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Using and Choosing Data Providers

  • June 11, 2007
  • by PInow Staff

Acquiring data to work a case or locate a person is critical for a process serving and investigative business. There is a lot of data that can be found in free public records databases but when it comes to getting more sensitive data you may need to turn to an established data broker.

Who are Data Providers and what kind of data do they offer?

Companies like IRBsearch, LocatePlus, Merlin, Tracers Info and many others offer research tools for private investigators, process servers, bail agents and other legal professionals. These tools query billions of records to assist in finding information on people and businesses. Common searches include assets, criminal records, court records, phone number lookups, driving records and much more.

"Every service done by our company is researched before it leaves the office. Businesses are checked using the Secretary of State's website for registered agents and corporate officers. We use data providers to check residential addresses," said Stuart Perlmutter of Professional Process Service, LLC in Waterbury, CT. "This saves substantial time and effort in the field."

Where does their Data come from?

Data providers acquire information from hundreds of sources that include billions of records with updates coming on a daily basis. Data originates from governmental agencies and privates companies. Many companies pull from the same data sources including ChoicePoint and Lexis Nexis.

According to Merlin, they pull data from over 130 sources, while IRBsearch claims to take daily updates from more than 33 billion records and over 750 sources.

How do I choose a data provider?

There tends to be one common response to this question.

You should never depend on any single data provider, says Jimmie Mesis of PI Magazine. These companies are all data aggregators and while many do get data from the same major suppliers, each one does acquire unique data from different sources. Some companies are also stronger in different parts of the country.

And it's not just the data they have, its how they use it, adds Vicki Siedow of Siedow & Associations in La Crescenta, CA. The interface, how and when they update, lots of little differences make the outcome of a search vary sometimes widely from company to company.

Many other industry professionals have weighed in on this topic in the and Yahoo Groups. In addition to echoing the above sentiments, the general consensus says that you should use this information as a guide and you should always validate your findings.

I never accept the results I get from any source. I use it as a lead, then confirm it, said Ron Rugen of Rugen Team Investigations in Columbia, MO.

Getting Access to the Data

Once you find a data provider you want to work with, you must adhere to state and national laws to gain access to their services. Each provider has their own application and credentialing process. Federal laws mandate that potential users identify the intent for the information they seek. Merlin asks for documentation of business and professional licenses and checks all available databases to determine if the applicant is who they say they are. If the applicant wants to receive data with full social security numbers, they must agree to an on-site inspection.

The Bottom Line

Even though the industry has seen a price increase in the last year, basic searches through these data providers are still reasonable, starting around $1. As you request more detailed data, searches become more expensive. This is especially true with criminal and driving records.

"The days of the quarter search are over and I'm surprised that they were able to keep such valuable information at that price. The data companies we buy information from are now paying more for information themselves and they will obviously pass the added expense on to us - the end users. Even at the higher price it's still amazing at how much information we are able to get for such a minimal amount, added Mesis.

What are your thoughts?

The and team would like to give you the opportunity to provide your input and experience with data providers. Please feel free to comment below.

Participating Data Provider Summaries

The following companies assisted in putting together this article. We have given them an opportunity to share information regarding their companies here. If you would like to know more about their services and products, please contact them directly.

Merlin Data |
Merlin has all the tools to locate people quickly. A leading innovator and provider of online public record and skip tracing databases, Merlin Information Services provides quality data essential to the successful investigator.

Find current phone numbers and addresses with our pay-per-search or for volume savings, choose affordably-priced subscription billing.

Search the Merlin Cross-Directory and access over 150 million households and 14 million businesses including over 90 million phone listings. Or choose the Link to America credit header product, the best skip tracing database in the industry.

IRBSearch |
IRBsearch is the powerhouse of online data information for the United States. IRBsearch was developed by licensed private investigators specifically for the industries we serve: private investigators, process servers, recovery agents, and bail bondsmen. Whether you investigate cases, serve process, locate skips, or track down relatives and associates, IRBsearch is the treasure map of choice for industry professionals. Our Person Search offers access to the most current addresses and up to a 30-plus year address history. No waiting, no set-up fees, and no monthly minimums: get results within seconds! The Most, The Best, The Fastest!

TracersInfo |
TracersInfo is a premier online information source, providing instant access to current, accurate data products created by integrating billions of records from public record and proprietary data sources in a simple, easy-to-use format. The system offers a wide array of features that aren't available anywhere else, giving investigative professionals a quick, cost-effective way to turn the information they have into the information they need, including current address info, full SSNs and DOBs, criminal history searches, driving records, instant return wants & warrants searches, asset searches and much more. No signup fees. No monthly minimums.

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