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How To Do A Background Check

How To Do A Background Check

Background checks can be done for a wide variety of purposes, and can include several details about an individual. Background checks can involve simple things such as a credit check, or can  involve detailed things such as previous work history, criminal background, education, employment history, bankruptcy and more. This article will explain how to do a background check, whether you are looking for yourself or others.

There is a lot of information that are shown on background checks, which can seem overwhelming. Below is a breakdown of what is seen on background checks.

Basics of a Background Check

What’s Covered by a Background Check

The core of the background check covers the main items that need to be checked and include:

  • Social Security Number
  • criminal record check
  • employment history
  • education history

Based on these factors , you should be able to go into more depth to find more specific items about that individual such as :

  • credit check
  • license verification
  • motor vehicle report
  • workers compensation history
  • bankruptcy
  • police records
  • debts
  • pardons

How to Do a Background Check As A Private Citizen

1. Search an online database

If you are looking to do a background check on yourself or someone else as a private citizen, you can begin with an online search. Go to a popular search engine such as Google and enter the name in quotation marks followed by the words background check. Adding the quotation marks allows the search engine to look for the entire name and not just parts of the name. When searching the name, you should also add a detail about the person to help narrow the search. An example how you should search a name would be: “John Smith”, accountant background check. The example has the name in quotes, as well as something about them, ie. accountant, followed by the words background check.

Some popular online databases to use for your search include:


It is important to note that with these internet searches, not all the information is guaranteed to be accurate, and they might not provide in depth information on the individual. These search agencies do not have all the official records that the law enforcement agencies will have, so be aware that some of the information will be limited or possibly inaccurate.

2. Search Public Records

Another inexpensive and quick way to perform a background check would be to use public records. This is especially useful if you are looking for any possible criminal background activity, such as arrests and charges relating to an individual.

To access a public record you will have to search for your local state, city, or county’s court website, local police departments, and through some government websites.

3. Hire A Legal Service

If you are having difficulty with any of the above, you might have to hire a legal service to perform the search. Search for a local background check service, and do some research on the company before you hire them. It is good to read reviews on the company as well.

Also, you can use online companies that perform quick background checks, some popular sites include:

  • : they are known for quality and accurate reporting, with background information, as well as extras such as social network profiles. All this can be checked for under $50.
  • this site allows you to search millions of records with just a name or phone number. It includes property records, criminal records, basic background check and more.
  • this is a massive database of records. All you need is the name and you are set to go. They offer a wide variety of searches such as employment records, business records, divorce records and more.

With these sites, you simply type in the person’s name and address and information will be displayed once you pay the fee. Usually the fee to view someone’s background information will be around $30, and can be as high as $50 depending on the amount of information you need.

4. Ask the Person Directly

If you are looking on background information on a possible future roommate for example, it can’t hurt to ask that person directly about their past history. Certain records are not available to the public without that individuals permission, so you could be better off asking the person directly what you need to know. This can be the quickest, easiest way to reveal the information you need.

Background Checks As An Employer

If you are an employer looking to run background checks on a possible new hire, there are many options available to you. Regardless of the nature of the job, you should always run a background check to ensure that safety of everyone involved.

1. Follow Laws Regulating Background Checks

You can freely ask any future employees about their backgrounds, however it is illegal to target just specific classes. This means you cannot perform the background check based on the individuals race, sex, nationality, age, or gender. For example, if you were to run background checks on only African American applicants , you would be violating equal opportunity laws.

So keep in mind that you target specific groups and would have to run a background check on all applicants, and not just a group.

2. Have Employees Sign Consent Form

When running a background check on employees, you must ask current or potential employees to sign a consent form allowing you do proceed with the background check, and it will also protect you from any invasion of privacy claims.

3. Use An Official Consumer Reporting Agency(CRA)

If you are an employer using an outside agency to run the background checks, federal law states that you must use a registered CRA. A CRA follows strict standards to protect the data, as well as offering dispute resolution. There are many registered CRA’s to choose from, so when choosing the right one, choose one that best fits your needs.

4. Hire an Employment Screening Company

A commonly used category of the CRA provides a special credit report called an “Employment Report”. This report will detail everything on a person’s credit report, other their their credit score. You will be able to see their payment history, prior addresses, as well as previous employers.

A normal credit report will effect the individuals credit score , so if you request the employment report, it will have no effect on their credit score. `

5. Work Within Legal Time Restrictions

Under the federal law, CRA’s usually do not reveal any lawsuits, judgments, arrest accounts, etc, that are over seven years old. However, you can request that history past the seven years be included in your report.

Keep in mind that some states have strict regulations that will not let you view activity past the seven year mark. Also some states do not allow arrest records to be used in the hiring decision making process.

