The Complete Guide to Background Check Services
Whether you’ve just met a potential partner online and want to verify their identity or you’re concerned about your new neighbor, a background check is a fast and efficient way of accessing the information you need to put your mind at ease.
Maybe you want to track down a distant family member or an old school friend or perhaps you want to make sure your new flatmate isn’t harboring some unpleasant criminal history. Whatever the motivation, a background check can give you access to information contained literally millions of public records, revealing everything about a person, from their criminal record to their inside leg measurement… well, not quite, but a lot of information nonetheless.
Although all the information collated in a background check report is available to the public, gaining access to it personally could take months and cost you fair few dollars to boot.
What is a Background Check?
A background check accesses different types of public records and information that enable you to verify a person’s identity and past. Depending on the type of background check you opt for, the results will reveal everything from a person’s education and work history to their criminal and credit records, and social media profiles.
If, for example, you’re running a check on a guy you met online, you may already be familiar with his social media profiles and anything you don’t know, you can probably find out simply by typing his name and city into a search engine. Nonetheless, this only goes so far, and even Google won’t be able to tell you if he dropped out of school at 16 or was arrested for drunken disorderly last year.
Sure, you can search for him on a sex offenders’ list but getting a full picture of his past would literally take months. This is why a background check is beneficial, accessing more public records than you could in a year, to formulate all the pieces of the puzzle and giving you the power of knowledge.
While there are several different types of background checks available, the most common include:
- Credit checks – examine a person’s financial status and credit-to-debt ratio.
- Universal checks – establish a person’s eligibility to own a firearm.
- Personal background checks – find out what anyone can discover about you by checking to see if your name comes up on any criminal or traffic databases.
How Does a Background Check Work?
Basically, a background check service gathers and collates information from a number of different sources and public databases and presents this is in one, easy-to-read report. In addition to using a search engine to access information about their digital footprint, the best background check services also access courtroom records and other archives. The top background checks will also contact references to verify their validity.
A background check accesses information from a variety of sources including:
- County records
- State records
- Federal records
- Dark Web information
- Social media data
What Shows up in a Background Check?
While you might consider yourself to be a bit of a Sherlock Holmes in terms of your detective skills, it’s unlikely you could pull up as much information as a background check company can in the same length of time. As we said earlier, knowledge is power, and these companies really know what they’re doing when it comes to accessing records.
Indeed, some background checks are so thorough they’d probably produce data on yourself that you weren’t aware existed. Even if you don’t have a credit card, a house or any debt, you’d be surprised what a background check can unearth about you – from your previous address to the names of your housemates.
The type of information you can expect from a background check very much depends on what you want to know. For example, if you’re concerned about identity theft, a background check service like TruthFinder can using just your email address, check to see if your information is being sold on the Dark Web and help you deal with the problem before it goes too far.
The following are some of the more common background checks and what they divulge:
- A credit check reveals a person’s credit score, which indicates his or her financial reliability.
- A driving records check will expose a person’s road history, from traffic accidents to points on their license, DUI incidents to traffic violations.
- A criminal background check gathers data from all federal, county, and state records.
- Education verifies a person’s academic history, including where and when they studied and their results.
- A reference check is a little more involved, requiring contact with real people!
- Drug testing is used for some athletic competitions, and other situations to ascertain the eligibility of that person.
- Social security checks confirm that a person really is who they claim to be, by matching social security numbers.
- Litigation records check looks up court judgments to see if someone was sued – or sued someone else – at any point and for what reason. They will also reveal if there is an official order on someone’s property in lieu of an unpaid debt.
What Can a Background Check do for Me?
The list is long, but not endless. Let’s look at some of the most common reasons people perform background checks and what they hope to find out at the end of the process.
Screen new neighbors
In an increasingly dangerous world, although we may want to trust those around us when our personal safety could be compromised, a healthy portion of cynicism is required. As curtain twitching is not generally appreciated nor particularly revealing, running a background check to establish whether or not your daughter should be hanging out next door.
Similarly, it’s in your best interests to know whether your neighbors have firearms and what they post on social media before you start getting too chummy with them. It can be difficult to extricate yourself from a close relationship with people you live next door to, so run a background check and make sure they’re the kind of people you want to develop a friendship with and who are responsible enough to babysit your children from time to time.
Dish the dirt on potential flatmates
Not only will you expect your flatmate to pay their share of the rent, but chances are you’ll also be sharing a fair amount of your life with them. A background check is just one way you can safeguard yourself against potentially dangerous or unreliable flatmates, revealing any past criminal convictions and indicating their financial security. As background checks also mine information about where a person has lived and how long they stayed there, they can also indicate whether your new flatmate is liable to stay around and pay the bills or scarper, leaving you with their debts.
Check out online dates
He’s tall, good-looking, says he’s got a fantastic job in the city and lives alone. If it sounds too good to be true, the chances are that it is. Before agreeing to meet up with someone you’ve met via an online dating site, it’s important to know you’re not exposing yourself to any unnecessary dangers. None of us want to end up spending the evening with someone who stalks us for the next six months or has a history of domestic abuse behind them.
Although running a background check on a potential love match may seem a little invasive, when it comes to your personal safety, discretion comes a distant second. Although a Google search can at least give you an idea about someone’s opinions and character, it’s far from reliable and a background check will tell you everything (and more) that you need to know to avoid potential danger and disappointment.
Locate long-lost relative and friends
We’ve all read incredible stories about people being reunited with a brother they hadn’t seen for 16 years, or finally meeting their biological father after a 20-year search and background checks are behind many of these moving tales.
As background checks access vast public data records, there is a good chance they’ll be able to confirm contact information as well as an accurate date of birth. Obviously, the more information you have at hand, the more accurate and relevant the results.
