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Merlin Information Systems


Carole Levitt and Mark Rosch, Editors of Internet Fact Finding For Lawyers


Originally published in Internet Fact Finding For Lawyers, Jan/Feb 2008.

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Americal Law Institute | Americal Bar Association logo31 January 2008.

Merlin Information Systems

Purpose: Merlin is a relational investigative pay database, useful for skip-tracing, marshalling assets, and backgrounding people.

Merlin Information System menu screenshot

Content: Merlin has information from public records, credit headers, and publicly available information. Merlin includes such information as addresses, phone numbers (including a reverse unlisted phone number feature and cellular phone numbers), bankruptcies, secretary of state records, fictitious business records, dates of birth, criminal records, real property records, drivers license information (not every state supplies current records), motor vehicle records, UCCs, neighbors, relatives, credit headers (live, in contrast to other providers —which are a month behind) and more (depending upon the jurisdiction). It covers national data and all states. In addition, it has a collection of other databases with a heavy California emphasis.


Merlin is the last of the pay investigative research databases we're aware of that will give access to full Social Security numbers to attorneys.

Our View: Merlin has long been the private investigator's database of choice for investigative searching, but for some unknown reason it remains largely unknown in the legal community. Legal professionals typically use Lexis, Westlaw, ChoicePoint, KnowX, or Accurint to locate similar information. We think Merlin is worth a shot because it doesn't require an expensive monthly subscription fee. You do have to fill out a detailed seven-page application (as you do with the other investigative databases) and make an initial deposit of $100 to open a debit account. Once your account is approved, Merlin will deduct $10 per month as a minimum usage fee (if you perform any searches in a month, the minimum usage is applied to the fees of those searches).

Another reason Merlin is worth considering, is that Merlin is the last of the pay investigative research databases we're aware of that will give access to full Social Security numbers to attorneys. However, this access requires lawyers to submit to an on-site office visit by a Merlin representative and incur a one-time $100 charge for the visit to insure that you fall within the Gramm-Leach-Bliley and Fair Credit Reporting Acts' permitted uses for accessing Social Security number information. Each time you use Merlin, you must select a permitted use for the search. (After its purchase by LexisNexis, Accurint began to restrict Social Security number access only to attorneys whose practice is strictly in collections. Some attorneys report they still have access to full Social Security numbers if their Accurint account pre-dates the Lexis purchase.)

We also like that Merlin allows you to sort the columns in your results page to create a customized report.

Tip: Merlin has some proprietary databases that other pay services may not have (especially for California). For instance, California Marriage Records from 1960 –1985 are online at Merlin— records that the State of California no longer sells. Another unique database is its Western States Evictions database, covering evictions in all counties in California, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. Merlin has also created a National Fictitious Business Name search with over 10 million records—saving you the time of a county-by-county search in each state.

Readers of this newsletter can receive (via e-mail) a free trial certificate to the Merlin database by e-mailing authors at netforlawyers dot com with the phrase "Merlin Free Trial" in the subject line. Directions for redeeming the trial will be included on the PDF of the certificate you receive via return e-mail.


© 2008 American Law Institute–American Bar Association
all rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.

Carole Levitt and Mark Rosch are principals of Internet For Lawyers (IFL), a CLE seminar company. They co-authored The Lawyer's Guide to Fact Finding on the Internet, 3rd edition (2006 A.B.A.).


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Created: 5 February 2008
Revised: 9 May 2008 (no text revisions)
URL: https://www.virtualchase.com/articles/merlin.html

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