Investigating People by benbenzhou


									Public Records
Sources, Search Tips and
Legal Basics
Workshop Web Site
 Login: vchwsu

 Password: whi1560

 Login/password is case sensitive

 0 in the password is a zero

 Content expires before the start
  of next Web Search University
Workshop Objectives
   Recognize public vs private information
   Identify potential public sources of
    private information
   Understand the limitations of electronic
    government records
   Review major online public records
    research tools
   Grasp the basics of how law affects
    access and use of personal information
Public vs. Private
Finding What You Want to
Know, Legally
What’s the Difference?
 Public records
 Private information

 Public information

 Quasi-public
What is Public Record?
   Government records
   Used to mean no access restrictions
     Rapidly changing both online & offline
     Redacted personal identifiers
   Court, property records
   Business filings (incorp’s, dba’s, UCCs)
   Public co. filings (EDGAR)
   Professional licenses
   Many agency records (IP, inspections)
But …
 Not all government records are
  public record
 What is public record varies by
     Rapsheets: public in PA, but not in NC
     Marriage certificates: public in NC, but
      not in MD
Changes Affecting
Public Access or Status
   County recorder docs (deeds, tax liens, births,
    deaths) - mandatory or voluntary removal of
   TX – AG op mandated removal of SSNs from all
    county court records; superseded by law (2007
    HB 2061)
   AR – redact personal info from all court records
    except the court transcript (court rule)
   CO – court directive mandates removal of
    sensitive info from court docs (2005, amended
    in 2007)
Changes Affecting
Public Access or Status
   Several states, including MO, NY, CA,
    CO, AZ, OR, NM, VT pull UCC images
    from Web site (2007)
   Plea agreements – removed from S.D.FL
    and E.D.PA
   NY – removed crimes resulting in 15
    days or less in jail from criminal histories
    provided by the NY Office of Court Adm
   Oneida County, NY – gives online access
    to recorder docs only to certain groups
Impact on Research
 More time & money for on-site
  research and retrieval
 Greater skill
     Knowledge of sources
     Tenacious investigative skills
 More than ever, online research
  supplements on-site research
 Manage client/patron expectations
Keeping Up with
 Industry experts find it difficult
 TVC Alert Research News
   BRB Public Records Blog
   PI Buzz
What Is Not Public
 FBI criminal records (NCIC)
 Income tax records
 Juvenile court records
 Any government record where
  access is restricted by law. In some
     Criminal histories (rapsheets)
     Vital (birth, death) records
     Vehicle ownership
What Is Private
 Personal or confidential
 SSN or date of birth

 Unpatented formulas

 Undisclosed business practices

 Medical and financial records
     Bank account information
     Credit reports
Private Information May
Become Public When …
   You volunteer it
     Publicly listed telephone number
     Product registration forms
     Online résumés, blogs, forums
   You disclose it in a public record
     Assets in a divorce filing
     Names of minor children in a bankruptcy
     SSN in real estate documents
   The public observes it
     Where you work
What’s Quasi-Public?
   Access restrictions & limited info
   Life insurance policies
     MIB’s Policy Locator Service
   Military records
     Select information only
     Requires written request
   Some state criminal repository records
     May require fingerprints
     May require signed release
Determining Public
   Major federal privacy laws
     FCRA & FACTA (consumer)
      •   15 USC §6802(e)
     Gramm-Leach-Bliley (financial)
      •   15 USC §1681b
     DPPA (driver)
      •   18 USC §2721
   State open access laws
     Vary from state to state
BRB Publications Inc.
 Leading publisher of U.S. public
  records reference works
 The Sourcebook, 8th ed.

 Public Records Research System

 Public Record Retriever Network
 Free government record sites
Public Record
Research System
 Annual subscription fee
 Arranged by state/county

 Gives public status of government
 Informs how to obtain records

 Provides contact information and
  Web sites, when available
Test Your
              True or false. If
               the information
               you seek is not
               public record, you
               cannot find it out
               – legally or
Public Records
It’s All About Sources
Facts About Online
   35% of public records are online
   Many are incomplete or inaccurate
     Lack identifying information (SSN, DOB)
     Lack disposition (or up-to-date) data
   Online verification is difficult
     Many free government sources do not
      provide personal identifiers
     Verify by requesting a copy of the original
     On-site copy may not contain identifiers
   SSN Validator (
Primary Sources
   Who/what
    generates the
   Who/what is
    responsible for its
    maintenance or
Finding SSNs & DOBs
   Online if you are lucky
   Filing forms changing to stop requesting
   Tax liens, UCCs
   Deeds, mortgage documents
   Bankruptcy filings
   Vehicle accident reports
   Divorce, custody filings, probate records
   Property foreclosures (court records)
   Death certificates
Finding Information
About Private Companies
   Identify regulating agencies
     Restaurants, food handlers (Health depts.)
     Human tissue, donor services (FDA, Health
     Manufacturing (EPA, OSHA)
   Licenses and permits
     Business organization
     Special (liquor, gambling)
     Professional (insurance, doctor, dentist)
   Background check the owners
Major Online Sources
   U.S. Party/Case Index
   Excluded Parties List System
   LexisONE
The U.S. Party/Case
 Federal civil and criminal lawsuits
 Bankruptcies

 Register w/PACER to access

 Check “Courts Not On Index”

