Note to Self: 'Use Check Lists!'

Background Investigation Check Lists Keep Clients Smiling

By By Douglas O. Crewse, CFE, TCI

Download the check list.  

Consider this situation. You’re conducting a routine audit and you notice some discrepancies in the vendor payment records. You’re tempted to launch into employee and supplier interviews that day. But you remember what happened the last time you rushed an inquiry – you missed pertinent information and delayed the case while you played catch-up. This time you take a deep breath and refer to your background investigation check lists.

Background investigation check lists (see at end of article) can ensure that you’ll complete the appropriate searches and quickly collect the right data the first time. A check list for investigating multiple entities (see at end of article) can be used in conjunction with the background investigation check list. The multiple entity log ensures every category is checked for each searched entity, especially if these searches are conducted on different dates.

These check lists are the tools that will uncover a paper trail to the illegal flow of funds or other financial diversions. Now you have some ammunition to bring with you into your interviews.

At the onset of an investigation it’s essential to record on the background investigation check list all the names and other identifying information for the entities to be searched in each category. For example, if there are several listings for an individual entity (such as similar names or derivatives of a name), a crosscheck of previous addresses, dates of births, or other information will either verify or eliminate particular listings. Any listing that isn’t eliminated by this process should be included in the report but with a qualifying statement saying that without further verification it’s not certain that the listing is the actual subject in question. Pre-planning your entities will help you visualize your assignment before conducting your research.

You should use a separate background investigation check list for each county searched so you won’t mix information from different jurisdictions. You can circle either the “POS” or “NEG” on the form to indicate whether or not you received information for each source. You can circle “OVER” to remind yourself that you wrote information on the reverse side of the check list.

The check list includes various sources, from the county clerk’s office to the secretary of state corporate records office. Following are items to look for in each of these areas.

County Clerk 

This is the jurisdiction that handles lower-level civil litigation cases.
1. Assumed name certificates
Assumed name certificates – also known in some jurisdictions as fictitious business names or D.B.A.s (doing business as) – are filed for 10-year increments for entities that are conducting business in the county. These records can be searched by both business name and individual’s name.  

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