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What Information is Included in Public Records and Databases

by Joe Hoover
Public Records
What are Public Records?

When we were growing up, adults cautioned us against doing anything wrong, anything bad, because, "it will go on your permanent record."

Well guess what: Everything goes on your "permanent" record - from the time you were born!

Your birth was recorded at the hospital, at the county courthouse, and in your state's department of vital records.

With very few exceptions, every American is on file somewhere.  "Hundreds“ if not thousands - of repositories throughout the country and around the world have data "of" you - and numerous details "about"¯ you.

There are of the schools you attended along with your grades and degrees earned.

Your vehicles, aircraft, vessels, and the property you own are all recorded.

Finally, after your death, the Social Security Administration notes your demise in its Death Index.

Fact: There are 739,000 registered sex offenders in the USA!

Q: How does one go about accessing sex offender documentation?

A: Nation-wide offender information is available, if one knows where to look.

Fact: Most people have no idea the number of databases they are part of nor of the amount of data/information out there that concerns them.

The Challenge: How to sort through the mountains of data and determine what data is relevant for your purpose. Then, how to organize it be interpreted into useful content.

Cost effective alternative: Determine which of the experts, like Information Providers - to hire to accomplish these tasks.

Q: First of all, what is data?

A: Data is a selection of facts that can be translated into a cornucopia of possibilities.  Data is collected on property, businesses and credit transactions.  Personal, individual data can range from magazines subscribed to, every residence a person has reported when applying for credit.

Q: Who collects this information?

A: It is collected by both the government and the business sector.

Q: Who owns this stuff and how is it distributed and sold?

A: The original collectors of the data - including government entities and the credit bureaus - own the original collection of facts, which is often sold and resold to Brokers and Information Providers.

Q: How does one go about tapping those sources, then translating and interpreting it into useful information?

A: Value Added Information Providers interpret compiled data so that it "tells the story," and "paints a virtual portrait"¯ of the subject in question.

Q: For what purpose is data accessed?

A: Searches are conducted to:

- Locate people for reuniting family members or collecting on a debt.
- Gather background information on individuals and businesses.
- Learn about births, marriages, deaths, addresses, phone numbers
- Get the facts about the person with whom one intends to establish a personal or business relationship
- Make sure the information you've been furnished is true and that the person you're hiring or renting to checks out.
- Learn about a business, its reputation, financial status, and standing in the community.
- Seek information about property and assets to enforce a court order or judgment
- Find out whether or not one is an heir to money or property.

Q: What "types"¯ of documentation is out there?

A: Public, or "open"¯ semi-private and private records.

 Public/Open Records:

Open to public scrutiny; you have a broad right of access, without discrimination, to government information.   Data are gathered and cross-referenced by a host of database brokers, combined, traded and sold to other brokers and systems operators, and ultimately sold to end-users, like Information Providers.

Note: You do not need too prove a "need to know" or furnish a reason "why" you seek certain information.  Plus, once you have that information, you are free to use it and disseminate it any way you see fit.  You can even sell it.

Semi-Private Records:

Access to semi-private, or semi-open records is limited.  Legal dictates, state statutes, and business policy may limit access to financial reports, credit reports, medical and employment information.

Closed Records:

This often classified data is maintained by the federal government.  "Closed" can be opened only by court order and are not subject to The Freedom of Information Act.

All involved in this "data chain" must agree to enforce the regulations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the first major Federal law enacted to protect privacy. The Act is for everyone. It's a federal law that designates which public documentation is open to the public for either reviewing or obtaining documents.

The Act has really helped the general public in making information available, but it is not as important as the local statutes when it comes to state/county/local-held information.

Government Data: The government, at all levels, notes every important event, transaction, and litigation concerning its citizens.

Note: Most all documentation is created at the local or county level.

County, Local Municipality:

- The Bureau of Vital Statistics keeps documentation pertaining to births, marriages, divorces, and deaths.
- Court records are kept at the courthouse, including circuit, county, civil and criminal litigation.
- The Department of Licensing maintains a variety of on-going documentation including occupational and fishing.
- County courthouse sources will help you with pre-relationship, child custody, pre-employment, tenant, business background, and asset investigations.

County Records

County records are often forwarded to the state capital in summary form for permanent storage, so if you need to see the entire documentation, first ask at the local county courthouse about where everything is stored. More info on County Records->


Most every state's capital has a repository from all its counties, as well as from state-level departments and agencies. More info on State Records->

Court records

Court Records are included with the Department of Justice, State Supreme Court.
Links to all courts->

Secretary of State's Office

The Secretary of State's Office is the central repository for a variety of things, including the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Included in all Secretary of State's corporate and partnership filings regarding business and financial licenses and judgments, are corporation and Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) filings, plus information about worker's compensation cases.


 The laws are fairly consistent here, but at the state and county levels, interpreting the rules and laws regarding the release of information varies from state to state, county to county. More info on National Records->

Each state has an act. For example, Georgia has an Open Records Law and that stands side-by-side with The Freedom of Information Act. These laws vary from state to state. Anyone can obtain certain information about individuals, companies, associations, and the like.


 US Government records are maintained in a number of depositories and government departments. The two largest are The Library of Congress, the nation's mega-library, and the National Archives, a vast repository of government records and census.

The Interstate Commerce Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission keep extensive records about public companies.

The US Government Printing Office provides a selection of directories and books to help you weed your way through the maze of government.  Most Information Providers have federal sources on-line. All these are open to the public.

Note: Finally, almost every important government department and bureau in every state is now, at last - on-line, waiting to take your credit card in payment for information.

Business Databases

Facts collected by businesses are generally used to determine a person's credit worthiness or for marketing and sales purposes.

Personal information is routinely gathered and sold to large marketing companies.  Some of these companies, such as magazine publishers, sell their information to brokers.  This information could be very useful if you are attempting to locate a skip.

Credit Bureaus:

These giant repositories of each and all of our credit worthiness gather credit facts about individuals from a vast network of retailers, businesses, and financial institutions. Data, provided by member businesses, is collected by the credit bureaus. In exchange for this data, they provide credit information to all their members.

Here's how the process takes place: A person applies for credit for a purchase, a loan, or a lease. The information provided becomes part of the major credit bureau's "credit headers"¯ These headers, which are comprised of the applicant's name, Social Security Number (SSN), date of birth (DOB), and addresses "reported" on an application for credit.

This reciprocal arrangement depends on the completeness and accuracy of the information provided by the client, the business and the credit bureau.

Business Credit Reports:

 These are complete, in-depth, and are readily available - about any business, regardless of its size ' from Information Providers.

The Law:

Credit information is confidential and can only be released to those with whom you have applied for credit and to those to whom you have given permission to review your credit history.

The The Fair Credit Reporting Act governs how a consumer financial report may/may not be used. The Act:

- Prohibits the inclusion of obsolete facts
- Describes information which must be released to the government
- Outlines how a consumer may learn exactly what is on file
- Describes how one may challenge incomplete or inaccurate information

Investigative Professionals are Value Added Information Providers.
We are experienced. We maintain up-to-date "database broker-direct" connections to all pertinent state, county, municipal, civil and criminal records. We interpret and translate DATA for our many varied clients, to VALUABLE, USEABLE, INFORMATION.

More Background Checks Articles

For more information regarding the various types of background checks available, please read the in-depth articles from the following links: Employee Background Checks, Tenant Screening, Business Background Checks, Asset Searches and Criminal History.

Article provided by: Investigative Professionals LLC, ©2012 Information Providers.

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