For example, you call Sam’s Detective Agency and ask for a brokerage account search on your father-in-law, Arnie, which will cost $400. Sam doesn’t have enough money or business to build his own source network, so he calls one of the handful of large companies who specialize in these searches. Sam pays $300 to X Company, and a clerk there simultaneously e-mails the request to X Company’s contacts at more than 1,200 brokerage firms. Any firm that you can think of is covered by this list. Each source performs a quick computer check to see if Arnie is a customer and e-mails a positive or negative response. The turnaround time for all 1,200 firms can be less than an hour.

Sam gets the results that he asked for and delivers to you the finished report showing that Arnie has a stock brokerage account with more than $1 million. You don’t know how Sam did it, and he won’t tell you. He would not want you to bypass him and go directly to the information wholesaler. At the same time, Sam doesn’t know who X Company’s sources are-that’s its secret. X Company would not want Sam to go directly to a source for information so it closely guards its valuable names. It is a sound business model that works efficiently for all of the parties involved. Everyone is satisfied-except, of course, Arnie.