How to find out if someone is bankrupt

Updated March 23, 2017

Someone's bankrupt status is public information accessible by any person, unlike general credit files. When a person or business runs out of money to pay debts, a bankruptcy filing is made in a federal court. You may want to find out if a person or company is bankrupt before doing business with them, because in many cases a bankruptcy could be the result of personal or professional irresponsibility. Fortunately there are several cheap ways to get this information quickly.

Sign up for PACER (see Resources section below). This is an electronic system that allows you to search the entire United States bankruptcy court system using someone's first and last name or company name. You do need a credit card to use this service. Basic searches do not incur a charge, but if you want to see details of the person or firm's bankrupt status, you will have to pay eight cents per page.

Call the local newspaper of the person or company you are researching and ask if it publishes information when people go bankrupt. If the newspaper does print bankrupt status, ask for a search regarding the individual or firm you wish to learn more about. This may incur a fee, which varies depending on the newspaper.

Visit your local division of bankruptcy court (see Resources section below) and ask the clerk to search the name of the person or business for you. He can tell you if that person or firm has gone bankrupt. You are also legally entitled to get copies of any documents, but these usually incur a fee. Prices for photo copying depend on the branch of the federal bankruptcy court.

Use the U.S. Bankruptcy Court Federal Record Retrieval Service website (see Resources section) if you want the information quickly and want to have documents e-mailed or mailed to you. You will need as much information as possible regarding the person or company who might be bankrupt. This is especially important for people--having pieces of information such as an address, middle name or initial, date of birth, or Social Security number can help assure you are researching the right person's bankruptcy status. This website usually charges about £13 for research and documents.

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About the Author

Stephanie Mojica has been a journalist since 1997 and currently works as a full-time reporter at the daily newspaper "The Advocate-Messenger" in Kentucky. Her articles have also appeared in newspapers such as "The Philadelphia Inquirer" and "The Virginian-Pilot," as well as several online publications. She holds a bachelor's degree from Athabasca University.