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Learn How To Locate Assets -  Be Your Own Detective


Asset location has long been a valued resource for lenders, creditors, investors, and government entities. The largest creditor in the United States is the Internal Revenue Service. IRS auditors, field agents and CID agents locate assets to satisfy levies, liens, tax fraud and tax evasion matters. So does the Federal Depository Insurance Corporation, the Resolution Trust Corporation, the Small Business Administration, student loan authorities, bankruptcy trustees, and various states' departments of revenue.
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Seasoned, professional skip-tracers start their investigation by compiling data about the subject's identity, relatives, employment, etc., while profiling the subject's financial status and character. This initial searching may also turn up loan or mortgage data.

National Death Index

First, check the death records to determine when he or she died and details of the death. If an estate was filed, it was likely filed where the individual passed away. Go to the county court house. Determine whether an estate was filed. If there is a will, it will be on file if the person requested his or her will be filed at the courthouse.


Learn about a person's income - another asset. Wages can be attached or garnished. Whether filing for divorce, to collect on a judgment or collecting child support, first learn exactly what property and possessions are owned. Judgments are not just a debt, they are a court order to pay and they carry all the powers of the court order, but a judgment is just a piece of paper until money is collected. The court will not collect the money for you.

How to Locate an Employer

If you need to know the place of employment, do what the pros do: Get up early in the morning, park down the street from where the subject resides and follow the subject to work. Note: Don't do this if the subject knows you or your vehicle. Get an unknown friend with an unknown vehicle to get details.

To verify employment, one might say to the subject's employer, "He's buying a car from me. I want to verify employment and the amount of money he makes." Or, "Does she get paid weekly or biweekly?" (You need to know when the paychecks are issued if you intend to garnish wages.) "Does she stand a chance for any bonuses?" Or, "How long has she been on the job?" Employers love to talk, especially if they think they are talking to a peer or another employer. Try: "Is advancement likely?" Or, "Is she going to be promoted?"

Unearned Income

Income is not only what a person earns; there's unearned income, too, which is not earned through a paycheck but from rental incomes, dividends, and interest from stock ownership.

Subpoena Business Records
If you have to go the subpoena route, and the subject's employer is known, serve a Business Record Subpoena, and obtain a copy of payroll checks the subject has cashed. The subject's account number and name of the bank will be on the back of the check.


Records of millions of filings, real property transactions, and new business ventures are available for your inspection at city and county courthouses and at repositories in state capitals. This is public information; the records are open to everyone. You need to know how to get what you need and where to get what you need. Herein lies the challenge.

Local Level Search - It's almost always best to start your search at the local level: the city or county where the filing took place. These records will most often provide valuable search data: real property records, corporation records, UCC filings, court records, motor vehicle information, divorce proceedings records, community property settlement records, and probate records. With these records you may discover a wealth of financial information: names and account numbers of bonds and checking and savings accounts; brokers; stock ownership; and credit card account data. Often you can discover addresses of and descriptions of real property and license number, make, and model of vehicles.

Jurisdictions of Court Records

Forty-three-hundred US public jurisdictions store records of interest to people attempting to locate assets. Most of these jurisdictions are counties. Each jurisdiction has its own set of rules.

Begin your search by delving into these records sources:
  • Real Property Records - Assessors Office - County Court House
  • Court Records - Bankruptcy, liens and Judgments - County Court House
  • Business Licensing - County Court House
  • Corporation Records - Secretary of State's Office
  • UCC filings - Secretary of State's Office
  • Motor vehicle information - State DMV
  • Divorce proceedings records - State Vital Statistics
  • Probate records - State Probate Records

Real Estate

Real property is the most valuable and best-documented of all assets. Records are kept at the county recorder's office or the registrar of deeds office. Real property recordings are indexed by owner's name and usually crossed-indexed by property address. Documentation includes property jurisdictions, location, deeds of trust, liens, property address, owners, sellers, attorneys, mortgage lender, and title company.

The true value of the property is rarely determined by doc stamps, tax assessment, or listed mortgage. If a person owns real estate - more than just his or her primary domicile - check county records to see if quit claim deeds have been filed. Perhaps the property was signed over to another person. County records contain complete details of property transfers. Relatives and in-laws usually are the beneficiaries. Ascertain the wife's maiden name, if possible, before starting records searches.

County Assessor

Call the county assessor's office to learn the assessed value of a property. Remember, the assessed value is only one indication of a property's actual worth.

Motor Vehicle Records

Most states' Department of Motor Vehicles will provide vehicle ownership information for a fee. Check by the subject's name and by the name of any companies connected with the subject.

Water Vessel Registrations

Boats can be attached by the court, providing you can establish ownership, proven by title, which is public record. The Natural Resources department or division in each state will have information on boats and water vessels owned by individuals and companies.

Aircraft Registrations

The FAA will have information on an individual or a company that owns aircraft.

Business Connections: Corporations, Partnerships, LLC

Under most state laws, people can have certain property that is exempt from being seized for debts; however, corporations have no such exempt property. If a business incorporates, a record of that corporation's birth is on file with a state agency, usually the Secretary of State's office in the corporation's home state. Certain states will furnish information about directors, officers, and the principals of a corporation, but most limit the information to what has been furnished by the people who formed the corporation.

1. Many states' Secretary of State's corporation division do not require or verify identification of applicants for new corporations.
2. The law says each person is limited to one SSN. Discovery of multiple SSN's is fairly common in asset searches, especially among the well-to-do.

Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) Filings

The Uniform Commercial Code is a notification system. The law requires the filing of a financing statement containing certain information whenever a financial transaction takes place that involves personal property used for collateral for a loan or lease. You will find much useful information contained in UCC filings, all of which should be considered from several perspectives for clues and leads to further information.

Each year, more than eight million Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) filings are completed. Four million parcels of real property change hands or are put up for collateral. Millions of pieces of commercial real estate are swapped or sold. More than a half million new corporations start up.

Begin your search in the county where the subject resides. UCC filing records are indexed by the name of the debtor. Both the debtor and the secured parties are listed in UCC filings. Useful information can be gathered and made a part of your intelligence base. An accurate description of the collateral being put up as security for the loan or lease must be furnished.

Names of other debtors, as well as individuals or businesses that may have guaranteed the debt, may be listed in UCC filings. Banks, leasing companies, and other individuals who backed the enterprise are excellent sources of information. When queried, these debtors or companies might divulge valuable information. Their involvement with the subject may suggest other arrangements or other assets: a pattern of business activity. Stockholders involved in the venture will be specified. Partners or family members and friends who backed the deal may be mentioned. A spouse or ex-spouse may be listed. The debtor likely maintains an account with the bank backing the deal.

UCC filings remain active for five years, unless continued. A UCC filing may include a copy of the loan application from the secured party or a copy of the check from the secured party to the debtor. Bank issues check to debtor. Debtor deposits check into his/her bank account. Debtor's bank account number is on back of check. Subpoena the secured party for a copy of this check. Look at the reverse side of the check. The subject may also deposit payroll checks, spouse's payroll checks, stock dividend checks, rental income checks, etc. . . . An ignorant debtor might withdraw funds to close an account in the form of a check, then deposit that check in a new account, often in the same bank. A check provides a document trail and often includes the name and account number of the bank where the debtor deposited the check. Subpoena the target bank for loan applications and/or financial statements of the subject for any checks the bank issued to the subject.


Asset Searches Database Information Providers

Online database Information Providers have experience with the intricacies of accessing public records and can conduct all or part of your asset search, saving you the time and trouble of a paper document search. Ask about areas of coverage, techniques, fees, and methods of payment.

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