Database Wars: Research Tools
Posted by Pamela S. on Thursday, June 21st, 2012
Investigators need information and sometimes we have to pay big bucks to get it. You have to pass on those costs to your clients. It amazes me that the general public think we somehow pull all of that info out of the air. Or would that be the airwaves that carry the Internet into our offices? Wait a minute, does the Internet arrive over airwaves? I don’t know, I’ll have to research that.
Airwaves are “Radio-frequency electromagnetic waves, usually used in the context of wireless communication.” I found this on Wiktionary in 2 seconds. For free. That’s great, but private investigators, lawyers, law enforcement and other professionals need the kind of information that isn’t easy to find. For that, you need to subscribe to some heavy duty databases. One database isn’t enough. Sometimes you may even have to venture to the library to do it old school and look through old city or telephone directories.
Many investigators prefer to use a variety of research tools to verify information. The big two data brokers, LexisNexis and Thomson Reuters CLEAR (Consolidated Lead Evaluation and Reporting) don’t provide pricing on their site. You need to consult with a sales representative. Both companies provide training, because it takes some time to learn their systems.
LexisNexis is the pioneer in providing online information for the legal, law enforcement, risk management, corporate, government, accounting and academic worlds. They operate on a global scale, serving more than 100 countries. The company was birthed from the founders of Butterworth’s, a legal publishing company that has been in operation since 1818. The corporation has gone through a number of mergers and acquisitions. LexisNexis is now a division of Reed Elsevier. They provide too many services to list. Click here.
These are actually two separate databases:
Lexis is a legal database that contains current United States statutes and laws, as well as published case law dating back to the 1700s and unpublished case opinions dating from the 1980s. The site also contains a library of motions and briefs.
Nexis aggregates content from over 20,000 global news sources and provides industry and corporate intelligence, access to over 34 billion current public records through Accurint, reference sources, biographical information, intellectual property records, legislative and regulatory filings and more, dating back to the 1970s.
Thomson Reuters CLEAR is the next generation version of the investigative tool, AutoTrackXP, which had been in existence for over a decade. CLEAR was launched in 2008 as ChoicePoint CLEAR for law enforcement use. Thomson Reuters acquired Choicepoint in 2008 and gave the product a wider scope, provided access to other industries, such as insurance and private investigators. Thomson Reuters Corporation was created when the Canadian company, The Thomson Corporation merged with the London, England based Reuters in 2008. Thomson Reuters is making a push to promote their CLEAR product. They are marketing their services for due diligence and insurance investigations. The database has a large collection of public records that include the following:
- Phone data – comprehensive cell phone, VoIP (voice over Internet protocol), landline and pager coverage of all 50 U.S. states, Puerto Rico, various territories, and Canada Reverse lookup.
- Caller ID names
- Carrier contact information for subpoena purposes
- Ported flags, for a previous cell phone company
- Consumer and credit bureau data – multiple independent sources
- Motor vehicle registration data – live access to 44 states
CLEAR’s Web Analytics search deeper than standard search engines to compile data from the following:
- Social networks
- Blogs and chat rooms
- Business and corporate data including business network sites
- Hundreds of U.S. and international newspapers, magazines, and newswires
Sounds promising, watch a demo on their website.
Nick Selby and Dave Henderson wrote a compelling article debating the merits of these databases; published on lawofficer.com, this past Tuesday. They recommend TLO (“The Last One”). Some of the services TLO offers are as follows:
- Names, Aliases, and SSNs
- Bankruptcies, Foreclosures, Liens, Judgments, and Criminal History
- Current and Historical Addresses
- Phone Numbers including Listed and Unlisted Landlines, Cell Phones, and Utilities Data
- Relatives, Neighbors and Associates
- Assets including Property, Vehicles, and More
- Licenses including Professional, Driver’s, and MoreEmail addresses and Social Networks
According to the article, TLO is free to law enforcement in perpetuity. For everyone else, TLO has a free 15 day trial period. They also clearly outline their pricing on their website. TLO has no monthly subscriber fee and no minimums. That sounds good to me.
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