Archive for the ‘Databases’ Category
Did you know that a “comprehensive” or “people search” profile that aggregates public records does not return all available records, even if that record is in the database? Let’s look at Secretary of State corporation records that are sold by professional database companies.
You obtain a profile report on an individual that incorporates criminal records, court judgments, real property owned, corporations in which they are an officer and other public records. You notice that a corporation that should be there isn’t. (This has to happen only once for you to be reminded that the proprietary databases are just a starting point!)
Here are some corporation data finding hints:
- An aggregated comprehensive report on an individual will not return all the corporations in which the subject is an officer, just those linked to addresses in her or his credit header.
- You must search within the corporation database to get the most corporate records that the provider has obtained with the subject’s name as an officer, regardless of address.
- Corporation databases are not current. I mean, in some cases, really not current, and the coverage dates vary from state to state and from one database provider to another. Ask your service to provide you the frequency of their updates (if they will). Westlaw updates weekly or monthly, except for Delaware and West Virginia. LexisNexis may have more historical filings.
- TLO and Accurint, for example, do not return the same results searching by company name (i.e. “Mark Capital” – one service could return a list that includes “Mark Capital Strategies” and the other with that plus “Mark Capital Investors” and “Mark Capital Investors II”, etc.)
- There is great variability from state to state in the fields of data indexed. Some states only provide Agent for Service -Delaware, is a significant one since many corporations are registered here- and not other officers or Directors.
- Databases have errors. Your subject’s name could be misspelled or abbreviated.
What’s a due diligence researcher to do?
- Check online Secretary of State corporate entity databases. Some are searchable by officer name. And the records here are likely more current than those in the proprietary services. Find the free government sites through this public records directory. However, the online corporation indexes are limited too; many do not list all categories of officers.
- Search the online Secretary of State site in states where the individual might have their business operation, not just where they live.
- The Delaware corporate records only include an Agent for Service, which isn’t very helpful since most of the registrants don’t conduct business or live in Delaware. Your subject company may have registrations in multiple states and those may list officer names.
- Identify names and addresses of all possible business partners and search those in the aggregated corporation databases and the online SOS sites.
- Call the SOS. They may have search flexibility beyond the functionality of their website.
- Conduct a web search for the subject with other identifiers that are likely to lead to unknown corporate names. Try this free site that searches multiple states and shows some of these linkages (Search officer name from Google using the site: command.).
What are your corporation database discoveries?
TLO now owns Merlindata through the acquisition of another company that had recently purchased the public records data provider, in business since 1991 and much relied on by California private investigators.
Merlindata customers will now become TLO customers with access to the same data, albeit with a different interface and website. The California public records from Merlindata are not integrated into the people search and comprehensive reports in TLO but are a stand-alone product that incurs per-search fees on par with the other TLO offerings.
Merlindata customers who have an annual fee contract can continue on the same terms with a new TLO negotiated contract, but they will be charged monthly, not annually, as subscribers to Merlindata were.
TLO doesn’t offer an unlimited search option for access to their menu of searches. TLO’s “flaterate” is a reduced cost on the transactional fee. This reduced cost is available for accounts with at least 200 searches per month. In this arrangement, the subscriber might pay $.60 for each search rather than $1.00. The “flaterate” contract includes the TLO data and the newly acquired Merlindata California databases. However, they are not integrated and must be separately searched.
The Merlindata site now directs subscribers to transfer their account to TLO or to open an account if they’re not already a Merlin user.
IRBSearch, a reseller of the LexisNexis Accurint data, which is very similar to TLO’s, has undoubtedly taken a financial hit due to the low-cost pricing of TLO. This is the new favorite among private investigators. Hopefully that won’t lull investigators into relying on one online public records data source — which may become difficult to avoid if other companies’ products are out of reach because of pricing or restricted access to private investigators.
[Update, 1/29/2012: The Subcommittee on Social Security of the House Ways & Means Committee is meeting (February 2, 2012) and will address legislation that would restrict access to the SSDI. Read more at: Sounding a call to action to save our access to the SSDI.]
A change in Social Security Administration policy that went into effect November 1 has lead to the removal of the free online Social Security Death Index, also known as SSDI, from Rootsweb and other genealogy sites. But that’s not all. The Social Security Administration is going to remove 4 million current name records and cease reporting other data in new records. One popular fee-based data provider is going to stop displaying the Social Security number for anyone who has died in the last 10 years. This is a profound blow to genealogists and fraud investigators.
The SSA Public Death Master File aka Social Security Death Index has come under political assault as a source of Social Security numbers used to craft false identities. As Dick Eastman rightly argues in “Genealogists are Losing Access to SSDI, Mostly Due to Misinformation,” this is another case of misplaced concerns about the dissemination of personal information. The fallacy of the identity theft argument is detailed in “Are We Going to Lose the Social Security Death Index (SSDI)?”.
The background on the SSA’s explanation is cited at Steve’s Genealogy Blog, “Changes to the Public Death Master File (DMF) and the Social Security Death Index (SSDI)”.
What will be removed from the Death Master File that the SSA sells to every provider is the state verified data — which comes from the death certificate. That includes the last residence (town, county and zip code) and the location where benefits were sent. (This was confirmed in an email exchange I had with the government agency that distributes the SSA data.) How many times have you made use of that information to find beneficiaries to estates and pensions, connected separated family members, verified identity, researched a genealogy or located where a client’s family lived when a relative died? All the time.
Here’s what the Social Security Administration announced upon the release of the DVD version of the SSDI (in 2005):
The SSA Death Master File is used by leading government, financial, investigative, credit reporting, medical research and other industries to verify identity as well as to prevent fraud and comply with the USA Patriot Act.
The excitement has worn off. Fear prevails.
And there’s more. The largest genealogy data provider, Ancestry.com, announced (after political pressure was applied) that “…we have recently made a purposeful decision to not display Social Security numbers of any person that has passed away in the last 10 years.”
And more extensive restrictions are now in place for the release of information in the Social Security application — which has the parents’ names and place of birth of the applicant. Again, serious researchers will loose out.
Some free sources of the SSDI are still online but they aren’t as flexible as the Rootsweb interface and may have less data. I have links to these, other vital records at my directory of public records resources.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Online Detainee Locator System is now active. This is a searchable database that enables you to locate a detainee who is currently in ICE custody. Search by name with country of birth or by A-Number. Returns full name and year of birth and whether they have been in ICE custody in the past 60 days.