Tuesday, November 28, 2006

On the Record: Backgrounding Individuals

You may be surprised to find at what you'll find on Google, Lexis-Nexis, Facebook, etc., but don't overlook public records when you're investigating an individual. Here are some public records that may prove helpful:

Birth records (Montana makes them available 30 years after a birth.)

School records (Dates attended, degrees conferred, theses, dissertations. No grades.)

Property records (Deeds, property assessments, taxes paid and unpaid.)

Marriage and divorce records (You can see a marriage license but not the application. Divorces are civil action.)

Bankruptcies (Individuals have to file with a U.S. Bankruptcy Court. Lots of detail here about what people own and owe.)

Driver's licenses and other licenses (Hunting, fishing, etc. You may not get to see the application but you should be able to find out if a person is license for these activities.)

Professional license information (Most states keep these records for doctors, nurses, lawyers, public school teachers, pilots, cosmetologists, etc. You can find out if someone is in fact licensed.)

Court records (Criminal and civil histories -- convictions, judgments, complaints, depositions, etc.)

Some military records (Dates of services, rank, medals and commendations.)

Concealed weapons permits (Check with the Sheriff's Department.)

Some lending information (UCC filings document some loans. Check with the county clerk and recorder, Secretary of State.)

Salary information for public employees (Check with the human services officer in the agency that employs them.)

Voter registration information. (You can also find out if someone voted but not how they voted.)

Public officials' voting records (Local govt. minutes, legislative and congressional journals, Project Vote Smart, etc.)

State and federal campaign donations (Check followthemoney.org for donations to state candidates. Check opensecrets.org for contributions to federal candidates.)

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