We earn a commission from brands listed on this site. This influences the order and manner in which these listings are presented.
Advertising Disclosure

10 Things to Do When a Background Check is Run on You

Erin Donaghue - Top10 Writer
An employer or financial institution can run background checks on you.
Just about anyone can be the subject of a background check. But do you know what to do when you suspect someone may have run a background check on you?

If you’re applying for a new job, dating a new partner, or moving into a new neighborhood, someone may have run a background check on you. A StandOutCV survey shows that 55.4% of Americans lied about work experience to land a job, and 55.6% of those caught were fired or had their offers withdrawn.

In many cases, it will be impossible to tell whether you've been the subject of one of the many different types of background checks. But in certain circumstances, like employment or housing, federal law ensures you're aware.

So, let's look at what to do if you suspect someone may have run a background check on you.

Who Can Perform a Background Check on You?

Anyone can access certain information about you, either by using a Google search, looking at your social media profiles, searching a local law enforcement database, or using background check sites.

Two main types of people who may run checks include:

  • Some federal laws dictate how your information is used. So, if you comply, potential employers, landlords, and financial institutions can access your background information.
  • Others - such as a potential date or a new neighbor—are not subject to federal restrictions.

Conduct a Self-Background Check Online with These Sites to Discover Available Information About You:

Best for

Best background check site overall
Best for quick access to detailed reports
Best for accessing billions of public records

1. Ask Your Potential Employer

According to a 2021 survey by the Professional Background Screeners Association, 95% of companies with US locations use some type of background check.

The good news is that under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), a federal law that regulates access to consumer information, employers are required to tell you if they plan to conduct a background check and gain your written consent.

If your potential employer doesn’t mention a background check, you should ask whether they plan to conduct one as part of the hiring process.

2. Check With Your Potential Landlord

Like employers, landlords are required under the FCRA to notify you and gain your consent before conducting a background check. It doesn't hurt to ask your landlord whether you can expect a check as part of the application process. 

It’s always a good idea to pull your own credit report before applying for housing, so you can:

  • See your credit score
  • Be prepared to explain any red flags like late payments on credit cards

3. Scan Your Social Media

While many social media accounts don’t allow you to see who has viewed the content you post, there are a few exceptions. Here are some examples:

  • Instagram shows the social media usernames of people who have viewed your stories.
  • LinkedIn Premium—a paid tier service—allows you to see who has viewed your LinkedIn profile.

If you're not sure of the person's social media username, but you have their phone number, you can try a reverse phone lookup to pull up any social media accounts associated with the number.

» Want to know more? Learn how social media sites help with a background check.

4. Pull Your Credit Report

When you access your credit report, you should be able to see a list of anyone else who has requested it within the past year, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Not everyone is able to view your credit information, but certain groups can, like:

  • Employers
  • Lenders
  • Utilities
  • Landlords
  • Government agencies
  • Insurance agencies

Likely, these groups will be required to notify you as well. If you’re concerned about your credit history, I’d suggest checking out our tips to improve your credit score for a better background check.

5. Talk to Your Former Employers

If your prospective employer is conducting a background check on you, you should reach out to your former employers. As long as you have a good relationship with them, you can check whether anyone has requested information about your employment with them.

I would also suggest asking whether you’d be able to offer the former employer’s name as a reference to your potential new boss to vouch for your skill set and work ethic.

6. Chat With Your New Dating Partner

Dating a new person is a common reason to conduct a background check. It’s more than fair to ask questions about someone’s background when the answers might put your safety at risk.

But a potential dating partner isn’t required to notify you if they conduct a background check on you. Try asking them whether they plan to conduct one in the spirit of being honest throughout your new partnership.

» Check out our picks for the best background check sites for dating.

7. Speak With Your Business Partner

Going into business with someone can warrant a background check, especially for high-level positions like executives. Since this isn’t a federally protected purpose, the only way to find out is to ask them directly.

Rather than using an accusatory tone, bring up the subject by prioritizing transparency and good faith. They may want to run a check to be sure of the following:

  • Your moral values align
  • Your financial standing is trustworthy
  • No conflicts of interest are present

8. Reach Out to Your Alma Mater

According to the StandOutCV survey, 41% of respondents lied about their college degrees, and 24.5% were dishonest about having a degree.

So, if a potential employer reaches out to the academic institution you attended, it can help validate your qualifications. Some confirmation employers may ask for include:

  • Your date of graduation
  • Your track of study

Individual policies will vary by institution, but they may confirm if someone has requested your records. You can then prepare to face the music if you weren't truthful on your resume.

9. Conduct a Background Check on Yourself

If you want to be proactive, you can run a background check on yourself. That way, you’ll have a full picture of the information that’s publicly available about you. And you can be prepared to explain any possible questionable results that might arise.

You can search for a service that suits your budget or try free background checks.

10. Clean Up Your Online Presence

If you know or suspect someone may have run a background check on you, it’s a great idea to go through your social media accounts and remove any content you wouldn’t want your potential employer or landlord to see. The same goes for any personal websites or blogs.

This can help you find out whether any objectionable content is linked to your name.

What Can People Find Out About You?

Preparing for a background check can be anxiety-inducing, but our guide can help you get ready and know what to anticipate. When doing so, be cautious of email scams that falsely assert you have undergone a background check.

To remain informed about genuine background checks, services such as BeenVerified or IDTrue provide a wealth of information about you, including details like your residence, employment, education, social connections, and any criminal records. Hence, it might be beneficial to do a self-background check and discover what information is available about you.

» Discover 10 useful searches common background checks exclude.

Frequently Asked Questions
What should I do if I suspect an employer has run a background check on me?+-

If you suspect an employer has conducted a background check, it's best to ask them directly, as the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires employers to inform you and obtain your consent beforehand.

Can I check if a background check has been done on me for housing purposes?+-

Yes, landlords are required to inform you and obtain your consent before conducting a background check, similar to employers. You can ask your potential landlord if a check will be part of the housing application process.

How can I prepare myself for a background check?+-

Conducting a self-background check can help you understand what information is publicly available about you. This allows you to address inaccuracies and prepare explanations for any potential concerns that might arise during a third-party background check.

Can you run a background check on anyone?+-

While public information can be accessed on anyone, federal laws limit the conduct of certain types of background checks. For example, employers, landlords, and financial institutions require your consent. Others, like potential dates or neighbors, may access public records or online services to learn about your background without such restrictions.

Erin Donaghue - Top10 Writer
Erin Donaghue is a criminal and social justice reporter, with an MA in journalism and over a decade of experience reporting and editing for various news outlets. In addition to Top10.com, Erin's work has been featured in publications such as the Washington Post, USA Today, CBSNews.com, and Huffington Post.

Note: Some or all background search services featured on this site are not subject to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 USC 1681 et seq., ("FCRA") In order to make decisions about consumer credit, employment, insurance, tenant screening, or any other purpose that would require FCRA compliance, make sure you choose the appropriate service for you. Be advised that only consumer reporting agencies may provide consumer reports. This is applicable, but not limited to, a background search, credit background check, criminal background check, and/or driving record.