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How to choose between specialized and unified public records software

Public records are used in a variety of professional applications such as identity verification and background checks, fraud investigations, risk assessment and management, financial crime prevention and investigation, and law enforcement investigations. What’s more, public records users often leverage disparate technology platforms to achieve their goals.

It’s not the tools; it’s how you use them

While the records that drive the various kinds of public records technology are often nearly identical, the way they’re employed makes all the difference for users. For example, birth, utility, vehicle, court, and business records will be used by one entity to verify identities, another to find people, and yet another to conduct criminal and fraud investigations.

When a corporate risk department or government benefits department needs to onboard new clients, they must employ an ID verification vendor. ID verification solutions emphasize financial records and business ownership, but they typically don’t include investigative tools, which provide data such as criminal records, former addresses, and education or work history. Therefore, when crime or fraud occurs, these same departments must then leverage an additional vendor (that uses largely the same records) to conduct their investigation. The siloing of applications and vendors is mostly the result of the regulatory complexity surrounding public records services.

While investigative tools do an excellent job of enabling users to perform quick searches, they aren’t foolproof. Searching for people or businesses can be difficult without core pieces of information – legal name, addresses, Social Security number, etc. As investigative tools are often employed after crime or fraud occurs, users sometimes have only falsified or incomplete information.

Another public records technology platform comes in the form of risk management tools, which often integrate with ID verification services, but can be rigid and inflexible. Providers tend to fall into one of two groups:

1.     Like a typical web search, some risk management tools function as little more than automated investigation, delivering a group of records for the user to search through. Even if a user enters an accurate piece of information, the list of results may be outdated, incomplete, or contain irrelevant information.

2.     They leverage public records to assess risk in a way that doesn’t consider the risk tolerance of each individual or business utilizing the tool. For instance, criminal records or bankruptcy filings might be a deal breaker for a financial institution considering a loan application, but not for a government agency determining benefits eligibility.

To integrate, or not to integrate that is the question

While there are benefits to employing specialized public records services for people finding, background checks, or ID verification, there are important efficiencies to be gained by integrating solutions.

A single, unified public records platform enables users to consolidate workflows, reduce data discrepancies, share data between users and departments, develop a full picture of their subject or client, and make critical connections that siloed solutions can miss.

Unified platforms offer the most robust features and user experience, such as capturing and indexing messages across a wide breadth of digital communications, searching across archived communications, tracking and fulfilling public records requests from multiple users, and more. The resources required to create a unified solution mean that they are only offered by providers with deep expertise in public records, technology, and user experience.

Time is money, and a unified solution may save you both

The goal of all public records providers is to facilitate speedy and accurate answers for their clients. Within their areas of focus, most providers are successful at fulfilling users’ needs. Integration, while challenging, provides vastly improved functionality for users. While most clients will not require all the functionality offered by a unified program, users can build a customized public records solution that meets their needs. Public records customers using multiple resources would do well to evaluate their current solutions against a unified public records solution.


Thomson Reuters CLEAR