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PI: What, When, How & Why – Asset Searches

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You’ve seen it on TV and in the movies: a woman suspects her husband is hiding something from her. She hires a private investigator to uncover what’s really going on. The private investigator tracks the husband only to discover that he has been stashing art, jewelry, and money in offshore accounts.

In a lot of cases, this type of thing isn’t just fiction. For many, it’s a cold, hard reality. However, it helps to explain why uncovering hidden assets is one of the most common requests of a private investigator or private investigation company.

The term, “asset search” might bring up a few questions like, what exactly is an asset search? When do you need to hire a private investigator to perform an asset search? How exactly does a private investigator conduct an asset search? And most importantly, why is an asset search so important?

Want to know the answer to these questions? You’re in luck! We’ve got everything you need to know about asset searches right here in this post.


Asset searches help to uncover whether or not an individual has hidden possessions or belongings such as:

  • Money
  • Real Estate/Property
  • Art
  • Jewelry

In general, there are two major types of asset searches: individual and corporate.

Individual asset searches include several types of investigations that a private investigator can help with:

  • Criminal records
  • Bankruptcies
  • Real estate
  • Deeds
  • Judgments
  • Vehicle registration

Corporate asset searches are a little more complex, but a private investigator can help businesses with:

  • Federal and state tax liens
  • Bankruptcy
  • Current contact information
  • Vehicle registration
  • Available mortgage information
  • Corporate filings

The primary goal of any asset search is to find out and prove whether or not there are any legalities or issues tied to an individual or company’s hidden possessions.


There are many situations when a client will call a private investigator to request an asset search. Some of the most common reasons include:


One of the major reasons why a client requests an asset search is if they are going through a divorce. Unfortunately, in many cases, one spouse attempts to hide monetary assets to lower their net worth. For example, if the courts require a husband to give his wife half of all his possessions, but he hides $100K in a private bank account, that amount isn’t included in his total net worth. This is illegal, as his spouse will not receive the total amount she is legally owed.

Money Owed:

Another situation when a private investigator might be called in to help in finding assets is if an individual owes the client money. A private investigator can uncover the truth: does the individual actually have the money? Or is that person lying to avoid making the payment?

Unclaimed Income:

Property is another asset that people typically try to hide. Many people will buy up several different properties and then rent them out, or flip them and sell them to someone else. Trying to hide these assets during a divorce case, or not claiming the income makes owning these properties illegal, and is classified as a hidden asset.

Business to Business:

Many different companies will often do business with other companies. In these situations, before contracts are signed, the company will contact a private investigator to dig into that other company to learn more about their assets. Asset searches are an important business tool because it can uncover details like, whether or not a company can support itself financially or is even trustworthy.


Private investigators use many different techniques and technologies to uncover hidden assets including,


Uncovering banking information is tricky. There is a fine line between what is legal and what is illegal. In general, a private investigator cannot (and should not) get their hands on private bank statements. However, there are many other resources a private investigator can turn to in order to find out whether or not an individual is hiding monetary assets. These resources include,

  • Debt collection agencies
  • Judgments collection
  • Authorized estate investigation
  • Child support collection

Database Searches

Many of the techniques private investigators use to complete a background check on an individual or company also applies to asset searches. There are many public databases out there that provide information that a private investigator can use to uncover hidden assets. In some cases, the individual goes missing, or leaves town. Database searches also help to find the individual, and in some cases, lead the private investigator straight to the hidden asset.


Private investigators will also use surveillance techniques to learn more about where the client goes and what they do during the day. Conducting surveillance helps to reveal odd behavior, some of which might include visiting a property or bank every other weekend—one that no one knows about.


Asset searches are important because the information that a private investigator discovers, can help the client to see what an individual or business owns. If the private investigator can prove that the individual or business owns hidden assets, a bailiff can seize those assets (if the individual has a judgment against them).

The information a private investigator uncovers can also be used in court. Lawyers will often hire a PI to help them with asset searches. As long as the evidence found is obtained in a legal manner, private eyes can help their clients to win big.

The Right Hire

It is very important for a private investigator to work within the boundaries of the law—in whatever state, province or city they’re working in. If a private investigator obtains information illegally, that information becomes inadmissible in court. Therefore, the private investigator must know what they can or cannot do during an asset search investigation.

In addition to a licensed private investigator, there are also only a few other professionals that are qualified to conduct an asset search. Some of these professions include,

  • Lawyer
  • Government agencies
  • Creditors
  • Businesses or corporations

Asset searches will require you to invest in the results in some way, shape, or form. Private investigators do charge a fee in order to get you the information you need. If these fees seem unusually low, or too good to be true, please think twice about hiring that private investigator or private investigation company.

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