Fishing for Debtors

We frequently get calls from lenders and debt-management companies that are looking for a resource to help them cast a net for all new debtors with judgments or tax liens. Often they notice our Bankruptcy, Judgment & Tax Lien pay database and inquire about the search criteria. Can they run a search by area and date and get a list of all debtors with recent judgments and/or tax liens?

Regrettably, the answer is No. While that database contains nationwide bankruptcy, judgment and tax lien filings going back ten years, and updated weekly, we can only query the database by Name, or Name and Address, or Social Security Number/Tax ID Number (although the last method is not recommended for judgment searches). So it is a great resource if you need to search for filings belonging to a specific person or company across an entire state (or nationwide). It is not designed to give you a list of all debtors in your city, county or state.

If you require a search for the latter, you might consider a few of these options:

1. The large legal research solutions like Lexis-Nexis, WestLaw and ChoicePoint often have judgments and tax liens in their mega databases. Those services can simultaneously search many different types of databases at once, by almost any type of term or keyword. Once you understand the search logic they employ, you can craft very targeted searches. The downside to using these mega services? Typically they require long-term accounts with very high monthly fees. Also, their data is often weeks old, as it must be sent in batches by the courts and other government agencies, then processed internally.

2. Some companies are able to set up accounts with specific county government offices, and pay a monthly fee to acquire direct data uploads on a regular basis. Essentially they have cut out the middle-men like Lexis-Nexis.

3. You can also try doing simple searches right at the county clerk-recorder websites. Often those online databases include tax liens and judgments, and allow a search by date range in addition to the traditional searches by name or filing number. Each county is different, so you’ll have to investigate them on a case-by-case basis. To find those types of recorded documents databases, use this directory, and select your state from the list under the “Categories” heading. Each state page will include a list of clerk-recorder links organized by county.