6. Use the Public Records Legally

It is good to know what there are public records that you cannot use when making a hiring decision.For example, Workers Compensation Claims are public records. If you use this Workers Compensation claim in your hiring decision, it could be deemed illegal under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Furthermore, you cannot use older bankruptcy records as part of your decision. This shows you have to be careful you are not breaking any laws when performing detailed background checks like these.

7. Contact Past Employers

This is can a quick, simple way to learn a lot more about your potential new employee. Legally they can speak truthfully about anything regarding the individuals performance with that company. Many times they will not go in depth about the person, however it is still an easy, cheap way to learn more about potential hires.

8. Search Social Media

Another method employers are quite often these days when performing a background check is the potential employees social media profiles. Searching their Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram profiles can really give you a good idea of how they carry themselves in their personal time.

If they constantly post pictures of them drunk and partying all the time, it can change your view on the potential employee completely and result in not hiring them.

On the other hand if you look at a possible employee’s social media profiles, and they seem professional, posting pictures of them with their family etc, it could should some more light that they could be a good hire.

9. Speak to Potential Hire Directly

It is not uncommon, or out of place to speak to a potential hire directly and ask a few questions. For example on the CRA report, it shows if the individual has been arrested at all in the last seven years. If you want to know if they have been arrested at all past the seven years limit, you can simply ask the person if they have ever been arrested in their lifetime. There is nothing illegal with asking a question like this.

Background Check As A Landlord

A landlord needs to know a lot about the potential renter’s past living history, to ensure they are accepting good renters. The most important thing that a landlord needs is the renter’s credit history. To get that information, you will need the potential renters’ name, address, date of birth, as well as their SSN.

Also you can get other information from the tenant such as employment wages, work hours, past landlords, cars they might have etc. Keep in mind that if you run back ground checks on future tenants you should run them on all of the potential tenants or on non of them.  Only running background checks on certain tenants could lead to discrimination law suits that you will have to deal with .

1. Have The Tenant Sign A Consent Form

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you can not run a credit check on anyone unless you have their written permission. Make sure they know that they are signing a consent form allowing you to run a credit check on them.

2. Collect a Fee

Credit checks charge a fee, and if you decide to have the possible tenant pay the fee, make sure they know that you are taking that fee to pay for the credit check.

3. Get Approved To Run Checks

First, you have to be approved to be able to run credit checks, as not just anybody can run a credit check. To get approved, contact the credit bureau, or the Credit Reporting Agency (CRA) and prove you are a landlord . To do this, provide them with your proof of identify, as well as proof you own the rental unit. Once you are approved you are ready to run credit checks on possible tenants.

4. Run Credit Checks

You can run a credit check by using any of the three main bureaus which are, Equifax, Transunion, and Experian.

5. Read the Report Thoroughly

The report will be showing numerous items such as late payments, car loans, school loans, etc. As a landlord you are looking to see if the possible tenant’s debt load is to high, in correlation with their income.

If you decide to deny the tenants based on the report, you will have to create an Adverse Action Letter. The letter should provide contact information of the agency you used to get the report from.

The applicant will have the right to dispute the information that was provided on the report as well. The applicant has 60 days to dispute the information on the report.

6. Discard the Report

Legally, you are not allowed to keep a copy of the tenant’s credit report after you do not have a legitimate use for it, however you should keep the report for 2 years because applicants can file a fair housing claim against you, within 2 years of claimed discrimination.

In conclusion, performing background checks can be tedious and time consuming, however it is well worth it will give peace of mind that there are no potential con artists working with you, which leads to a better work or living experience for all involved.

About The Author

Ben Todd

Ben was a seriously broke graduate student with bad credit who after finding himself rejected for any sort of credit card or loan for most of his adult life, finally decided to get his financial life in order. ' He spent several years reading as many financial advice books and blogs as he could. And suprisingly, Ben found he actually LIKED the topic of personal finance; after fixing his own finances, starting his own successful work at home website business, and using his earnings to get out of debt, created to help others do likewise!

1 Comment

  1. S Mitchell

    My daughter applied for financing through Affirm a company Wayfair, recently, partnered with, they performed the typical credit check; however, also a criminal background check. She has good credit so they couldn’t deny her for that; they denied her for a misdemeanor on her record; the company not knowing the circumstances of the offense denied her, because of the misdemeanor. Responding, “you have been proven to be untrustworthy and dishonest. Of course, she was devistated. She’s financed a vehicle on her own; she was employed and still is employed has and is helping to finance her education. To be denied because of a poor credit score, is understood, but to refer to a potential customer as untrustworthy and dishonest is insulting; demeaning and slanderous. So consumers Beware, this little detail they fail to desclose.


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