What Do Free Background Checks Really Offer?
Anyone who’s recently been looking for a new job will be only too well aware of the importance of background checks for human resources departments. What you might not be so cognizant to is what a private background check could do for you. Say your daughter has a new friend, but, when you met her parents, you didn’t feel so confident about letting her go over to visit. Or maybe your sister has just started online dating and you’re concerned about her safety. A background check can put your mind at ease by digging into an individual’s closet and hauling out all the skeletons lurking there.
While there are several reputable online background check services you could make use of, you may be unwilling to part with the subscription fee required. The alternative is to go it alone but just how much information can you uncover and is it really free?
Free Background Check: Getting Started
As one would expect, the best place to start with a free background check is Google or another similar search engine. Obviously, you do need some information about the person you wish to search for, whether that’s their name and address, or just their mobile phone number or email address. Unfortunately, even a name isn’t necessarily going to give you the results you want, especially if it’s a common one like John Smith.
One of the risks of using a search engine as a background check tool is that there’s no guarantee the person you find is the person you’re actually looking for and even official background check companies sometimes mismatch their results. Similar false positives can easily arise when we attempt to do a free background check but there are other challenges inherent in the process as well. For instance, out of all those who’ve used a search engine to search themselves, nearly half say the results are inaccurate and nearly a third report getting no results at all.
At the end of the day, using a search engine for the purposes of exploring an individual’s background isn’t the most reliable approach but could produce some useful insights depending on your search criteria and how active the person you’re searching for is online.
If you already know what the person looks like, as well as their name (ideally one that’s not shared with half a million other Americans) and the state they live in, you can find out quite a bit about them. If, on the other hand, you’re looking for an elderly man called John Smith, chances are his online presence is minimal, no photographs are available, and your results will contain information pertaining to numerous other John Smiths, making it difficult to ascertain what information is relevant and what should be discarded.
The information we choose to share on social media sites, chat groups, and dating sites is often very different from what comes up when using a search engine. For example, if you Google my name, the top results will be for the articles I’ve written for Secure Thoughts. If, however, you searched for me on Facebook, you’d find out more about my hobbies and social life (if I had one) rather than my professional accomplishments.
For many people, this makes social media more valuable when it comes to performing a background check on a potential playmate for your child or a possible love interest. A person’s affiliations, interests, and posts say a lot about them. These can throw up some red flags that should make you hesitate before pursuing a relationship, or even just an acquaintance, any further.
Just as potential employers use social media to get an idea of how their candidates think, so many private individuals are using them to ascertain someone’s stance on racism and homophobia, illegal activities such as drug taking, as well as inappropriate or sexual behavior. If you’re looking at the Facebook profile of your new online date, for example, seeing her sprawled across a bar in a state of undress might quickly put you off pursuing the relationship – or spur you on, depending on your intentions!
As with using a search engine, however, there are some dangers inherent in trolling through social media sites to get a feel for someone. The biggest danger is, once again, getting your results mixed up and viewing posts or profiles that seem to be attached to the target of your search but actually belong to someone else entirely.
Take the recent incident with the governor of Virginia, for example. Accused of appearing in a racist yearbook photo, Ralph Northam has been under considerable pressure to resign from his post. According to Northam, however, he is not in the offending photograph. While this happens to be a publication rather than an online post, given how many images and how much information is shared online, problems like this are only too common on social media.
Free Background Checks Online
There are some free background check services online that you can make use of if you don’t mind parting with enough information to create an account. Pipl, for example, promises to search the Dark Web as well as the usual places a search engine will go, to “find the real person behind the online identity”. When I performed a Pipl search on myself, however, the results were surprisingly limited, with no reference to my online articles nor any other information from the past five years of my life.
White Pages is another popular choice but one I was unable to test. White Pages requires a valid business email address in order to create an account but even then tends to produce horribly out-of-date results.
Although a White Pages search is free of charge, users can only view work history and financial information if they’re prepared to pay for it. The White Pages service is very much geared towards the corporate world, however, so isn’t the best option for those wanting to perform a free online background check for personal reasons.
