Online Agencies for Investigative Use
You’ll be pleasantly surprised to discover the many free investigative resources available in your community or through the Internet. You can obtain free assistance with your research through a number of agencies’ websites, a few of which are described below. You can also find many online businesses that will conduct specialised investigations for a fee.
Free AssistanceThe Community Legal Service provides free legal help to those who qualify. Its website lets you calculate your eligibility online. The agency also publishes free online fact sheets like the one titled “My Employer Is Deducting Money from My Wages—What Are My Rights?” You can download lengthier leaflets on topics including divorce and separation. Information on the site is clear and easy to understand. However, you may wish to speak to a specialist in person about very complex matters, such as immigration and welfare benefits.
You can obtain access to your Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) through www.adviceguide.org.uk. The agency’s website provides answers to common questions about your legal rights. The site can also direct you to your local CAB, if you’d like to obtain confidential advice in person or by telephone. In many situations, a CAB representative can visit your home to discuss your concerns.
The Immigration Advisory Service can assist you with immigration and asylum law. The charity’s confidential services are available free of charge to those who qualify. You can check the website to see whether you’re eligible for free assistance.The UK Statute Law Database was made available to the public in December 2006. The site’s keyword search feature allows you to quickly locate current statutes although you may be unfamiliar with their titles.
Fee-Based ServicesBecause they are operated for profit, online agencies that charge for their research, investigative, or database information services are highly competitive. Each year, online services emerge as frontrunners momentarily, only to be surpassed or purchased by a rival. Some of the major competitors have been in business for many years, but longevity is no guarantee that their services will be superior to what the next startup has to offer.
Before paying an online agency for information, do a bit of comparison-shopping on the Internet. Look for reviews or news articles about the agency or its services, but be sure they were written by reputable journalists or legal professionals. It won’t do much good to read a press release issued by the agency you’re trying to evaluate.
Some companies that offer fee-based or subscription-based information services restrict access to portions of their more sensitive data for legal reasons. Ask for a sample of what you’ll be getting before you buy. In some cases, the data you’ll be able to purchase from these online agencies is not the same information they sell to solicitors, insurers, or law enforcement agencies.
Here is a small sample of venerable online agencies:
- Accurint - a LexisNexis company with data records on individuals and businesses
- ChoicePoint - background records on individuals and businesses
- Dialog - competitive intelligence in the fields of business, science, engineering, finance, and law
- Dun & Bradstreet - research on companies, executives, and industries worldwide
- Factiva, from Dow Jones - business news and information
- Global Securities Information - research in the UK and US securities information sectors
- Hoovers - international data on companies, industries, and executives, including some free content
Online services like Hoovers sometimes offer initial search results that include names and locations at no charge, hoping you’ll pay for more detail. People Finders UK is a small family-owned tracing business that will locate long lost friends and relatives for a fee.
Don’t forget that the best sources can be the easiest to overlook, because you tend to take them for granted. Have you checked the BT Phonebook? It may contain exactly what you need.