asset search investigation

Asset Search Investigations: A Step-by-Step Case Study

Editors Note: This article was originally published on December 13, 2018, and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Each month we work with both individuals and organizations to find assets across the country.

In this post, we will walk you through a real asset investigation we completed recently.

Below you will be introduced to the nuances of an asset investigation.

Our hope is for this story to help individuals who are needing to uncover assets.

First, what is asset search investigations?

These investigations usually help individuals and companies identify assets, verify financial statements, collect a debt, and identify fraudulent activity.

Types of assets included in a search include:

  • Bank accounts
  • Vehicles, boats, and planes
  • Real estate
  • Safe deposit boxes
  • Brokerage and retirement accounts
  • Credit cards
  • Income sources
  • Business affiliation

How to use an asset search?

Below is a list of the most common uses:

  • Judgment Collection
  • Debt Collection
  • Child Support
  • Medical Malpractice
  • Divorce
  • Estate & Probate
  • Identifying Assets Before Initiating Litigation
  • Personal Injury Cases
  • Asset Check Companies
  • Finding hidden assets
  • Background investigation

Why wouldn’t I use a low cost or free asset service?

Yes, you can always choose to work with a low cost or free asset search company to find the financial details you need about a person, but does this company get the job done?

Most of the time, no.

Either they provide inaccurate or old information, which can leave you frustrated and many times with more questions than answers.

The websites are merely accessing publicly available information. Meaning you’ll get details about things that are publicly registered, such as real estate and vehicles.

No bank account or credit information is publicly available. This information can be obtained only through means compliant with the GLB.

Be careful if you see a website that claims they can provide free accurate information about a person’s financial situation.

private investigators

Why our client needed an asset search?

So, we had this case about a company that had one of its employees embezzling money from them.

Their representative hired us to conduct an asset search investigation and check out the bank accounts of the respective employee.

They contacted us only after paying $150 for a bank account search service provided by one of the asset search companies I mentioned above. It seems that the company came back with two positive hits. They claimed the employee had two bank accounts at two different prominent Canadian banks.

We decided to take on the case and did our research. We performed a comprehensive search and weren’t surprised to find out that there weren’t any bank accounts opened in Canada. Our private investigator contacted those two banks and provided them with this person’s primary identifiers, and the banks confirmed there was absolutely nothing in the system that would justify the two positive hits.

Why would an asset search company come back with positive hits when they have no relevant information about the asset search?

Because they know that most of this information is never going to get subpoenaed or proved in court, so they aren’t risking anything.

For this reason, it is always essential to check for the company’s references and referrals and look at their reviews before paying them to do the asset search. All legitimate companies will be ready to provide the information you need and answer all your questions.

Double checking

Details are critical to a successful financial investigation

Now that we knew the asset search company had provided false information, we continued our investigation and conducted a comprehensive asset search.

But, to be able to do that, we had to know everything the client knew about the person of interest. In such cases, we usually need information on banks where that person had or currently has accounts.

Every detail is important! And no, you’re not doing the job for us if you’re providing such information.

It’s not a hide-and-seek game or a magic show! You’re collaborating so we can get results fast and with a high degree of certainty. We corroborate the information provided by our clients with the information we have and get current balances of the accounts. Our private investigators check if things have changed or if bank accounts have been closed.

In this case, the client knew about a check of their employer but failed to provide us with the information at first. Only later, he came and told us, “Well, I know he’s got an account because I have a check that he gave us for payroll deposit.” By not telling us what he knew, he wasted money and time and lessened our ability to do an effective investigation.

Positive hits, negative hits, closed and open bank accounts – determining our scope of work

Now we had this valuable piece of information, and things started to move fast. We checked that bank account and found out it was closed in August 2017. Moreover, that bank didn’t exist anymore.

Our private investigators have the necessary experience and resources to conduct a dedicated bank account search for a closing house, but this has to be a specific component of the investigation. Our scope of work needs to be determined because we have a different price point for closed bank accounts. So, it’s essential to know if you want us to look just for open, active accounts, or you need to know about the open and closed accounts too!

Another thing we need our clients to know is that we don’t have a different price for asset search investigations that come back with no hits.

The concept of no hits is that no accounts were found because something was probably missed, and we performed an incomplete search.

This is just not true!

A rigorous, effective investigation may determine there are no accounts to be found. But this also is a crucial result of a comprehensive examination. It’s vital to know both if there are accounts and if there aren’t accounts to decide if the client wants to pursue the persons, they are investigating.

All our investigations are rigorous, and we always make sure we provide clients with valuable information so they can make informed decisions. The lack of a bank account is still a fact that can determine the next step the client takes. So, if you’re working with a company that has a different price for a no hits investigation, it’s best to keep searching. This might be the perfect excuse to not perform a proper investigation or not conduct a rigorous search and still get paid.

Why no hits results matter in an asset search investigation

To return to our case, the result of the investigation was no hits. However, we managed to deliver a lot of valuable information with a high degree of accuracy. Our private investigators found out the person of interest had no accounts in Canada. We informed our client that this might mean he had moved his account in the US or somewhere else.

We also told our client that, since the guy was from Asia, he might have a bank account there with all their money. In this case, they needed to conduct an asset search investigation in each country where they think the respective person might have a bank account. You won’t find a person’s bank accounts in Great Britain if you’re doing a US search. You need to search in that specific country.


The client was delighted with the result of the investigation. What it’s important to remember, though, is that clients should never withhold information from a private investigator. It will only delay the results of the investigation and cost them more.