The Fraud Examiner

Using Open-Source Information: Are You Capitalizing on Business Filings?

Mason Wilder, CFE
Research Specialist, Association of Certified Fraud Examiners                                 

No matter their role or responsibilities, fraud examiners can benefit in virtually any engagement from knowing more about individuals and companies, as well as whether and how they are connected. The vast majority of jurisdictions require individuals and companies to submit certain information about their operations to an agency — such as the secretary of state, registrar of companies or an equivalent. Among the types of information required are items like business address, the owner’s name, registered agents or officers, date of incorporation and more.


It’s often best to go straight to an original source if you’re certain about the entity or jurisdiction you need to target with searches. However, some secretary of state websites charge users for each search, or per record. And in a case with many parties involved, costs can pile up quickly. There are commercial database vendors that incorporate business filings into reports on both individuals and organizations, but if cost is a concern, these types of reports will probably not be more affordable than going through agency websites.

 Instead, when beginning to search for information from business filings, fraud examiners should start with one of two open source websites: or Each of these websites make information about businesses and affiliated individuals available for free and include helpful features such as visualizations of networks or easy navigation that facilitates following leads.

The extent of information available with each entity or individual varies, but most list the source of the information and when it was obtained, so that if it’s relevant to an investigation, fraud examiners will then know where to get copies of original documents.

 It’s worth checking both sites for every search, as each one provides unique values that the other doesn’t. For example, Open Corporates features more extensive information, including items such as recent filings, branches and subsidiaries and trademark registrations, while Corporationwiki turns addresses into hyperlinks, so that users can see other companies or individuals associated with an address.

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