Locating the assets of a business can be incredibly difficult, because assets can be held in many, many ways. Among the many creative money management methods available, business assets can be legally held in a foreign country, as a corporate shell, or a personal trust. Some are liquid—cash or easily converted into cash. While some are intangible—lacking a physical presence and may be hard to place a value upon. And still others may be hidden—cleverly by choice to hide wealth or hard to find because of government 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.

Typical assets controlled by a business include: Real Property; Personal Property; Investments and Trusts (Financial Assets); Intellectual Property; and Subsidiaries/Spin-offs.

In our 5-Part Industry Undercover series, we will examine how to conduct an assets investigation and offer some practical search procedures follows. This week, we look at aircraft and computers (personal property) and provide examples of how to search for and investigate them.

The International Civil Aviation Organization 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 (the U.S. uses an N followed by 1-5 additional characters).

Aircraft, Airlines, Pilots

The main government information center regarding certification for pilots, airman, airlines, and aircraft, and for aircraft registration and ownership, and airports is the Federal Aviation Association (FAA).

One of the leading private information resource centers for searching flights, pilot certifications, and regulatory overviews is Albuquerque-based www.Landings.com. The website holds excellent searching links and background information. Another extremely in-depth source of aviation information of every kind is Jane’s Information Group. Jane’s 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 information at the federal government’s Civil Aircraft Register Database.

Computers and Machinery

Don’t overlook seemingly everyday objects, such as computers or construction or farm equipment. As with automobiles, these are 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. Each state has a division of its Secretary of State office that handles UCC records; records, or at least the index, can be searched directly from that agency’s website.

Use public record database sources such as TLOCLEARAccurint, and Tracers to find these sites; it is 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.

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