Asset Investigations for Litigation and Recovery

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The main purpose of an asset investigation is to identify the tangible and intangible assets owned by an individual or business. Asset investigations are necessary in various situations, such as when collecting on a debt, recovering a judgment, child support, and alimony cases, when purchasing a business.

This article will provide an overview of asset investigations. We’ll discuss what qualifies as an asset and who might need an investigation. In addition, we’ll cover the types of companies that perform such work, the costs involved, the legal considerations, and more.

What are Assets?

For this article, we’ll treat those items owned by an individual as personal assets and those owned by a business or corporation as business assets. Examples of personal assets include:

  • Cash in bank accounts, savings accounts, money markets, Certificates of Deposit (CD), and even offshore accounts
  • Personal property such as automobiles, jewelry, art, etc.
  • Contents of safety deposit boxes
  • Investments (e.g., mutual funds, stocks, bonds, etc.)
  • Residential and commercial real estate
  • Insurance policies with cash value
  • Cryptocurrencies, digital coins, and tokens

Examples of Business Assets include:

  • Cash and cash equivalents
  • Fixed assets such as buildings, furniture, and office equipment
  • Land
  • Inventory
  • Vehicles, watercraft, aircraft
  • Intellectual property
  • Patents and trademarks

In addition to identifying assets, investigators seek to identify additional financial information such as bankruptcies, tax liens, judgments, UCC filings, hidden accounts, etc.

In addition, the investigation seeks to identify fraud and criminal activity such as money laundering, tax evasion, fraud, and embezzlement. A criminal records search may be included as part of the package or a full-blown background check.

Asset Search Companies

Many different types of companies may conduct asset searches. Such companies include: 

  • Asset investigators (investigators who specialize in investigating financial matters and running asset searches for both individuals and companies)
  • Private investigators and investigation firms
  • Collection agencies and debt collectors
  • Law firms and individual attorneys
  • Background check companies that are checking someone’s financial history

Sample Asset Investigation Scenarios

Before Litigation – If you are suing a person or company for punitive damages, an asset search will reveal if they have enough assets to make the lawsuit worthwhile. An asset check will uncover  financial accounts, verify equity in real estate properties, 

Judgment Recovery – When someone wins a judgment in court, it is their responsibility to collect the judgment from the debtor. A professional can help investigate the financial background of the debtor to prove they can pay. Learn more about Judgment Recovery.

Child Support and Alimony – In divorce cases, a private investigator can dig into the spouse’s financial life responsible for making child support or alimony payments. A spouse obligated to pay support may hide assets to understate their ability to pay.

When Purchasing a Business – Before someone purchases a business, it is important to have a true picture of its financial condition. An asset inquiry will help to ensure the business is free of debts, liens, or bankruptcies. In addition, it will help to paint a clear picture of the true assets and liabilities of the business.

Estates and Inheritance – Many die without an official will or financial estate plan. Unfortunately, this leaves the survivors without truly understanding the deceased person’s estate. Often, an asset investigator can uncover the details of cash, bank accounts, investment accounts, real property, insurance policies, physical valuables, safety deposit boxes, etc.

Can Private Investigators Look Up Bank Accounts?

Private Investigators don’t have the legal authority to access information in financial accounts such as bank accounts, investment accounts, etc. However, with the appropriate access credentials, some investigation agencies may be able to pull credit reports from one or all of the consumer credit reporting agencies. Some firms have access to conduct background checks, financial investigations, etc.

Credit reports will reveal financial liabilities such as mortgages, credit cards, loans, etc. In addition, the report will provide the payment history, which indicates the individual or company’s creditworthiness. However, Private Investigators can’t legally access individual accounts.


How Much Does an Asset Investigation Cost?

If the investigation involves the recovery of money, firms will most likely charge a percentage of the amount recovered. Many firms will require that the amount recovered be above a certain threshold. Generally, a firm will require that the recovery amount be at least $3000.

If the firm only runs an online search through its many databases, it may charge a flat fee. Prices will likely vary between individual and business searches. Our research shows that these services range between $150 and $650.

Investigative firms usually don’t charge an hourly rate for this work. Due to the amount of time that could be required to do an asset investigation, I recommend that you avoid paying investigators by the hour.

Legal Guidelines and Considerations

Private investigators can only access publicly available information through public records searches. Any private investigator’s use of credit reporting information must comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act and the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act.

Learn More About Asset Investigation

How To Do Financial Asset Investigations: A Practical Guide for Private Investigators, Collections Personnel and Asset Recovery Specialists
  • Ronald L. Mendell (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 242 Pages – 09/22/2017 (Publication Date) – Charles C Thomas Pub Ltd (Publisher)

A Practical Guide for Private Investigators, Collections Personnel, and Asset Recovery Specialists – This book emphasizes using public records and online resources and correlating the data from different open sources. It is an excellent primer for private investigators, recovery specialists, and collection agents who must learn how to uncover financial information. The book includes checklists for typical asset investigations and has a helpful glossary. In addition, it explores how the dark web (aka DarkNet) is used by criminals, especially in organized crime.

Related Articles

  • Collection Agencies – A collection agency is a business that specializes in collecting overdue debts on behalf of creditors. They work to recover outstanding payments through various means, such as phone calls, letters, negotiations, and legal actions if necessary.
  • Judgment Recovery – Judgment recovery is the process of enforcing a court-issued judgment to collect a debt owed by the judgment debtor through various methods, such as asset seizure, wage garnishment, or liens.
  • List of cryptocurrencies, online trading platforms, and more.

Questions and Comments

Please comment below if you have any questions or comments about Asset Investigations.

Michael Kissiah is the owner of Brandy Lane Publishing, LLC, which owns and operates a small portfolio of websites, including eInvestigator.com. Michael created eInvestigator.com more than 20 years ago after working as a private investigator in the state of Florida. Since that time, he has become an expert at how to find information online and has written over 1000 articles on topics related to the investigation industry. In addition, he is the author of the "Private Investigator Licensing Handbook", available at Amazon.com.

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