In spite of privacy laws, the business of asset searches is still very much in demand in the private investigative industry. Creditors need to verify financial stability of debtors; businesses need to verify assets of potential business partners; investors need to determine the financial stability of those that they are considering investing their money in. Both men and women alike are frequently interested in verifying the net worth of potential spouses.
The big question private investigators often hear is, can you find out what someone is worth, and if so, can it be done legally?
The answer is yes, basically. You can legally and easily do a basic asset search for tangible assets, and in all likelihood, develop a fairly accurate picture of the financial worth of your subject. A basic asset search will disclose real estate property owned by the subject, as well as any vehicles, watercraft, and aircraft owned by the subject.
A basic asset search generally cannot pinpoint someone’s exact financial worth. While some types of assets are relatively easy to find in public records (especially tangible assets like real estate, vehicles, boats, and aircraft), financial assets such as personal bank accounts and brokerage accounts are much more difficult to verify.
The reason that financial record searches are now more difficult to conduct is largely due to the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which was passed in 1999. Prior to the introduction the GLB Act, many investigation firms provided liquid asset searches, which revealed detailed information on the subject’s bank accounts as well as any financial investments made through brokerage firms. In almost all cases, this information was obtained through pretext, meaning that an investigator contacted the financial institution, impersonating the account holder or used other false pretenses to obtain the information.
Uncovering financial information through pretexting is now specifically prohibited by law. However, there are still many ways that private investigators can LEGALLY obtain this same information without violating the law. For example, sometimes you can find out a lot about someone’s financial assets through civil or criminal litigation records, which are public records. For example, if the subject has been through a divorce, his complete financial history should be disclosed in the divorce files.
When a person fills out a credit application of any type, the creditor almost always asks for banking information and account numbers. This data is stored in many places that are perfectly legal to access without pretexting.
Another method of legally obtaining Find hidden assets sensitive financial information include conducting a “trash cover”. Simply put, this means an investigator collects someone’s trash and goes through it, looking for information. Believe it or not, once a person puts his garbage out at the curb for the garbage truck, it is considered abandoned property and in most states, it is fair game for anyone to pick it up. If it has been put out to the curb, the investigator is not violating any trespassing laws because they are collecting the garbage from the street curb, they are not going on the subject’s property. So, if bank account information is discovered through a trash cover, there is nothing illegal about it.
These are only a few of the trade secrets investigators use to legally perform asset searches. When hiring a private investigator, it is important for the client to verify that asset searches are done legally, and that pretexting is not used by the investigator to obtain financial records. In most cases, and in order to comply with the law, “liquid asset” searches are only conducted in situations involving collection of judgments, child support, or where other legal financial obligations are the responsibility of the subject. Investigators usually require the client provide proper documentation to justify a financial asset search, such as a court order or judgment decree.
The GLB Act does not make it illegal to sell a consumer’s banking information (which is essentially what a private investigator does: once they obtain it, they sell it to their client); however, it does make it illegal to obtain this information through pretexting. While many investigators have developed new techniques and resources to obtain financial asset information legally, the fees to uncover this type of information can be steep, ranging from several hundred dollars to a thousand dollars or more, depending upon the extent of the investigation. However, if a debtor owes a creditor a substantially large amount of money, it may be worthwhile for the creditor to invest in an asset search that may very well uncover the information needed to recover debts, especially if the debt far exceeds the cost of investigation fees.