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Fact Finding: Locating & Researching Persons, Companies, and Property: Overview

This guide offers paid and free resources for locating contact information, financials, and other information about individuals and business entities.

Purpose of this Guide

This guide offers an overview of free and paid resources available for researching background information about people, companies, and property. Resources include free websites, paid databases from Lexis, Westlaw and Bloomberg and databases made available for free to Philadelphia Free Library patrons (see the Location box for more information).

This guide is organized by what you are researching (individuals, companies or property) with the free sites page containing information on all three. The Restraints on Usage page covers some privacy issues that may arise when researching personal information. 

Monitoring Changes--Free Alerts & Similar Services

If you are researching or monitoring a company, person, or property on an on-going basis (whether it be a client or just someone or something else of interest), there are a number of automatic alerts you can set up so you are notified as soon as new information becomes available. Below are instructions for setting up free alerts in various internet browsers.

Google Alerts:

1. Go to: https://www.google.com/alerts
2. Enter your search terms. Use quotes around words to search for them as a phrase. Examples:

  • "Jonathan Smith" docket
  • Amerigas and merger
  • "123 Anywhere Dr Philadelphia"

3. Click "Show Options" to select how often alerts will be emailed/delivered to you, how many results you wish to receive (all of them or "only the best"), what email address or RSS feed you want them delivered to and whether you wish to limit your results to just "news."

4. Click "Create Alert"

NOTE: you do not need to have a Google or Gmail account to set up alerts. Simply enter any email address in the box to the left of the blue "Create Alert" button but if you are signed in to Google/Gmail it will give you the option to select gmail as your recipient email address or any other email address that you have registered with your Google account.

Bing Interests:

See article for more information.
1. Go to: http://www.bing.com/news
2. Login with or create a Microsoft account
3. Click "Add News Interests" button in upper left  Add news interest button

4. Click to "Add Interest" in the finance (to follow company stocks/financial news) or news section and enter your search terms--person or company name, property address etc.
5. Updates and new stories will then appear at the bottom of your Bing homepage

NOTE: Bing does not have an option for automatic emailing of new stories. Reviewing them on your Bing page is the only means of access but you CAN filter by date to avoid having to read the same articles repeatedly.

Yahoo Finance Watchlist:

1. Login or Register for a Yahoo.com account by clicking "sign up" here: https://www.yahoo.com/ 

2. Go to http://finance.yahoo.com/

3. Search for a company name and then click on the add to watchlist link on the left side of the page

4. Click on blue "View Watchlists" button on the far right to see current stock information for that company and others that you add

NOTE:  Watchlist information is only accessible from the Yahoo Finance page while you are logged in and will not be emailed to you

Yahoo Stock Performance Alerts

1. Go to http://finance.yahoo.com/stock-alerts/

2. Login with Yahoo.com account or click the "sign up" here button to create one

3. Choose between Stock Watch or Daily Summary options and click the Create button below your choice

4. Name your alert and either add companies already on your Watchlist (see directions above) or add companies by ticker symbol & select which email address the alert will be sent to. The two options differ:

  • Stock Watch Alerts--emailed as occur, select parameters from: price drops below dollar amount, price rises above dollar amount, price drops by % or price rises by percentage
  • Daily Summary--stock information emailed once per day, you select the time of delivery.

5. Click "save alert"

 

TalkWalker Alerts (Social Media Analytics & Monitoring Tool)

Billed as an alternative to Google Alerts and aimed primarily at company or brand tracking but can be used to follow mentions of any keyword or name. 


1. Go to http://www.talkwalker.com/alerts

2. Enter search terms/query, select what types of results you want (everything or news, blogs, discussions), how often you want to receive it, whether you wish to limit it to a specific language, whether you want all results or only the best results (based on their algorithm) and enter the email address where you want your results delivered to.

3. Click the box to agree to their terms and then on the "CREATE Alert" button

4. You can go in and manage your alerts by logging in (you will receive a password after you've set up your first alert)

Results will be emailed to you on the schedule selected and will appear as a digest with hyperlinks. Results come from all across the globe (unless you limited your search to a specific language) and from websites, blogs, reddit discussions and other sources. NOTE: even if you select the "All results" option, your results list in each email will be limited to 50 results. You may need to set up multiple alerts with slightly different wording to capture everything.

Owler

Owler is a crowd-sourced company tracking system. It creates a company profile for your company and then allows you to set up alerts for your competitors to be emailed to you on a daily basis.The Company profiles show you number of employees, basic company information, financials if available and links to current social media and web stories about your company. Also offers screen grabs of your company homepage over time so you can see how the site has changed. Must set up a free account to access.

1. Set up an account at www.owler.com  (you will be prompted to enter your company name)

2. After logging in, click on the settings icon and then click on the "My Dashboard" link

3. Enter competitor names in the search box on the left click on the settings icon again and then on the "My Account" link

4. Check off the newsletters or reports you wish to have emailed to you. The Owler Snapshot report gives you information about your competitors. 

The email reports you receive will vary. Some will just offer links to current news stories while quartlery reports will offer analysis of social media presence, blog traffic, revenue etc. After you've added competitors, you can click on their company logo to go to their full company report. 

Location of Resources Referenced in this Guide

Resources for this guide have been drawn from many sources. Free resources simply feature the name of the page/database and the link to that resource while databases found in paid resources (or resources not available on the open web) will give the name of the database and an abbreviation to the source of that database whether it be Lexis, Westlaw, Bloomberg or another law school database or a database provided by another library such as the main campus Falvey Library or the Free Library of Pennsylvania. The key below offers a brief explanation about these resources as well as access information where appropriate.

Monitoring Changes--Paid Alert Services

Westlaw

1. For a specific publication (such as Philadelphia Inquirer):

  • Click on "Alerts" link in upper right
  • Click on "Create Alert" then on "Publication Alert" link
  • Complete form naming your alert, selecting the publication that you wish, entering the email address where you want to receive the alert and other information.

2. For a specific search query: (ex. run search in EDGAR 10-K Section Search for "Jiffy Lube")

  • Run search and then click on bell symbol on right side of page to "Create Westclip Alert"
  • Complete form, entering search terms, specifying publications to search and set up delivery preferences

Lexis Advance

For a specific search query (ex.Open the Hoover's Company Records database and run a search for Coca-Cola"

  • Filter by location, keyword, industry etc if desired
  • Click on bell symbol to right of "results for" heading at the top of the page
  • Add email address and delivery preferences 

Note: Alerts are not availble for most databases on the Public Records search page.

Bloomberg BNA

Set up alerts to run for a specific search query (notification of new issues of publications is not available for Bloomberg).

  • Run search in news, BNA Reports or other databases
  • Look for "create search alert" link at bottom of Search Criteria box
  • Select frequency of delivery and add your email address
  • Alerts will be emailed and also saved to Bloomberg home screen under "Saved Searches & Alerts" tab

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