We recently came across this news article about the business of selling citizenship and passports in the Caribbean, particularly in St. Kitts and Nevis.  Increasingly, in several island states, people are able to buy pasPassport Image.jpgsports simply by investing large amounts of money in those islands.  Most of these passports don’t reflect the holder’s place of birth and other names by which he or she has been known.  This is potentially dangerous because criminals and terrorists might be able to buy second passports from these countries and travel around undetected.  Some islands are responding to the concern by recalling passports to include further information about the holders.

This article underscored for us the need to know every name by which your investigation subject has gone, prior to embarking on any sort of deep background check or asset search.  Too often investigators rely on the output of commercial databases for background checks and other investigations.  We also use a number of proprietary commercial databases, but have found that databases 1) incorrectly connect people with the same name and 2) are terrible at connecting one person that has gone by different names.  In practice, this means that the assault record of a Nancy Smith from New Jersey might come up as a match for Nancy Smith from New York.  It might also mean that databases would miss a criminal record for a subject who was arrested or charged prior to taking her spouse’s name, if the investigator was unaware of the maiden name.

If you know every name by which a person has gone, you can run several different checks in the databases which would yield more accurate results.  That said, having all names is not just important for database searching, but for searching at the federal, state and county level as well.  For example, in order to do a New York State criminal check, you need the exact name and date of birth of the subject.  The state will not produce results for any alternate names or spellings, which is why, if we notice someone has gone by multiple names, we have to do the search several ways, despite the fact that the state charges for each search.  This also goes for civil litigation, property, lien, SEC filing and other searches to be conducted at the federal, state or local level.  If you don’t have all of the names, you simply will not get all of the results.