An online background check service meticulously scours all corners of the web to gather information about the person you're searching for. Most of the records the services have access to are records you could theoretically find yourself, but it would take you weeks, if not months to get the info you need. Background check services can flip through millions of files and produce a detailed report for you in under five minutes.
Online background checks go beyond just criminal records – they can dig up credit history, employment history, financial records, and other information that shows the life someone has lived and also confirm their identity.
What Information Is Included in a Background Check?
The concept is intriguing for a lot of people but what does a background check show exactly. There are several layers of background checks you can run from very basic information to really detailed criminal background checks.
Usually, the depth you go into with your reporting will depend on why you are doing the background check. For example, if you are just trying to spy on an ex-boyfriend, you might not dig as deeply as if, say, you were doing a background check for employment at a high-level security firm.
The most common background checks companies run today include:
- Criminal background checks
- Background checks for employment
- Universal background checks
- OIG background checks
- E-Verify background checks
- Credit background checks
- Personal background checks
- Professional licenses background checks
- International background checks
Most will contain general information about the person, including phone numbers and addresses associated with the person along with age and date of birth. It will also contain more detailed information, such as criminal and arrest records, employment history, and education. A few more items that can be included in a background check are:
- Civil records
- Marriage licenses
- Other types of licenses (professional)
- Driving history
- Sexual offender registry listings
- Military records
- Weapons permits
- Social media profiles
- Wikipedia pages
- Personal websites
And more, depending on the background check company and policies you’re working with.
Why Would You Use a Background Check?
With the permission of the person in question, companies considering applicants for employment or a loan often carry out checks in order to cover all their bases and make sure the person won't be a liability for the company. In addition to an employment background check, on a more personal level, these days, more and more people are using background checks to screen potential childcare professionals. Before trusting someone with their children, many people opt to do a background screen on the potential babysitter or nanny, even if they've already undergone an agency screening. Some landlords may also opt to do a rental background check on potential renters with their consent.
When considering using a background check, it's important to take into consideration the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), which is a federal law that regulates the collection of consumers' credit information and access to their credit reports.
It's worth noting that employment decisions, rental screening and credit based decisions cannot legally be made using a background check service that isn't FCRA compliant.
What To Look for in a Quality Background Check Service?
Report Information Accuracy
Inaccurate reports not only stand in the way of you meeting your needs, but they can also set you up for expensive liabilities. The best background check services will have a reputation for accuracy and professionalism that will help you make an informed decision.
It’s good to cast a wide net, but not all background checks are the same. You may want to be more specific and focus on employment history or financial records, and you need a company that can really narrow down the results to what you’re looking for. A top background check service will have different levels of background screenings so that you’re always getting the information you need for your situation.
Ease of Use
You're not a private detective, and you shouldn't need any professional or tech know-how to navigate a background check site. The best background check websites should be easy-to-use and provide information in a format that is simple and clear. The best services provide you with the easiest method possible and the fastest turnaround time.
Top background checks will have a strong customer support team that knows the ins and outs of the field, and will be able to answer whatever questions you may have. If for some reason your search keeps running into walls; they should be able to tell you why. Furthermore, record search companies should be focused on getting the best results for their customers, and not trying to upsell searches that may not be relevant to what you need.
A paid search is a great way to find the information that you need but may not be able to find on your own. With most paid companies, the information will be collected and sent to you in a format that is easy to read and well organized.
How Much Do Background Check Services Cost?
So you’ve gone down the rabbit hole, and now you’re wondering how much a background check costs. With all the services out there you can run a cheap background check for roughly $10. The actual price you pay for your report will depend on how much information you want in the report, how many reports or checks you plan on running, and how frequently you want to use the service.
For example, if you’re doing this for business (i.e., a background check for employment purposes), the best background check companies will usually offer monthly plans to make continuous checks more affordable. Good companies like BeenVerified offer single month memberships for as little as $26.89 and 3-month memberships for just $17.48 a month for unlimited reports and more.
But even if you want to just run a single check, you can find affordable options. One-off checks are available for approximately $20 a piece. And considering most people don't even know how to do a background check for themselves, a service that can pull all that information for you in minutes is well worth the few bucks you'll pay.
The type of report you want will also determine the price. For example, a county criminal record could cost you just $5, a state criminal background check will cost you roughly $13-$20, and a more advanced national criminal package could run you over $70. And of course, prices will vary from one background check site to the next. Here’s a list of some common checks that are run and their prices:
- County criminal records: $5-$20
- State criminal records: $8-$20
- Federal criminal records: $8-$15
- Sex offender status: $0-$10
- Records of terrorist activity: $0-$5
- Motor vehicle records: $3-$10
- SSN verification: $0-$10
- Education verification: $7-$15
- Employment verification: $7-$15
- Professional license checks: $7-$15
- Credit background check: $5-$12
Depending on what type of information, how often you want to run a background check, how many different people you want to run background checks on, etc. it may be worthwhile for you to pay for a monthly membership because it will work out to be cheaper for you at the end of the day.
Purchasing a Background Check Service
Spend a little time on Google, and you should be able to find at least a minimal amount of information about people you know. You may find social media accounts, blog posts, and even news articles in which they may have been mentioned.
Searching the internet yourself may work for people you already know a bit about, but it may not work as well for a potential date, for example. If you really want to get an extensive and well-organized report, you’re going to need to use a paid background check service. When you consider costs, you may find it's not as expensive as you thought.
Paid background searches can help you find out about any skeletons that a new neighbor may be hiding, and they can also help you find out if there’s anything about you that can potentially be unearthed and used against you.
A word of caution, though – the Fair Credit Reporting Act prohibits the use of background checks for employment decisions or tenant screening unless you inform them beforehand, and they agree in writing. Most paid background check companies state this on their websites.