Many posts at Global Asset Search openly offer or imply remuneration for provision of solicited information.
If data is sought for high-stakes litigation, the claimant would typically be ready to financially compensate those who help locate hidden assets or provide missing evidence.
How can YOU make money on providing information?
Obviously, before posting here the author of the search notice had searched through open sources, the most obvious being the Google search engine. Perhaps, public databases such as OpenCorporates or JusticeInfoNetwork were also used. Most investigators and litigators would also have access to Lexis/Nexis or a similar service providing open-source but not necessarily ‘googlable’ information.
Consequently, this web service is not about open-source data. It calls on you to search for and offer something which is not so easily obtainable.
What is of interest to our members?
- real estate, aircraft, vessel and corporate ownership information not available online. It may still be open-source, but by application or subscription to a certain Registry, Cadastre etc. You are unlikely to be able to charge a lot for it (a typical PI would get this info for single thousands of US$, if not hundreds), but it is still worth something.
- bank account information (but please do not break any laws sourcing and selling it; for example, if you are a bank employee, divulging account info is likely to be a crime in the country where the bank or its particular branch is located);
- brokerage (securities, custody) account information (same warning applies as for bank accounts: do not break any laws disclosing something you are not entitled to);
- knowledge of transactions by which the person of interest transferred assets out of his/her/its ownership. This may provide the litigator an opportunity to claw back the asset under fraudulent conveyancing or similar statute;
- knowledge of who fronts for the person of interest, who are his/her nominees, personal strawmen and trusted attorneys or trustees who could be booking assets in their names but for the benefit of the asset search target;
- information on any trusts, foundations or other (typically sham) legal arrangements shielding the target’s beneficial ownership of an asset from public view and investigators;
- a well-researched “family tree” of the target’s relatives (who can be used to book the target’s assets in their name);
- knowledge of who owes money to the person of interest. A loan or other contractual claim is also an asset that can be seized;
- information on involvement of the person of interest or his/her controlled entity in any litigation which is not on the open database;
- Etc. etc. etc.
In fact, any data which can materially assist the seeking party in location of the target’s assets (or sometimes, the target personally) may be offered for sale to the person who posted the notice. Provided – of course – that no laws are broken by collection and sale of such data.
Some notes on information search and sale legality
Laws of many (if not all) countries forbid the collection of ‘personal information’ or ‘personal data’. Definition varies from country to country but asset ownership information would normally be outside the scope of protection. In any event, check the law before disseminating anything.
Bank secrecy laws of many States provide for penalties for disclosure of bank account information. Again, check the laws and make sure they do not apply to you (or just don’t do it). The key research issue is whether the law applies to anyone in possession of bank account info (unlikely) or only to people to whom this information is entrusted first-hand (such as bank employees).
Obtaining information by deceipt is often illegal (such as, if you call the bank and impersonate its customer to get the account balance). Some private investigators do it and brag about it, but we advise you to be extremely careful with such practices.
Obtaining information by abuse of a computer network (hacking) is most certainly illegal. Unless, of course, it is sanctioned by law (but you have to be a Government agency to do it) or a court (but such situations have nothing to do with our website).
Evidence of a crime committed or planned (Eg. information on secret savings of a corrupt official) can usually be disclosed without penalty, but please do consult a competent attorney before doing that. You may have to share it with law enforcement first or wait for an official request to divulge it.
Some countries have draconian laws on data collection. Switzerland, for example, criminalizes evidence collection for a foreign authority (which includes a court of law!) without clearing this activity first through a local court. Some offshore money laundering paradises have similar laws in place. Make sure you do not do anything stupid if you act in any such country.
We can not offer you legal advice on data collection and sharing, as this is case- and country- specific, but do propose to get proper advice before dealing in data. Personal legal trouble is hardly worth the money one can get on this information marketplace.