how the process takes place: A person applies for credit for a
purchase, a loan, or a lease. The information provided becomes part of the
major credit bureau’s “credit headers.” These headers, which are comprised
of the applicant’s name, Social Security Number (SSN), date of birth (DOB),
and addresses “reported” on an application for credit.
This reciprocal arrangement depends on the completeness and accuracy of the
information provided by the client, the business and the credit bureau.
Business Credit Reports: These are complete, in-depth, and are readily
available - about any business, regardless of its size – from Information
The Law: Credit information is confidential and can only be released to
those with whom you have applied for credit and to those to whom you have
given permission to review your credit history.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act governs how a consumer financial report
may/may not be used. The Act:
• Prohibits the inclusion of obsolete facts
• Describes information which must be released to the government
• Outlines how a consumer may learn exactly what is on file
• Describes how one may challenge incomplete or inaccurate information
Investigative Professionals are Value Added Information Providers.
experienced. We maintain up-to-date “database broker-direct” connections to
all pertinent state, county, municipal, civil and criminal records. We
interpret and translate DATA for our many varied clients, to VALUABLE,