Many public records are online, but you will still find a ton in paper form at your local county courthouse!
I am sick and tired of rip-off, so-called “public records websites” trying to sell old, bad or bogus information to private investigators and the public in general so today I’m going to teach you how to find the authentic, real (and frequently free!) public records websites for property records, criminal histories and address information whether you’re working a skip trace, background check, fraud or any kind of case!
There are legitimate sites that compile and sell public records and I don’t have a problem with them or how much they charge. However… most of the decent sites require you to have a private investigator’s license form the state to gain access and that’s a deal breaker for a lot of aspiring P.I.’s.
Also, let’s face it, we are trying to solve cases and turn a profit in the process. That means keeping overhead low. So why subscribe, pay monthly fees and “per search” fees to a bunch of database companies and info brokers if you can easily do it yourself for free.
Really the reason to pay is to save time.
Let me give you this example… You could build a bookshelf for yourself with no power tools (if you have the skills!). But, isn’t it so much faster and nicer if you have power tools?!? Of course it is.
Same with information. You CAN get most or all of what you need without fancy, expensive data providers, but it’s nicer and quicker with them. And let’s face it, solving a case, pre-employment screening or skip trace fast may be important to your client.
Pro Tip: If you do know how to work without the database services, you will have monster size success when you add a good database service! Just like if you can build the shelves without power tools, you’ll be even better with power tools!
Warning: But… If you don’t know what you’re doing, access to a data provider will cost you more and provide you with a TON of false leads to get lost on! Just like working with power tools can cost you a finger if you don’t know what you’re doing!
Tip #1: Know the real name of the office that holds the public records you want.
For example, if you’re looking for property records, your local (county) office is probably NOT called the Property Records Office. It’s much more likely it something like the Assessor’s office or Auditor’s Office.
Searching by the REAL name of the office is likely to lead you to their website rather than a scam “lookalike” site.
Tip #2: Many (but not all!) of the legitimate, primary sites (like your local courthouse) will end in “.gov” and not “.com”. Yes, there are plenty of exceptions, but be careful before you send money off to one of the “.com” sites.
Bonus Tip: Bookmark the authentic site when you find it because you’ll be coming back to it over and over again in course of your investigative career.
If you like these helpful tips, then don’t miss out on my free special report If You Want To be a Private Investigator Give Up… Unless You Do These Three Things. If not, you can get it right here…
Can you work from a home office as a private investigator and is it dangerous?
The short answer is, yes, you can work form home as a P.I.
I did it for years and it can be great, if… (and honestly, there’s no way to say this that doesn’t sound mean, but) if you can be left alone to work!
Working from home has three main problems for a P.I.
1. You’re family will probably not understand you are “at work”.
That means you will be frequently interrupted (at least it will feel that way) and if you are left alone (usually because everyone else has actually gone to a job), you will be drafted to put out all the brushfires that come up during the day in normal life.
Of course, being “flexible” for those things is a great benefit of working from home, but still, it can be rough.
If someone else is home during the day, you may find even more interruptions.
2. You may lose your mind.
I don’t mean you’ll go crazy, but you can lose the healthy perspective you gain by leaving the house regularly.
Working from home you may tend to spiral inward and focus too heavily on your own little world.
Get out! Remember how big the world is and that there are other people whose lives are just as important as yours.
As Matthew Kelly teaches in his great book Resisting Happiness, “Everyone is carrying a heavy load and fighting a hard battle.”
Okay, maybe just the possibility of an increased level of danger.
After all, we are working cases where people lose custody of their children, lose worker’s compensation benefits and even go to prison. You may find someday, maybe even years after a case is closed, that a guy is sitting in a bar on his daughter’s birthday complaining about how “that P.I. took my little girl from me”.
Never-mind that he’s an alcoholic who beat his wife and kid, he can still find a way to blame you. The next thing you know, he’s pounding on your door and waving a gun.
Huge Tip: Get and use a “private mail box” (that’s different from a “post office box”). Get one from a company that will hold your mail and packages then use that address for EVERYTHING.
Hopefully, when the guy climbs off his bar stool at midnight, grabs his gun and shows up at your “address”, he only finds a closed business. (Heck, with a little luck, maybe the cops are keeping an eye on the businesses at that strip mall!)
Sun Tuz wrote the classic The Art of War about 2,500 years ago, but a 21st century private investigator can learn from it including my favorite lesson: War is the Art of Deception.
I don’t like conflict.
I just don’t. But… sometimes private investigator work is adversarial. That means, frequently, one side wins and the other side loses.
Hopefully, as a P.I., you’re on the side of Truth and if you have an adversary he or she is violating someone’s rights or trust and you’re the one trying to help get good information so your client can make a wise decision.
So, when you are trying to win during a conflict, you may want your opponent to mis-read your position so they make a mistake allowing you to “win”.
For example, going into an interview, if you know a lot about what happened and who was involved, you may want to “play dumb” allowing the subject to underestimate you and maybe they will slip or give-up a piece of info they think doesn’t mean anything to you!
Do you have a lesson from The Art of War you want to share? Drop it in the comments!
Committed to your success,
Larry Kaye, P.I.
P.S. – Don’t miss this… deception works both ways, and one of the biggest mistakes you can make (in surveillance, interviews, infidelity cases or just about any time!) is to underestimate your “opponent”!