Asset Tracing: How Investigations Are Done

You need an asset investigation done. What do you do now? First thing I will say is this, hire a professional licensed Private Investigator to do it. First of all, they will have the knowledge of the applicable State and Federal laws that govern the who, what, when, where, why, and how of the investigation and its process. If you chose to conduct the investigation yourself you’ll need to be abreast of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, and/or the Graham Leach Bliley Act, and operating court rules. There are many more laws that are applicable at different stages of an asset investigation. It is not my intention here to give legal advice and my suggestion is that you consult with an Attorney if you have questions. Asset investigations are a tangled web of legality and potential liability.

I cannot stress this enough: I strongly suggest to you the reader that if you are not completely comfortable and in the know that you hire a bona fide licensed Private Investigator to conduct the investigation for you. The expense of the expertise will be more than beneficial to you in the long run. For one, you’re more likely to get better, more accurate, and complete information when a Private Investigator handles this for you. Two, depending on your purposes there may be a need to secure the evidence obtained in a court admissible manner so that it can be entered into your case later.

This article is going to focus on an asset investigation of a person. Asset investigations for a business are a completely different ball of wax!

If you must attempt to get the information on your own then here are some starter points. One, you’re going to need to legally obtain the identifying information for the subject you are investigating. This includes their full name, date of birth, social security number, current and prior addresses, their phone numbers, and e-mail addresses. You will also need to determine and locate the same information for the subject immediate relatives.

Why the relatives you ask? Because money people often hide their assets by assigning them to a friend or family member.

There are also legitimate transactions that can legitimately shelter or hide assets such as family trusts.

Once this information is obtained get your hands on an informative database report. There are several databases on the World Wide Web that will sell you database information for the subject of your investigation.

On a side note, many of those services that are publicly accessible by anyone, have stale outdated information that is only obtained from list brokers, and public records. Some of that information is just downright bogus. A Licensed Private Investigator has greater access to more current, in-depth, and confidential information due in part to their state licensing and expertise.

With the database report in hand, you’re going to begin to search. Search the civil records for each and every county where the person has ever lived. Search for any signs property owned, fictitious business filings, corporation filings, marriage license filings, divorce filings, Uniform Commercial Code filings, parcel records, and tax liens. Now, search for the same at the State level. You also need to make a search of Federal civil records as well. They might disclose an unknown bankruptcy filing.

At some point in your investigation you may to want to obtain the garbage from the subject’s location. This type of investigative work is another conversation in and of itself due to the laws involved. For starters you should read CALIFORNIA v. GREENWOOD, 486 U.S. 35 (1988). When you have the garbage, pull on some gloves, don a biohazard mask, and start sifting. This is perhaps the most gross thing you’re ever going to do. But, you’d be amazed what people throw out and the amount of intelligence and further investigative leads that come out of trash! There is a downside to this adjunct of the investigation — besides the smell and “icky factor.” That downside is that for this information obtained to be useful you’re going to know how to analyze it, catalogue it, and process it in order for the data to be truly useful to you.

Another tool to utilize is surveillance. Surveillance when done properly can produce the whereabouts of where the person banks at, where they are employed, or who their clients are. Again, this is another adjunct of the investigation that is extremely prone to liability. Thus a professional licensed Private Investigator should be consulted for this.

Regardless of how you’re conducting your investigation you need to have a keen eye for indicators and signs of money. Because in this type of investigation like many others, ultimately, you must follow the money trail. If you are not trained in this type of investigation or have no real sophistication when it comes to money, banking, and investments chances are that this is all going to be a headache for you that produces minimal if any results. Asset investigations are complex and surely not an easy task for even the most seasoned Investigators.

Asset investigations are commonly used prior to initiating law suits to determine the assets and collectability of any judgment obtained. They are often obtained in divorce and child support proceedings. They are significantly used in many types of fraud cases. Sometimes they are even used to establish motives in criminal cases. This also needs to be said: regardless of the reason behind them, asset investigations are merely a piece of overall process in any case!