 Lastname, firstname

 Searching middle initials
     Sometimes indexed, sometimes not
     For everything, search without
   2 search options
     Header data only
     Full-text for past 4 years
   Full-text option: Find mention of people
    or private companies within documents
   Supports Boolean or Natural Language
   Operators must be capitalized (AND, OR,
More on EDGAR
   Conceptual search engine
     Search for chocolate might retrieve cocoa
   Case sensitive searching
     But recent queries suggest no difference
      between Donald Trump and donald trump
   Supports proximity (NEARn)
   Supports wildcard (*) truncation
   Undocumented – supports nesting
Excluded Parties List
   Contract or financial assistance
    debarments or suspensions
   Separate search for past exclusions
   Supports wildcards (green* or anders?n;
    differs from partial search)
   Verification necessary for persons
     No identifiers (SSN, dob) online
     No street address for persons
     Street address provides for companies
   Free case law
   Federal
       U.S. Supreme Court (all opinions)
       Appellate courts (current 5 years)
       No district (trial level) courts
       No special (tax, military) courts
   State
     Mostly appellate level; sometimes only high court
     Current 5 years
   Fee access to public records and verdicts &
Finding Tools –
   BRB Free Resource Center
   Black Book Online
   The Virtual Chase
     Database of Sources
Finding Tools –
   Legal Dockets Online
   Business Filings Online
   Portico Personal Property
   Criminal Records
Commercial Vendors
 AutoTrackXP (CPO), Accurint (LN),
 Mix private & public information

 Access requires permissible use
     Contract details permissible uses
     Statutory restrictions (GLB, DPPA)
     Many commercial vendors disallow use
      for FCRA-regulated activities
Public Records
Legal Issues
Major Federal Privacy
   Gramm-Leach-Bliley (GLB)
     15 USC §6802(e)
     Financial records
   Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)
     15 USC §1681b
     Consumer reports
   Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (DPPA)
     18 USC §2721
     Driver records
Permissible (Legal)
 Each law has its own exceptions
 Business reasons

 Litigation and other legal reasons

 Employment reasons

 Other (signed written permission,
  court order)
Permissible Uses
 Fraud prevention or detection
 Legal or beneficial interest

 Compliance with another law

 Fiduciary on behalf of consumer

 Current litigation or arbitration
     Service of process
     Pre-trial investigations
     Enforcement of judgments
Permissible Uses—
   Consumer reporting agencies (CRAs)
     People or entities that perform outside
      research for employment or other FCRA
      regulated purpose (15 USC §1681b(a))
   Special obligations to the research
    subject might conflict with duty to client
   Inside researcher (e.g., employer) is not
    a CRA
Example FCRA
Regulated Activities
   Pre-employment & employment
     Exceptions under FACTA
 Insurance underwriting
 Consumer credit transaction

 Determining eligibility for a license
  issued by a government agency
FCRA Is Complex
 You (the outside researcher) cannot
  run a criminal background check on
  a client’s prospective employee
  without the interviewee’s consent
  (and fulfilling other obligations).
 But the employer can run a criminal
  check w/o consent and disclosure if
  he does the research himself.
FTC Interpretive
   FTC Staff Opinion Letter
     Haynes-Sum, 15 September 1999
     Law firms could be CRAs under the Act
     FCRA covers any information used for
      a regulated purpose, including public
Interesting Case Law
   Remsburg v. Docusearch, 816 A.2d
    1001 (NH, 2003)
     Researchers owe a duty to exercise
      reasonable care not to subject the
      research subject to an unreasonable
      risk of harm
Test Your
   Do you need a
    permissible use
    (legal reason) to
    access public
Open Access Laws
and Privacy Issues:
Keeping Up with the Changes
Professional Reading
   BRB Public Records Blog
   PI Buzz
   Reporters Committee for Freedom
    of the Press
   TVC Alert Research News
Public Records
Company Research and
Business People
Finding Personal
 Becoming increasingly difficult
 Commercial vendors (LN/Accurint,
  CPO/AutoTrackXP, Merlin)
 Disclosed in public records

 General Web searching
     Online résumés, personal Web sites
      (blogs, MySpace), discussion forums,
      Martindale-Hubbell, Who’s Who, bios
Common Name
   Need personal identifiers for verification
     Full name, SSN or date of birth
   Helpful in combination w/a name
       Profession, occupation or industry
       Hobbies, interests
       Residence, place of work
       Memberships, affiliations
   Difficult for both manual research and
    online searching
Researching Business
   Professional licenses          Intellectual property
    + disciplinary data**          Authored works
   Business filings
                                   Congressional
   Court records                   testimony
    bankruptcies and               Agency comment
    liens)                          letters
   Case law                       EDGAR, SEC
   News stories                    “litigation” Web site
   Campaign donations             Internet Archive

          **Often includes telephone research
Free Search Tools for
Business People
   ZoomInfo (
   EDGAR (
   Authoratory (
   Social networks
     LinkedIn ( targets
      business people
     MySpace
     Facebook
     Wink (queries multiple social networks +
      special Web sites)
Due Diligence Research
on Companies
   Databases by regulating agencies
     MAUDE (medical devices,
     FCC (filed comments,
   OSHA Accidents ( &
    Inspections (
   Envirofacts (
     Integrates data from 7 EPA databases
   GPO Access (;
    Federal Register, Congressional Record,
Search Engine
   For best results, run multiple queries in several
    search engines
       “donald trump”
       “donald j trump”
       “mars inc”
       “mars incorporated”
   Common name + what you know
     “gary price” + librarian
   Uncommon last name + what you know
     tyburski + “ballard spahr”
   Query limiters
     or
Search Engine
Strategies Cont.
 "not for public dissemination"
 "not for public release"

 "official use only" (variations
  include FOUO and U//FOUO)
 "company confidential"

 "internal use only"
Final Questions?
Presenter Information
Genie Tyburski
Web Manager, The Virtual Chase
Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll,

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