Benefits of Using a Background Check Service
Although there are free background check options available, the amount of reliable and relevant information you can gather via these methods is rather limited, especially compared to the best background check services available online.
Not only will a background check service like BeenVerified sort through the results and compile them into an easy-to-read report, but it also has access to more up-to-date records as well as court and criminal records. Although public, users will usually find they have to make a payment in order to access records of this nature, not all of which are kept online, making it difficult for private individuals to get their hands on the same amount of information as paid background check services can conjure up.
While users will have to pay a fee to make use of the best background check services, the cost is minimal, especially if you consider how much time and bandwidth you’d use up trying to collate the same information on your own.
The Best Background Check Services
Whether you’ve got an individual’s name or just their phone number, BeenVerified will be able to unearth all kinds of interesting facts about them, from the places they’ve lived to their work history and criminal past. Users have the choice of signing for a pay-as-you-go service or committing to a monthly or three-monthly subscription, depending on how much they need from the service.
If you need access to non-digitized court records, BeenVerified can do this for you as well, although it will cost a little more. Whatever search or report you opt for, BeenVerified will churn out the results with surprising efficiency, collating them into an easy-to-read format that will give you a lot more information than most of us are capable of unearthing by doing a totally free people search.
While BeenVerified isn’t the cheapest background check service around, it is one of the most accurate and in-depth, especially when it comes to employment history. With its mobile-friendly apps, BeenVerified has also made it possible to hunt while on the run and users can download an app onto their smartphone or Apple Watch without paying a cent.
While obviously not wasting a lot of time thinking up a cool name for the company, the team at PeopleLooker do exactly what it says on the tin – look for people. The service is efficient and comprehensive, gathering information from all the usual sources, including state and federal courts. As with our other top background check services, PeopleLooker manages to do in a few hours what it would take most independent researchers months to compile, even making in-person visits to collect data when required.
Although PeopleLooker is a versatile and reliable alternative to slaving your way through a free background check, it does charge extra for certain information, including marriage documents, court, and bankruptcy proceedings. It’s nevertheless easy to use and produces well-laid-out reports for a subscription fee slightly lower than some of its main rivals.
If you’ve tried to do a free online background check and failed to come up with the information you were after, PeopleLooker is definitely worth a try, but don’t expect much in the way of customer support. As with many background check services, PeopleLooker is rather lackadaisical when it comes to offering support, although its online help and FAQ sections will answer most basic questions.
TruthFinder offers an in-depth background check service that will render results from millions of public records, as well as social media posts, personal information, and data found on the Dark Web. Although the deep web reports may not be what you need when checking out a new neighbor, they’re invaluable if you suspect your identity has been stolen and you want to check the nether regions of the internet for sensitive information like your social security or passport number.
TruthFinder is also a reliable alternative to a totally free people search and will provide insights into an individual’s education and work history, places they’ve lived in, and even people they’ve lived with. The basic Truthfinder report is sufficient to answer most people’s questions, but those needing more information can always use the premium reports option to get more details about their possible neighbors and known associates.
There are all sorts of reasons someone might choose to do a background check or a little snooping into another’s life. Sometimes it’s pure curiosity, but often it is motivated by fear. While performing your own free online background check may be sufficient to put your mind at ease in some cases, in many situations, it simply won’t have the depth or accuracy of a report produced by a professional company like BeenVerified.
With so much data to sift through and access to public government reports often restricted by rolls of red tape, putting on a virtual deerstalker and pretending you’re Sherlock Holmes may not be enough. Google and Facebook make a formidable pair in more ways than one but not formidable enough to give reputable background check companies like TruthFinder or PeopleLooker, a run for their money.
At the end of the day, if you’re really concerned about your sister meeting up with her latest online hottie, getting the professionals to do the footwork for you and paying for a report from BeenVerified is much more reliable than attempting to sleuth your own way through a myriad of public reports and documentation.