If you are just opening your practice or can’t afford to hire a private investigator when you need one, consider applying for a subscription to an investigative database such as TLOxp, and do your own investigating.
TLOxp’s database is made up of public records, publicly available information and proprietary information, including credit headers. TLOxp can be used to:
- Create background dossiers on people and businesses
- Conduct due diligence
- Find addresses and phone numbers (sometimes even unlisted or mobile numbers) for hard-to-locate people
- Identify someone’s possible employer
- Locate real property (deeds, mortgages, foreclosures and evictions; availability will vary by jurisdiction)
- Locate limited personal property assets (cars — not bank accounts or stocks)
- Uncover criminal histories (availability is also limited because not every jurisdiction sells criminal records to TLO or other investigative databases)
- Find vehicle sightings
- Uncover bankruptcies
You can subscribe to the service, pay a flat rate or pay per transaction. The cost to search is $2 to retrieve basic contact information and $10 to retrieve a “Comprehensive Report.” (This doesn’t include a “Vehicle Sighting Report,” which is $25). There is a 30-day free trial offer.
Investigative Database: Digging Deeper
Despite it using more sophisticated search techniques than any of the free public records sites, searching TLOxp is easy. TLOxp offers “regular” name searching and all types of “reverse” searching (by address, phone number, Social Security number, email address, and more). We’ve even created a successful search by using two different people’s first names (no last names) combined with various cities they once lived in and the city they currently lived in.
Like all databases that provide credit headers, TLOxp requires you to get credentialed prior to using its database, so you will have to fill out an application and set up an account in advance of use. If your account is approved, be aware that you will not have access to full dates of birth and full Social Security numbers until you submit to a site visit. (Although we have been told by some law librarians that they simply had to fill out extra paperwork.)
Most investigative databases that offer you immediate access do not include credit headers (so their information may not be as fresh), and they do not offer as much information as TLOxp. They will also cost more, so take the time and sign up for TLOxp before you need it.
For more details on how to search TLOxp and also about competitor databases offered by Lexis and Westlaw, check out the authors’ book “The Cybersleuth’s Guide to the Internet,” 13th edition (2015).
Carole Levitt, President of Internet for Lawyers, is a lawyer, law librarian, and legal educator with more than 30 years in the legal field. She served as Chair of the Executive Board of the California State Bar Law Practice Management Section’s Executive Council. Mark Rosch is Vice-President of Internet for Lawyers, and a frequent speaker on the topics of Internet research and using technology more effectively in the practice of law. Together, they have conducted hundreds of in-person MCLE programs for bar associations, law firms, corporations and other professional organizations.
Related: Must-Have Tech Tools to Start Up a Law Practice and 10 Tips for Internet Research on the Cheap