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Guide to Online Personal Data Brokers

A few months ago I blogged about a calculator that would sum up how much your personal data would cost [3] and, at least for me, it was an eye-opening experience as to how little it costs to learn so much about a particular person. The calculator was based on the going rates are a number of different data brokers (they listed Accurint, Aristotle, ChoicePoint, ChoiceTrust, DocuSearch, Experian, KnowX, Merlin Data, and Pallorium) but the bottom line is many of those data brokers get their information from one Lexis Nexis – “the world’s largest collection of public records.” (among other things)

I went to each of the various data broker’s sites to see what they offered and it was once again an eye opening experience as to what these folks offered. Keep an eye out, I might start researching myself and seeing what turns up!

Accurint [4] – A LexisNexis broker that “is the most widely accepted locate-and-research tool available to government, law enforcement and commercial customers.” Some of the services they offer:

Aristotle [5] – Aristotle caters to the political community but if you search their Flash site you can find a button called ID Verification, which takes you to Integrity [6]. “Integrity is an international fraud prevention, age and identity verification service that integrates a government-issued ID database check, algorithms and web-based signature capture. The service provides merchants and government agencies with Patriot Act compliance and compliance with age verification laws and guidelines.”

ChoicePoint [7] – ChoicePoint bills itself as the nation’s premier source of data to the insurance industry.

ChoiceTrust [8] – Poke around the site for a few seconds and you see that you can review the credentials of a healthcare professionals (doctors, nurses, chiropractors), review nursing home credentials, run family security background checks (for nannies, caregivers, house cleaners), and look up lawsuits, liens and judgements against daycare, contractors, mechanics, etc. You also run a background search on anyone for pre-employment screening with reviews of public records. Want to check the insurance records of your home? The CLUE report is from ChoiceTrust too.

DocuSearch [9] – Taken from Forbes’ Best of the Web Analysis: “The site offers a rich and well-organized trove of search offerings covering eight categories, including Drivers & Vehicles, Property, Telephone and Criminal. Menus within each category allow you to focus your search. Under Financial, for instance, you can search bank account activity and nationwide or state bankruptcy filings. Free searches include links to state sex offender and deadbeat dad databases. Charges range from $19, for a specific name search, to $179, for current employment information. New clients are contacted by Docusearch to verify their identities. For certain searches, mostly those involving sensitive financial information, you must submit documentation explaining the purpose of your search.” Note you have to explain the purpose of your search… scary huh?

Experian [10] – One of the big three credit reporting agencies.

KnowX [11] – “the place to start to find accurate information about businesses, people and assets, and to discover the critical relationships between them. Run a background check, locate assets, verify property value, and more using nationwide public records compiled from official data sources.”

Merlin Data [12] – Also called Merlin Information Services, this site scares me. I’ve seen presentations where someone found all the personal information of someone else knowing only a few small details. What’s scary is if you look at the national databases it searches [13] to find information.

Pallorium [14] – “a licensed Investigative Agency, with offices and affiliates worldwide. Since 1980, Pallorium’s investigators have successfully closed more than five thousand (5,000) cases, ranging from homicide investigations to missing persons cases to various types of sophisticated financial frauds.”