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Valuable Files to Review in a Background Investigation

Valuable Files to Review

  • Divorce filings
  • Bankruptcy proceedings
  • UCC filings
  • Interviews

When conducting a background check, investigators may have established routines of where to start on the hunt to uncover everything about a single individual. When specific resources continuously yield results, it’s only logical to revisit those places, thus forming the routine. We spoke with two private investigators, Brian Willingham and Pamela Hay, curious to learn some of their favorite and most yielding places to look for data when working on a background investigation. They both agreed that although an investigator’s go-to files are important, it’s also a good idea to constantly be widening the spectrum of sources, to open the door for new and pertinent information. They suggested divorce filings, bankruptcy proceedings, UCC filings, and sources, as being some of the most valuable files to review in a background check.

Hay teaches a professional investigations course at Boston University, along with running her own investigations firm, Broad Range Investigations. Willingham owns The Diligentia Group, an investigations firm specializing in background checks, and has been in the field for more than 11 years. Each investigator shared their go-to places, and some of them overlapped. Coming from two experienced professionals, this will hopefully provide a valuable resource to investigators looking to break the routine, and revisit a source they haven’t checked in awhile.

Here’s a list of the files they recommend reviewing:

Divorce Filings

Both investigators couldn’t say enough about the success they have had searching through divorce filings. They can hold a plethora of information that isn’t available anywhere else. The individuals list their income, their assets, and details about their children.

They can also be a gold mine with descriptions of issues within the marriage, such as any violence or abuse that occurred, a possible restraining order, adultery or unfaithfulness. Investigators can also find out which medications the individuals were on, if there were any addictions within the family, and more.

Bankruptcy Proceedings

People are required to supply a good bit of information in order to file for bankruptcy, regardless of whether they are filing voluntarily or involuntarily. These files detail their assets, income, information regarding their children, their pension plan, and all liabilities they have had or are currently holding.

Generally, United States bankruptcy proceedings offer a payment plan. This could be something to follow up on -- was the subject able to comply with the payment plan? were they punctual?

UCC Filings

Willingham believes UCC filings are most frequently overlooked. A UCC filing is a recording of a person’s valuable liens or material items they list as collateral. People put up things like art collections and coin collections. Usually items that an investigator could not know about without entering the individuals home.

A UCC filing could seriously change a subject’s worth after being reviewed.

Interviews with Sources

Although sources can be more difficult to reach, they can yield some of the most valuable information. It’s worth the time it takes to get consent from the source and find a time to meet that caters to both parties, to hear what the source has to say.

A source will most likely reveal information that an investigator never would have had access to in a record or a file. Discussing a subject with a source can also lead to a tip to explore a new area, city, or state for records and further the investigation.


Both investigators did advise to keep in mind that not all of these files are publicly available in every state. All investigators need to be cognizant of what is legally accessible to them during an investigation. There are rules and guidelines to what is accessible in every state. Divorce filings, for example, are not legally obtainable in New York. Hay and Willingham also noted to continue to look for new sources of information and new ways to investigate a subject. “That’s one of the beauties about doing background investigations,” Willingham says, “you really never know where you’re going to find that one piece of information that might make or break a deal.”

More Information about Background Checks:

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