How to Search International Bank Records and Accounts

An Expert's View about Banking Industry in the United States

Last updated: 20 Apr 2012

The Basics

Searching for assets, property and bank records is a unique challenge in every country.  No two countries are exactly alike when it comes to asset searches and bank records.  If someone claims that bank records are not obtainable, they are simply uninformed, or unaware of the capabilities of professional investigators who specialize in international investigation services.  Bank accounts can be included in most assets searches.

Laws on privacy and banking regulations make asset searches and bank records a secretive process in many countries around the world.  Often those with the know how or technical ability are trained private investigators with contacts in the financial industry or other regulatory bodies with access to the banking system.  However, there are several ways to conduct an international asset and bank records search, and these methods are not illegal or unethical if conducted properly.   As with a competent attorney, a trained investigator can often obtain the evidence he needs within the framework of the law, even if there obstacles.  Most assets, including bank records, are obtainable by a private investigation firm with the proper connections, experience and resources.  Investigators routinely and accurately uncover hidden assets, including bank accounts, on a daily basis.

What about Privacy Laws?

Despite such obstacles designed to protect privacy on businesses and individuals in the United States, Switzerland, Australia, Canada and the U.K., bank account and asset searches are still conducted successfully on a routine basis.  In the U.S., the Right to Financial Privacy Act from the FDIC prohibits financial institutions from disclosing bank records on customers without consent, or without a court order or subpoena.  But, financial institutions are usually not the only party privy to the information.  Usually such information can be uncovered indirectly within the legal framework of the specific country or jurisdiction.  Rules protecting account holders are not always followed, as government officials and bank managers would like customers to believe.  In many countries, regulatory and credit agencies may also have access to account data.  In developing countries, privacy laws are often only in their infancy.

Some investigators in the United States claim that obtaining account information without customer consent is not possible or against the law.  Others say they can locate accounts, but won’t say how it’s done.  The fact is, it can be done in nearly any country.  Knowing how to obtain the information legally is a closely guarded secret and requires a highly trained investigator.  Each country is different, so referring to U.S. laws is irrelevant when a client is searching for records in South Africa, Hong Kong, Brazil, the Philippines, India, Malaysia, Sweden or the U.K., for example. 

What do Bank Searches Find?

Investigators usually conduct a national search in the country or countries involved for all open accounts on the subject or entity name.  Investigators will usually provide an accurate list of open accounts found in national searches including account name, last reported balance, account type, account status, branch name and address, and other pertinent data. To avoid violating the law, investigators will report the findings as plain data, and not on actual or official statements from a bank.   (Obtaining the actual copies of statements is usually illegal and would require a court order).  In most cases, however, clients simply need the data for informational purposes.

Evidence of bank accounts and assets can be invaluable information for decision making.  Uncovering bank accounts can help individuals and business mitigate risk, by understanding more about their business partner or investment.  It also serves as key evidence in due diligence, background checks, divorce cases and legal cases.

For an additional fee, the qualified investigator may also obtain unofficial bank statements or monthly transaction history, which usually includes up to three months of transactions.  These findings are often critical for evaluating cash flow and income.  Turnaround time is normally 7 days, and prices vary per country or countries searched.

Professional international investigators advise that while this evidence can be key to many case types, it may not always be admissible in a court of law, depending on the country and specific case.  Vice President for Wymoo® International, Paul Fletcher, agrees that bank records and asset searches are a challenge for private investigators and lawyers around the world.  “Investigators, banks and government agencies have different abilities and limitations according to the specific laws in the country where the asset search is conducted,” says Fletcher.  “Understanding the legal framework helps investigators obtain financial evidence in a lawful manner.”

In most cases, the investigators only need a full name of the entity or individual to conduct the search.  If the name is common, a date of birth and/or address is also required to identfy the correct accounts.

The Value in Bank Records

Individuals may hire a private investigator to conduct a national bank account search on an individual or organization in one or more countries where the client suspects the subject may have assets.  Why is this information so important for clients?  There are countless situations where clients find significant value in bank records.  In most cases, legal or personal, things can often be sorted out by following the money trail.  And following the money trail leads to banks, when all is said and done.  A potential spouse may hire a professional private investigation firm to conduct an asset and bank account search in one or more countries, or at the end of a relationship in a divorce case.  A husband or wife may claim they have no assets in court, but bank records show a different story.  Investors often want to know if a buyer is qualified, or if a potential business partner truly has the cash flows and revenue as claimed.  A business may want to verify a supplier’s net worth, and bank records may be searched as part of a comprehensive international due diligence prior to a merger or pending acquisition.  A hedge fund may want to know if a company overseas truly has the income and assets that it’s reporting on its balance sheet in China, etc.

Clients often want to know if their potential business partner is honest about his or her investment or ability to meet financial obligations.  Screening a business partner carefully is a prudent practice and can save thousands or millions down the road.   Due diligence is a form of insurance, and asset searches are often a key element in this process.  When there is one or more foreign countries involved, the risk is much higher, so the need for due diligence is high.  When it comes to legal cases, bank records often serve as critical information even if not admissible. 

Bank record searches help clients stay informed and minimize their risk.

All the best,

John Wallace
© 2012 Wymoo International


Posted: 20 April 2012, last updated 20 April 2012

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How to Search International Bank Records and Accounts   By Wymoo International, LLC