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Book Review: Online Records

​BRB Publications;; 624 pages; $22.50.

Extremely well organized, the fourth edition of The Manual to Online Public Records is an excellent resource for any researcher—whether experienced or a novice. The book is laid out in a logical fashion and accomplishes the authors' stated intentions: to provide the researcher with facts, specific resource sites, and online search methods to improve the likelihood of a successful search. The search targets can be individuals, businesses, news articles, social media sites, government sites, and so on.

The book outlines the fundamentals of conducting public records searches and explains how to evaluate various sites in order to maximize the search results. It details the differences between public records, public information, and personal information. Although these differences may seem apparent, the ways they are intertwined can be confusing.

Analyses of the different types of private sector sources and record vendors explain the differences between what each makes available to the client (researcher). Private sector vendors are segmented into classifications of distributors, gateways, search firms, verification firms, and record retrievers. Each one is clearly defined and categorized to eliminate wasted time, effort, and money. This book also discusses the potential legal and reputational ramifications of failing to heed the disclaimers associated with each individual site.

One point that is exemplified in the text is to heed the adage of "Garbage In and Garbage Out." Many public records are created by humans who manually enter data. Thus, some information will contain errors and typos that will hinder a search.

After the first 50 pages or so, the book lists specific websites and Web addresses for federal and state-by-state searchable sites. It is very easy to follow and follows a logical sequence. This well-documented book should be an integral part of any researcher's or investigator's arsenal.

Reviewer: James E. Whitaker, CPP, PCI, CFE (Certified Fraud Examiner), has more than 40 years of experience in law enforcement and private sector investigations. He served on the ASIS Investigations and Insurance Fraud Councils and serves on the Healthcare Security Council and the PCI Review Course Faculty. Whitaker has also been active with the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners.