Locating the assets of a business can be incredibly difficult, because assets can be held in many ways. For example, business assets can be held legally in a foreign country, as a corporate shell, or a personal trust. Some are liquid, i.e., cash or easily converted into cash; while others are intangible, i.e., lacking a physical presence and hard to place a value on. And still others may be hidden, either by choice or due to financial protection laws. Hiding business assets is so much easier than hiding personal assets, because one can create new umbrella accounts and shell companies to hide money. The only way to locate business assets is to start finding the ‘dots’ and then begin to connect them.
In this 5-part series, we will examine how to conduct an assets investigation and offer some practical search procedures, including Real Property, Personal Property, Investments and Trusts (Financial Assets), Intellectual Property, and Subsidiaries/Spin-offs. This week, we look at aircraft and computers (personal property) and provide examples of how to search for and investigate them.
Personal property can include transportation vehicles, and business equipment such as computers and machinery. Personal assets are classified as personal property.
Aircraft, Airlines, Pilots
The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) maintains aircraft registration standards for participating countries. Each aircraft over a certain weight must be registered with a national aviation registration number. Different countries have different registration schemes, e.g., the U.S. uses an N followed by 1-5 additional characters. Registration with ICAO’s API Data Services is free and provides 100 free calls. Thereafter, users can choose from three access plans: Booster Packs, Full-Data Packages, and Unlimited Calls.
The Federal Aviation Association (FAA), a U.S. government information center, houses data on certification for pilots, airman, airlines, and aircraft; for aircraft registration and ownership; and airports. The website holds excellent searching links and background information.
Another extremely in-depth source of aviation information of every kind Janes, formerly Jane’s Information Group. Janes reference, news, and analysis information covers the areas of security, defense, aerospace, transport, public safety, and law enforcement for aviation, as well as for vessels and railroads. The North America office is in Alexandria, VA, with offices throughout the world.
If you are searching for information on Canadian aircraft, you can access data at the federal government’s Civil Aircraft Register Database. Word to the wise: The databases have been recently “updated,” but the update has left many OSINTers scratching their heads, like this public comment from Andres on December 31, 2021:
Why is this website so unfriendly? The old one worked fine.
Having no joy with this one!
Computers and Machinery
Don’t overlook seemingly everyday objects, such as computers or construction or farm equipment. As with automobiles, these can be assets of value, depending on their depreciation and age.
UCCs will often list the major assets of a company because they are used as security for loans. You can locate UCC filings in a stat’s Secretary of State office. New York’s Secretary of State website offers NYS Standard Debtor Search, Filing Number and Date, and Other Debtor Name Search Options and Secured Party Name Search but with a major caveat: NO WARRANTY OF MERCHANTABILITY, NO WARRANTY OF FITNESS FOR ANY PARTICULAR PURPOSE.
Public record databases such as TLO, CLEAR, Accurint, and Tracers are easy and handy for viewing UCC filings.
In asset investigation or debt recovery work, have a clear starting point for your attack. Document everything—even the smallest detail—you find. Save all your files. A random mention of flying lessons on a social media page may, a few months later, prompt you to search for aircraft tail numbers. Pair your excellent searcher skills with some of these professional tools reviewed here and watch how your report fills out.
Engage Hg for your asset investigative needs!
With over twenty-five years of global experience tracking down the money, Hetherington Group conducts asset investigations unique to your needs. With hyper-focus and scientific precision, our seasoned professional analysts scour hundreds of thousands of foreign and domestic resources to provide you the data you need to protect your assets and recover those you’ve lost.
Like what you’re reading? Check out Hg’s monthly webinars!
Throughout the year, Hetherington Group offers monthly live webinars on current investigative tactics involving social networks, search engines, due diligence, the dark web, and other related topics. Participants should have some basic experience of the topic, as all programs are offered at an intermediate level, unless otherwise noted.