Bank Record Searches Explained
Privacy laws, banking regulations and security make bank record searches and asset searches a complicated process in most countries around the world, especially in developed nations such as the United States. However, the information is obtainable and a professional private investigation firm with the proper connections, experience and resources can uncover hidden or unknown assets, both physical and financial.
The United States, Switzerland, Australia, Canada and the U.K. all have strict privacy laws in place, and often individuals, attorneys and even private investigators hit a dead end when searching for assets or bank accounts on an individual or business. In the U.S., the Right to Financial Privacy Act from the FDIC prohibits financial institutions from disclosing bank records on customers without consent, or without a court order or subpoena. Other developed nations have similar privacy laws in place. While these legal restrictions are major obstacles for private investigators and attorneys, they do not always mean that such information cannot be uncovered within the legal framework of the specific country or jurisdiction. Rules protecting account information are not always followed, as bank managers and government officials would like customers to believe. Privacy laws are also limited in scope, and statutes do not always cover all third parties. In many countries, regulatory and other credit agencies may have access to account information, therefore creating a back door to such data. In some developing countries, bank account data may be shared despite privacy concerns.
Many private investigators claim that obtaining account information without customer consent is not possible, or against the law. Others say they can get the information, but won’t specify how it’s done. In short, it can be done with the proper connections. Knowing how to obtain the information legally is a closely guarded secret, that isn’t often shared. Each country is different, so referring to U.S. laws is of little value when a client is searching for assets or bank records in the Philippines, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Brazil, Sweden or the Netherlands, for example. With that said, clients should be aware that bank records obtained this way are almost always unofficial and not on bank letterhead, and as a result usually cannot be used as evidence in a court of law. (Obtaining the actual copies of statements is usually illegal and would require a court order). In most cases, however, clients simply need the data for informational purposes, to be used by the client in his or her decision making. Uncovering bank accounts can help individuals and businesses mitigate risk.
Certain professional international investigators have contacts throughout the banking industry and in government agencies and can conduct a national search for bank accounts. Results will usually include the bank name, branch location, account type, and last reported balance, and other basic details for each account found. For an additional fee, the investigator may also obtain unofficial statements or transaction history.
Prices reflect the level of difficulty in obtaining such information, and vary according to country.
Vice President for Wymoo® International, Paul Fletcher, says asset searches are a challenge for private investigators around the world. “Investigators, banks and government agencies have different abilities and limitations according to the specific laws in the country where the search is conducted,” says Fletcher. “Understanding the legal framework helps investigators obtain evidence in a lawful manner.”
Why Bank Account Searches are Conducted
Individuals may hire an investigator to conduct a national bank account search on a potential spouse or in a divorce case. Investors often want to know if a buyer is qualified, or if a potential business partner truly has the cash flows as claimed. A business may want to verify a supplier’s net worth, or bank records may be searched as part of an international due diligence prior to a merger or acquisition.
Clients often want to know if their potential business partner is honest about his or her investment or ability to meet financial obligations. Screening a business partner carefully is a prudent practice and can save thousands or millions down the road. Due diligence is a form of insurance, and asset searches are often a key element in this process. When there is one or more foreign countries involved, the risk is much higher.
Other Assets in an International Asset Search
In some cases, an individual or company will put names of assets in the name of another person or business to hide assets. This is typical in a divorce case where the subject has a new partner, and doesn’t want to lose money in a divorce settlement. In this situation, a lawyer will usually hire an investigator to conduct an asset search. Bank accounts, property, homes and other assets are often hidden.
Reputable private investigation companies can uncover many other types of assets. Property records can be searched at the local and national level in many countries. Investigators can determine if the individual is a business owner, and then delve into the assets of the business to determine approximate annual revenue and other key data. In some cases, investigators may even conduct surveillance and photograph the subject’s home or office, vehicles, boats, etc. Land, aircraft, investment property, percentage ownership in a public company, and other information uncovered during a due diligence investigation or asset search can help clients make informed decisions in their personal and business relationships. This information also often serves as key evidence in legal cases, lawsuits and divorce cases where assets are important. (There is usually no point in suing someone if that person or business has no assets or money).
Uncovering evidence of physical and financial assets is a complex process which requires the skills and resources of a trained professional investigator. Such investigations are labor intensive, so expect to pay a fair price the information. Skilled investigators conducting asset searches often rely on their training and contacts, database searches, as well as confidential informants and surveillance. Remember, depending on the country and specific laws in that jurisdiction, information uncovered may not be admissible in a court of law.
Be safe and verify,
© 2012 Wymoo International