Similarly, if you lost touch with your high school sweetheart or college roommate, a service like BeenVerified can produce a list of social media profiles and even their current address in no time at all.
Explore your own public profile
While they say curiosity killed the cat, sometimes it’s the most inquisitive that win the race so, if you’re dying to know what potential online dates might find out about you, why not run a background check on yourself and find out?
Although you may be confident that there’s nothing incriminating in your past, a background check may rustle up some unexpected results. For example, if you decided it would be a good idea to upload an image of you and your friends getting a little high on marijuana while in California last year, you may want to think again when you consider that anyone could potentially dig that picture up. Social media is all fun and games, but it also presents a public image that you want to impress on a professional and personal level.
Similarly, while you may have all but forgotten about that misdemeanor you committed 10 years ago, the likelihood is that a thorough background check will bring it back to haunt you.
Avoid getting any unpleasant surprises and embrace the opportunity that a background check gives you to remove any inaccurate information about yourself and spruce up your online profiles to give you and your career a fighting chance.
Exposing Identity Fraud
Just as a background check can empower you to correct any inaccurate information floating around in public records, so it can help you determine if someone else has been using your identity. A thorough background check may reveal criminal activity that you’ve never been involved in or reveal some unexpected credit records that aren’t doing your reputation any good. The sooner you find about identity fraud, the sooner you can start dealing with the negative influence it’s having on your professional status.
Discover the Coach’s Hidden Past
If your son or daughter is spending hours training for a gymnastics or tennis tournament, you want to know that they’re in safe hands. Given the numerous scandals involving coaches, instructors, and mentors, taking them at face value isn’t enough to protect your child. A background check is a great way of making sure your child is in safe hands, and, by running a criminal background search, you can make sure anyone spending time with your kids is dependable and free of criminal convictions. Background checks will also confirm if the person in question is on any sex offender registry.
Can I Get a Free Background Check?
While we all want something for nothing, in general, you get what you pay for and this couldn’t be truer than in the realm of background checks. If you simply want to obtain one or two bits of information, you may be able to achieve this yourself without spending anything at all. While it is possible to access local and county records for free, nationwide ones charge a fee, so you’ll soon find the cents totting up.
Bearing this in mind, if you see a free background check service advertised online, the chances are it will only give you limited information and a host of inaccuracies.
A Step-by-Step Guide to Running a Background Check
Step 1: Select a background check company according to our guide below.
Step 2: Enter as much information as you can about the person you’re searching for. For most background checks, this is literally just the person’s first and last names and the city and state of residence. There are other options, however, for checking a person’s email address or telephone number, for example.
Step 3: Let your background check service do its thing and unlock the report.
Step 4: Purchase the report.
Step 5: Curl up on the couch and get reading.
It really is as simple as that and, with some background check companies offering limited free trials, you can access a lot of information without it costing you anything.
How to Select a Background Check Company
There are many background check companies out there but not all of them conduct in-depth checks. The most important features to look out for are:
- A comprehensive range of background checks
- What sources a background check company uses is indicative of how thorough and accurate the results will be. A company relying on internet searches won’t produce much more information than you can access yourself, whereas one that physically checks court records, will dig up data from the dim and distant past.
- A variety of different search options, including name, email address, and reverse phone lookup.
- Good customer support
- Accurate and easy to read written reports
- Mobile apps
There are many different companies offering background check services. Here are the industry’s top players:
Founded in 2007 in New York, BeenVerified has risen to the top as one of the best background check services available for users. With over 100,000 subscribers, it’s no wonder that BeenVerified has made a name for itself.
The company makes sure to make their background check platform intuitive and easy to use. Instead of users having to go to multiple websites to accrue all of their search information, BeenVerified aggregates all public record information, coming from multiple sources, into one easy-to-read report.
They also offer prices as low as 10$/month.
BeenVerified also boasts a toll-free live customer service specialists available every day, 8:00am to 9:00pm Monday-Friday and 12:00pm to 8:00pm on Saturday and Sunday.
Intelius is another big name in the business of background checks. They actually began as two Seattle companies (Intelius and Classmates) which both conducted searches using different platforms. The companies combined their social network and personal profile searches to form the company they are today.
Intelius produces clear and concise reports that will reveal an individual’s criminal records, lawsuits, bankruptcies, past addresses, relatives and neighbors, and property records.
TruthFinder was started in March 2015 and now have 9.5 million search sessions every month.
With an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB), it’s no wonder why they’ve quickly become one of the most trusted names in the industry.
TruthFinder has a special dark web search that uses your email address to establish whether any of your personal data is available for sale in the nether reaches of the internet.
With both basic and premium options available, the depth of your results is dependent on what you’re prepared to pay.
InstantCheckmate came into being in 2010, around the same time that the online dating industry was taking off. InstantCheckmate saw an opportunity and jumped on it, and has quickly become a key player in the background search market.
InstantCheckmate’s reports are easy to read, there’s a mobile app for Android and customer support 24/7 through phone and email.
A background check isn’t all about snooping, even though it may feel that way. It’s about ensuring you know who you’re dealing with in order to protect yourself, your family and your assets. Whether you want to make sure your online date doesn’t have any nasty sexual skeletons lurking in their closets, or you’re worried about your son’s new tennis coach, a background check can set your mind at ease, or give you the knowledge you need to tackle the situation head-on.
Don’t risk sharing your flat with a thief – check them out before you agree to share and make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into. Similarly, if you’re worried that some past indiscretion may be hampering your career, run a background check and find out exactly what people are discovering about you and your life.
Online background checks are inexpensive, simple to use, and give you accurate results in a quick turnaround time, making the whole process straightforward and convenient. Some of the leading background check companies even offer mobile apps so you can search as you commute.
It’s not rocket science but it is a great way of guarding against potential danger and unexpected surprises.