The on-line database has been a terrific boon for the investigations field. It’s information we can instantly access on the Internet—not as a substitute for an investigation, of course—but a great way to jump start your search.
Instead of steering you towards any specific service provider, I’ll describe a few types of reports available from most information brokers and demonstrate how they an invaluable sources for information for investigations.
The major players in the investigative database & information broker world, still catering to private investigators and independent skip tracers, include (in no particular order) IRB Search, Accurint, Merlin Information, Tracers Info, TLO, IQ Data, MasterFiles, PublicData and several others.
Most database & information brokers provide some version of a credit header, aggregated civil and criminal records (which should never be relied upon for conducting a background investigation), motor vehicle registration and driver’s license information, property records, telephone information, and other information regarding corporations, professional licensing U.S. Coast Guard and Federal Aviation Administration registration. This information is sourced from proprietary data-sets, GLBA restricted information and publicly available databases.
Lately, the privacy watchdogs have certainly taken a huge bite out of the information brokers and database providers. Many of the best sources have long since stopped providing the best information or have truncated Social Security numbers (most often omitting the last four numbers). Some have stopped servicing private investigators and other independent service providers, such as bail agents and independent debt collectors, altogether.
In my opinion, most of these providers would appear to be roughly the same because they have the same offerings and, ultimately, are obtaining the bulk of their data from the same sources. However, they are certainly not all equal and price-per-search is not a good indicator of the quality of the information you will receive! There are a couple of standouts, and the real difference between them all is their user interface, unique sourcing of information, pricing, batch update schedules and how well they have cross-referenced all of the records they serve to the end-user.
Batch updates refer to how often they are obtaining new information updates from their sources—they buy these records in batches. The best database providers are updating their information on shorter cycles—maybe every few weeks for credit header information and every few days for telephone information rather than maintaining older, stale data sets. Typically speaking, the older the data, the less expensive the service is going to cost.
Each information broker is certainly different in their ability to take the data they have available and their ability to present that information in a way that makes sense to the end user. Some are really good and some are really bad. Some providers have done a great job at relating, or cross-referencing, the data so that the sum of the data is greater than its individual parts. For instance, well-sourced data will uncover relationships between people, which can be extremely important to the skip tracer when the subject of the investigation seems to have fallen off of the planet.
The next best option is to locate people who know the subject in an effort to develop leads.
By recognizing many database providers have strong and weak points, I have learned to pick and choose among several specialists rather than “one size fits all” providers. In general, for missing person investigations there are three types of information you will need to find a reliable source for:
- Credit Headers and Consumer Credit Reports
- Real-time and Historical Telephone Information
- Motor Vehicle Registration and Licensing Information
If you’d like to learn more about the service providers private investigators use, send Stephanie Mitchell an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and she will discuss the ins and outs of each service.
We’d certainly love to hear your opinion of the various providers as well!