The reasons for wanting to conduct an investigation on someone (doing a background check) are as diverse as the ways in which to do so...
In other words - your interest in finding out more about your subject could be as simple as being "curious" - to being as serious as verifying the assets of an investor, conducting criminal activity investigations and so on. Or maybe you want to investigate your spouse's past - or their current activity.
Regardless, the following tips can be universally applied to any type (or purpose) of investigation...
1. Get Organized!
If you're going to be serious about uncovering the facts about a person or situation, then you'll not only need to be relentless and dedicated - you need to be as organized as possible.
Because, as is often said - the "devil" is in the details...
One piece of seemingly "insignificant" information could later become a pivotal piece of the puzzle. Therefore, you need to keep a log of everything you currently know, as well as any - and I mean ANY - extra information you run into during this process.
Whether it's a simple notepad or a wireless, hand-held computer, you need to be VIGILANT when it comes to storing, organizing and referring to facts that you're able to collect.
2. Start In Your Own Backyard, First
If you're conducting an investigation about someone you know - or if you're wondering who's been calling from an unfamiliar phone number - before you start searching for information from outside sources, be sure to do a thorough check of your OWN documents, records, day-planners, computer files and so on.
That "strange" phone number could belong to a friend or relative, and maybe it's located in an old dusty address book.
That's just one example.
Regardless, if applicable to your situation, start "close to home", and then step up the investigation if need be. This could potentially save you hours (or days) of time right off the bat.
One tool that we recommend is Google's "Desktop Pack", which includes a great search tool that searches through the files, documents and archives on your PC just as if it were a web search.
You can download it (free) by going to pack.google.com
3. The Three Best Sources For Obtaining Information
Time is of the essence, so let's review the three most-likely sources for valuable information in ANY investigation...
A) People who know your subject and/or have been in contact with them. Keep in mind that most people are willing to respond to your questions if you ask them in a polite manner, and without "beating around the bush".
B) Printed materials, documents and records. These include: directories, newspaper content, magazine articles, medical records, financial records, utility records, employment & rental applications, and public government records. (This is the so-called "paper-trail")
C) Information Providers - database companies - who have access to government/public records and other data. These usually charge a nominal fee for access or use.
4. Google(TM) Can Find A Lot More Than You Might Think...
Search engines like Google(TM) are frequently under fire due to the fact that sensitive information like banking information, credit card numbers, invoice records, specific contact information, addresses and other personal details can often be pulled up in seconds just by running a simple search.
For example, Google's "spider" (the algorithm that "visits" millions of web pages periodically in order to effectively build its index of listings) can often end up indexing sensitive pages such as account login details, job applications, and even customer databases on e-commerce websites.
In every case, this is due to an inexperienced web developer or a mistake/error on the part of the website owner, as webmasters can easily secure or hide web content by building their sites properly. (It's not the fault of the search engine, although it's not uncommon).
Regardless, due to literally tens of thousands of these types of "slip-ups" by sites that manage some kind of user base or submission process, it's possible to find a lot more than you might think by using Google, Yahoo and MSN search.
For example, you might try searching for some of these variables to see if any of them have been indexed, which would likely lead to further information:
* Email Address
* Residential Address
* Phone Number (Even a cell phone)
* SSN Number
* Vehicle ID Number (VIN)
* Driver's License Number
* Their Full Name (could pull up public records or, in rare cases, legal opinions)
* Job Title & Company
* Credit Card Number
And so on.
This seemingly "obvious" method can often work wonders.
5. Public Records
Did you know that the general public can freely access court records (both criminal and civil), the national sex offender registry, inmate records, bankruptcy filings, marriage/divorce records and similar records in the United States?
There's no "one" central location for searching public records like this, and most databases are limited to a specific county, state or municipality.
My suggestion is to simply run a search in Google.com for the type of records you're looking for, and the location. So, for example, if you wanted to investigate someone in Boise, Idaho, you could run a search like this:
Court Records + Boise Idaho
Filter through the results until you find an actual court website with court records or dockets available for the site users. In many cases, you won't be charged access, while others will manage access to their records through a consolidated search engine such as PACER (The US Judiciary's central 'Public Access to Court Electronic Records'), which will cost a few cents per page view.
Court records are a broad term that can encompass basically any type of legal action. If, for example, you wanted to see if someone has a criminal history, you could search for their name in the applicable court records databases, as well as in the US Judiciary's Sex Offender Registry, VINELink's inmate database, and the Federal Penitentiary database of inmates.
Alternately, if you wanted to gain an idea of someone's financial history, you could run a search for civil lawsuits, as credit card companies and similar creditor agencies will sue debtors if there's been an issue of prolonged nonpayment or contractual breaches. Bankruptcy filings can also be accessed in some locations.
Again, public records sources are invaluable, but they can also be difficult to find. If you'll be doing investigations frequently, you might consider investing in a membership site or software program that organizes public records searches from one central location. Prices range from $29.99 - $49.99 on average.
In conclusion, conducting a complete background check on someone isn't just possible - it's become much easier these days with the advent of the internet and online public records.
Follow these tips in chronological order for the most effective and efficient investigation possible.
Chris Rempel just released a program called "Your Spying Eyes", which organizes public records searches and makes it easy for anyone to conduct background checks!