Who Am I Dealing With?? Watching Your Back(ground) Checks.

Lately, we are requested quite often to research the backgrounds of prospective employees, personal and business partners and corporate entities.

With our now internet-enabled reach (not just to locate web-based information but to network with other investigative specialists), we are able to access nationwide data as to the personal, work and credit backgrounds of potential new hires.  We have gained the ability to likewise perform these background search services on a global basis for those seeking new business alliances, products and services.   Today, given the mobility and globalization of people and companies, often the backgrounds of the those with whom we might form potential partnerships are, at best based on hazy anecdotes and very basic, publicly available information.  Unfortunately, these types of non-professionally investigated histories can easily be manipulated, i.e., by net savvy perception managers.  For this, and many other reasons (personal security, access and information verification, to name several) we will always steer people away from the alleged “free” searches available online.  If one is serious about researching a potential employee or partner’s background, get it done right — by an experienced, highly rated private investigator.

Below we outline several types of background searches, their information yield and best applicability situations.

Basic Background Check, Individual:

Primary Uses:  Prospective new hires, subject identification, tenant verification.

Should yield:

  • DOB & Alias Names
  • SSN Verification
  • Address History (20 yr)
  • Address Summaries
  • Others Residing w/Subject
  • Possible Phone #s Associated w Subject (landline/mobile)
  • Email Addresses
  • Nationwide Criminal Profile (Includes State & Nationwide Criminal Databases, National Warrant Databases, Department of Correction Records, Nationwide Sex Offender Check)
  • Property Transactions
  • Civil Judgments, Tax Liens, & Evictions
  • Bankruptcies
  • Registered Vehicles *
  • DL Information *
  • Voter Registrations
  • Hunting & Fishing Permits
  • Professional Licenses
  • Possible Work Affiliations
  • Relatives & Associates

*In available states.

Recommendation: If the new hire will have access to accounting and or client information, we also suggest obtaining a release to conduct a standard asset search.

Comprehensive Background Check, Individual:

Primary Uses:  Prospective partners, major settlement/award cases, potential private care (nannies, housekeepers, home nursing aides…) and personal/business financial services providers (attorneys, accountants, brokers…)

Should yield:

  • All of the above plus :
  • Credit check (obtain authorization)
  • Financial background (to include but not limited to assets, banking information,  involvement in fraud investigations)
  • Professional background (to include but not limited to being a named party in any legal action, professional sanctions, industry rating)
  • Verified (in person/voice) and thorough reference checks

These are basic searches to conduct in the above referenced circumstances.  Of course, no two files will ever be the same and each search should be geared towards individualization.  A good professional investigator will know where to look and when to dig deeper.

As always, stay safe.

Federal and State FOIA Request Tips & Info.

foia process2

Before submitting a FOIA request, we suggest the following tips to expedite the information return: (We are citing US DOJ regulations.)

1. Research the agency’s website for the information you are seeking. (FOIA requires that federal agencies release certain information automatically, without the need for you to make a request so before you put in the effort to obtain that which is readily and immediately available. check the agency’s site.)

2. Create and submit a pre-printed FOIA request form on your firm’s letterhead.  (There is no specific form that must be used to make a request. The request simply must be in writing, reasonably describe the information you seek, and comply with specific agency requirements. Most federal agencies now accept FOIA requests electronically, including by web form, e-mail or fax.)

3. Follow up in five to six weeks post request submission if you have not received the information sought.  (The time it takes to respond to each request varies depending on the complexity of the request itself and the backlog of requests already pending at the agency. In some circumstances, the agency will be able to respond to the request within the standard time limit established by the FOIA – approximately one month. In other instances more time may be needed before the request can be completed. When an agency requires an extension of time, it will notify you in writing and provide you with an opportunity to modify or limit the scope of your request. Alternatively, you may agree to a different timetable for the processing of your request.)

Obtaining FOIA records (contact information):

For Federal Agency Records: From the Department of Agriculture to the Tennessee Valley Authority to the USPTO:   here.

For State Agency Records: Research the agency’s contact information independently as there is no there is no central state-by-state agency FOIA office registry (given the varying agencies by state) and then avail yourself of the following useful tools:

Happy hunting!

BNI Operatives: Street smart; info savvy.

As always, stay safe.

Falling Off The Grid: A How-To Disappear. Part I/II

As an investigator for well over a decade, often employed in a skip-tracing capacity, I’ve learned how a  person can disappear (fall off the grid) or modify their public data (perception management). Without delving too much into SEO and other optimization methods hawked on the market, we focus on running our people tracer searches in reverse; i.e., locate the public information available on an individual and then follow the below masking methods.  To ensure that a person has successfully dropped off of the grid, we then try to locate them ourselves; determining how well our cloaking measures have worked.

There are basically three steps involved in falling off the grid.

1. Misinformation.  There is so much electronically available information on individuals now that turning this data to suit your needs may indeed appear to be a Sisyphean task.  (We are not referring to allegedly protected information such as your Social Security Number or credit rating; albeit the latter can be manipulated as well by simply adopting a new identity.  We’ll get to that in a later article.)   I’m referring to contact information given way too freely to cell phone and cable companies, utilities and even to marketing professionals just to receive nonvaluable products or services.

Solution: Locate and deviate your known information.  I.e.,  Select a letter of the alphabet different from your middle initial or invent one if you don’t have a second name. Open a P.O. Box, directing your street address to that of an identity securer’s physical address.   Select a different date of birth.  Where and when applicable, use these three new misinformants.  As marketers, cable, fraternal organizations… upgrade their selling lists, this new information will begin to be applied to your newer identity.  Your old information will begin to drop off of aging consumer lists.

2. Disinformation.  Similar to the above but with the direct intent to mislead an aggressive researcher.

Solution: Have your created data result redirected to a different city.  Make it as difficult and expensive as possible to have the would-be seeker find you.

3. Necessary contact.  So you’ve won the lottery, need to fall off the grid for a while (if only to regain a sense of balance in your life) but you still wish to remain in contact with your family (the real ones and not those having recently spilled out of the woodwork upon news of your winnings).

Solution: Pre-paid cell phones, Internet cafes or hot spots, pre-paid calling cards and pay for everything in cash.

In our next article, we will cover the art of perception management.  Expertly applied by politicians (except Senator Edwards), large corporations and dictatorially run oppressed nations.

Our Operatives: Street smart, tech savvy.

As always, stay safe.

Louis C. Amen, NYPD, Det., ret.