Finding financial assets online – When to start the investigation
In situations where you’re investigating fraud, heading to court, enforcing a judgment, or preparing for a divorce case, it’s likely that you’ll need to conduct an asset investigation. You’ll want to look at the evidence and determine net worth, observe spending habits, and identify assets and sources of income that can go towards debt repayment. You may also need to determine if someone is living beyond their means or hiding assets overseas.
Finding financial assets usually involves a combination of investigative methods, each supplying information needed for completing the next step. One of the most obvious methods is to analyze financial statements, bank account documents, and other records. You might also conduct surveillance to observe someone’s comings and goings and take photos of possible vacation homes, cars, and other assets. Another option is to interview friends, family, or business associates.
But what if you don’t have the necessary permission or court order to access financial records? What if you’re not ready for surveillance, because you’re not sure where to look? And how do you identify known associates for your interviews? Then there’s the possibility that the financial records don’t tell an accurate story. That’s where another investigative technique comes in handy – finding financial assets online.
Online public records such as deeds, property assessments, and court filings often lead to assets. They can help identify business partners, past employers, accountants that may have helped hide assets. News, social media, and other online sources help complete the picture.
In fact, most asset investigations involve online sources and strategies. The big question, though, concerns when to start. Many don’t start early enough or they quit too soon. As a result, they may not be getting the best answers.
So, when is it a good time to start? At what point in the investigation is it appropriate to start your online strategy? Here are some suggestions for determining the timeline:
Before requesting a subpoena for bank records or openly asking a lot of questions, take some time to assess the situation. Avoid setting off any alarms, since it only encourages people to hide their assets. Take a look at someone’s assets to help you decide if going further will be worth it. Anything you find at this point can be used later, and you’ll conduct a more targeted and informed investigation – without tipping off your subject too early in the process.
During your investigation, use online sources to verify what you’ve found. Were your subjects forthcoming, or did they leave out the important parts? Perhaps the numbers have been manipulated and they don’t tell the whole story. Did an interview or something you found in the documents create a new investigative lead? Find out what’s important enough to your subject – like their prized gun collection or new top-of-the-line Mercedes – that it can be used as leverage when pursuing debts. Online research is an iterative process, and it doesn’t stop when other investigative techniques begin.
What else do you need to know to move ahead with next actions? Were there any loose ends that should be tied up? You may need to monitor the situation after the investigation for any changes that can affect the outcome of an ongoing court case. Set up alerts through Google and the premium databases for news stories. Go back to the public records to see if any assets have been acquired or sold, and don’t forget social media profiles for updates. Fraudsters and their associates often relax after an investigation and may not be as vigilant about hiding assets.
Online asset research isn’t a one-time step in the process. Used early and often in combination with other methods, it can make a big difference in your asset investigations.