How to find out if someone filed bankruptcy

Bankruptcy is a matter of public record, so with a little bit of investigative effort, it shouldn't be too difficult to find out whether a person or business has ever filed for bankruptcy. If you are considering going into business with someone, or lending them money, it would be in your best interest to learn if they've been bankrupt.

Search court records. Bankruptcy is handled at the federal court level, and the easiest way to check for a bankruptcy filing is to search the court records directly. This can be done online through the court's PACER service, which is linked in the resource section below. To access the records, you will need the party's name, Social Security number or tax ID number, or the case number.

Contact the court. People are obligated to file for bankruptcy in the federal district in which they reside. If you know which courthouse this would be, you can contact the court by phone or in person to check their records. If the person has a common name, knowing his Social Security number can help pin him down.

Search credit report. While credit reports are not public, potential employers or lenders can be given access to credit records. Because bankruptcy remains on the credit report for 7-to-10 years, this is one way to identify if the party has filed within that time period.


With the case number, it's possible to obtain the entire court record of a bankruptcy proceeding, including details about their assets and debts at the time. If the person filed for a Chapter 13 reorganisation, the terms of that reorganisation plan will also be available.


The public nature of bankruptcy is one of the down sides of filing that should be considered in advance.

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Things Needed

  • Name or Social Security number
  • Tax ID number, if a business
  • Case number

About the Author

Joseph Nicholson is an independent analyst whose publishing achievements include a cover feature for "Futures Magazine" and a recurring column in the monthly newsletter of a private mint. He received a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Florida and is currently attending law school in San Francisco.

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