Conducting research for public records used to be a tedious task filled with phone calls and trips to libraries, courthouses and other public agencies. Fortunately, these days you can find many records you may need – from background checks on employees to corporate filings – on the Internet with the click of a mouse. And sometimes you can obtain public records free of charge. Three ways researching public records can benefit a small business include:
- You can find criminal information on potential employees.
- You can find detailed corporate information on competitors.
- You can find judgments, liens and bankruptcy records when considering buying real estate or another business, conducting background checks, or when assessing deals with customers, clients or business associates.
Finding corporate and court recordsCorporate records searches are a powerful tool. These documents may include anything from corporate filings information to bankruptcy records to business licenses.
Public background information on employeesFinding criminal background information on a potential employee is typically high on the list for any employer. This is normally included in a background check package, and there are countless places to find this information on the Web.
People and address searchesAre you looking for someone or want to know an address? It's probably best to start with a free search engine, which normally has a people locator feature.
Search private recordsThere are a number of records you may seek on a potential employee that are nonpublic. These private records include medical records, social security numbers, credit information and employment history.
- Squeeze the most out of free sites before paying for information.
- Beware: Public records (particularly free ones) on the Web may contain partial files.
- Can the information you find be documented by more than one site? Check out a Web site's credibility by possibly calling its information line.
- A good way to gauge the credibility of the site is to see who else has links to it, or read the "About Us" section.
- The Web, and even the courthouse, may not be the most updated information available. There may be a lag time from when something is filed to when it actually is put into the system.