What Do Free Background Checks Really Offer?
Perhaps you’re curious about your new neighbor or feel a little uneasy about last night’s date. You might wish that you could find out the truth about their background but you don’t have the money to hire a private investigator and anyway, you think that sounds a little too dramatic.
It’s easier than you think to do a free background check online. From Google to free public criminal records, free background checks are easy to carry out online.
What You Get from a Free Background Check
Online free background checks can turn up a surprisingly large amount of information.
- Use Google to find your subject’s social media profiles, which can give insight into their political interests, hobbies, even where they last went on vacation.
- LinkedIn profiles will often show you someone’s employment history and education history
- Google image search will bring up any local news items about the guy or girl you’re investigating. You could find news of a minor local award, that they volunteered in their neighborhood, or that they were recently arrested for DUI.
- A White Pages search for an address pulls up an interactive map of that block. By hovering over each home you can see public information about who lives there. It’s a quick way to check if your new date’s address is real.
- For a quick and free criminal background check, pull up the sex offenders’ registry and type in your subject’s name to be sure that they aren’t a convicted sex offender.
- You can access a free criminal record search by going to your official state government website or the National Center for State Courts to look up your subject’s full name. The only drawback is that you’ll need to check the website for every state separately.
What You Won’t Get From a Free Background Check
Although you can carry out a totally free background check online, you need to be aware that it has its drawbacks. A free background check online can’t cover all your bases. Here are some of the many things that you’ll only be able to access by using paid background services. You can discover which services we recommend by checking out our best background services review.
When you pay for a background check instead of trying to conduct a free criminal background check, one of the things you get for the price is accuracy. Paid background check companies invest in the accuracy of their information. They might even be accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners which audits companies every five years.
When you carry out your home, free criminal record search you might think that you’ve found everything that there is on your subject. Unfortunately, you wouldn’t know what you’ve missed.
In some cases, this might not matter, but you could be lulled into trusting your new date because you never discovered his previous conviction for sexual harassment, for example. Without paying to access the national criminal records databases you won’t know what you overlooked in another state.
It might seem easy to satisfy your curiosity by doing a free background check online, but there are rules and regulations about what information you can look up about someone without their knowledge as well as what you can do with it once you’ve found it.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) governs what can and can’t be investigated behind someone’s back and when you can use it. Paid and official background check websites take care to comply with the FCRA but when you use free tools you could be breaking all kinds of laws without knowing it.
It’s Not Really Free
Although you think that you’re getting a free background check online, it’s probably not actually free. Even ‘free’ state and county websites are likely to charge you a fee for processing court documents like criminal and arrest records. Then, there’s the amount of time you’re spending checking every state website. Your time is worth something too and you could save a lot of it by using a paid background check service.
You know the saying ‘there’s no such thing as a free lunch’? If you find a free background check website that offers you all the information you need without charging for it, even though it’s something that most companies would charge for, you should wonder why. It could be that someone set this up for you out of the goodness of their heart, it could be a link to malware disguised as free background check software, or a trap made by hackers to capture your personal information.
You Might Not Get the Information You Expect
Even though state websites and local criminal records sites do hold the information you need about your subject and can give it out for free, they might not choose to do so. It’s true that according to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), you have the legal right to request records from any federal agency. However, the FOIA doesn’t promise that the agency has to always agree to share them. When you make your request you need to give your reasons for asking. If the agency decides that your reason isn’t good enough, it won’t release the information even though it’s there.
A Clear and Organized Report
All of the information that you need about your subject could be available online for free, but that doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to find it. Information about past addresses, criminal offenses, education history, and more is scattered around in university records, government agencies, courtroom archives, and plenty of office filing cabinets.
Although you can search state and local criminal records for free, for example, you’ll be trying to navigate a very confusing system. Every state arranges its website differently, making it hard for an amateur to find what they need. When you use a paid background check service you’ll receive a comprehensive and easy-to-read report that lays out all you need to know in a scannable format.