What is an Online Background Check?
A background check is a way to find out information about a person ’s criminal, commercial, educational and financial records. What many people don’t know, is that there are different types of background checks available, and rules that you must follow with the each of them.
Many background check websites that offer their services are not a consumer reporting agency, which means that you are unable to use their website for reasons created by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).
What is the FCRA?
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is a federal law which oversees how consumer reporting agencies collect and administer personal credit information to third parties.
It also includes details for how such agencies are allowed to collect and use the information available to them.
A non-FCRA report cannot be used to hire, fire, screen tenants, or for any credit screening.
What Shows up on a Background Check?
The following items are generally included in a background check:
- Criminal record featuring felonies and misdemeanors
- Federal nationwide and statewide criminal record check
- National warrants
- Sex offender registry check
- Global homeland security search
- International criminal records check
- Education verification
- Employment history
- Employment eligibility verification
- License verification
- Professional reference checks
- Motor vehicle reports
- Credit report
- Drug screening
- Phone numbers
- Traffic court records
- DUI reports
- Military background check
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What Can I Use a Background Check Service For?
- People search
It doesn’t matter if you’re searching for someone or meeting up with random strangers, it is always good to have peace of mind. When meeting up in social situations with people you’ve never seen before, public places are handy, but this is not always the case. Many new groups tend to meet up privately and in smaller groups, so it’s important to look out for your safety.
- Roommate verification
Nobody wants to share their home with just anyone, so as soon as you run a background check online you will automatically know which individuals are the perfect fit for your in-house community.
- Dating partner lookup
With the popularization of online dating and hookup sites, it can be quite daunting to meet up with a stranger for a first date. There are probably thousands of questions running through your mind. Do they have a job? Do they have a criminal record? Are they married? Do they have three separate families in three separate states? The possibilities are endless!
- Current address lookup
You might want to know more about a property you are interested in or possibly see random people going in and out of a house down your street. In any case, a background check company will be able to sort all your queries out.
- Self-background check
Want to know what other people can find out about you? Of course, you do, it’s human nature to be curious about yourself. Some background check companies will even send you notifications if new records appear on your report.
- Verify online buyers and sellers
Why travel interstate to purchase or sell something to someone who isn’t serious about selling or buying? Put your safety first and keep away from physical harm, possible fraud or even involuntary criminal activity.
- Public court records
Individual court records can be accessed by people who know where to find them. Search for nearby sex offenders, which will be offered by a background check service. This usually comes in a list form so you can search their address. Sometimes you will have the automatic location finder option as well which will reveal any possible results near you.
Online Background Check Scams
There are hundreds of online sites claiming to be able to provide lightning-speed, comprehensive background checks for you in return for payment. A lot of the time people will get scammed, receiving very little to no information at all.
So, how can you spot a fake background check from the real deal?
The legit services will rarely ask you to provide financial information from a job applicant, but will rather require the employer to pay for the services they provide.
Phony background check sites will also keep away from using secure internet connections. Look for the “https:” in their address bar when filling out the application page, and it should be the real deal.
People out to scam others are also terrible at spelling, so it should be pretty easy to tell by their website if they will be able to provide you with everything you need. Bad spelling, strange syntax, and terrible grammar will tell you to run the other way.
Lastly, a great business will want to connect to their customers, so if there is no contact phone number to call if you are having doubts or questions, then it might be a sign that they are not for you. Unanswered and unreturned calls are also a cause for concern.
How to Pick the Right Online Background Check for You
Be mindful of a few things when picking out the best background check service for you:
You need information and you need it right now. Some background check services are faster than others so depending on how soon you need the information, this is a huge factor to think about.
- Search Options
Your top background search option should have the following options (at least): people search, property search, reverse email search, reverse phone search and a nearby sex offender search.
You need value for the price. Access to information that is harder to come by is not usually a problem to pay for, but you do not want to pay for information that you can find in a basic Google search. Anyone can do that.
Another important factor is experience in sorting and managing data as well as keeping on top of new information coming through.
- Customer Service
As well as being happy with the service provided, you want someone to be on call if there are questions popping into your head. A detailed FAQ section and contact emails and phone numbers are vital in answering those questions.
Best Background Check Services
As far as background searches go, criminal pasts are probably the highest ranking reason that people use this service. If that is the case, BeenVerified is the service for you. Offering one of the most comprehensive database searches out there, you will surely find out everything you need to know from them. Within their search they offer:
- Full names and aliases
- Address history
- Relatives and associates
- Criminal check
- Property ownership details
- Civil judgments
- Tax liens
- Criminal court records
- County records
- Case numbers
- Offense details
- Arrest details
- County records
Read more about BeenVerified in our extensive review.
There is no question that TruthFinder is one of the best background check companies out there. They have apps available for Android and iOS devices, which will make background searches on the go incredibly simple.
Here are just some of the options that they have available to search for you:,
- Home addresses
- Criminal records
- Social media profile search
- Educational information
- Weapon permits
- Current or former roommates
- Deep web search
- Reverse email lookup
- Reverse phone lookup
- Property search
- Interactive map of registered sex offenders
On top of all this, they are incredibly easy to work with and all you need to give is the bare minimum information about the subject of your search, such as:
- Their name
- Their surname
Read more about TruthFinder in our extensive review.
Finding family members is very easy using Instant Checkmate. They have a family search function which sets them apart from the rest and allows you to keep tabs on spouses or children, search for adopted parents and find long lost relatives.
Some cool features that you will enjoy from Instant Checkmate include:
- Mobile App
- People Search
- Reverse Phone Lookup
- Search by name, phone number, address or email
- Business interests
- Firearm permits
- UCC filings
- Confidential searches
- Detailed premium reports
- An online “Private Investigator” service
- Top-tier online support
- 24/7 telephone customer support
This is often considered to be the fanciest of background check services due to their premium options and their on-demand private investigator service.
Read more about Instant Checkmate in our extensive review.
This is a fantastic service that will give you a detailed report that will leave out things you do not need and give you all the information that you do want. Their Premier ($19.95 per month) & Premier Plus ($29.95 per month) offer comprehensive search features including:
- Criminal records
- Drug trafficking
- Tax evasion
- Securities fraud
Offers which they make available to their customers include:
- Criminal background check
- Reverse phone number check
- Sex offences
- Traffic violations
- Case type
- Court dates
- Court type
- Disposition filing date
They also have a great customer service center and they will provide the background checks in a speedy manner.
The mobile app is quick and easy to install as well.
Read more about Intelius in our extensive review.
If you are after value for money, then Spokeo is the background check service provider for you. Offering various membership plans, from the basics to premiums, there is a reason that they are on this list. Spokeo will pull information from unlikely places that other services haven’t even thought of. They include:
- Business websites
- Marketing surveys
- Public records
- Social media profiles
- Reverse email search
Their full year membership comes in at just $8.95 which is a discount of about 66% when comparing to other companies offering similar services. You will be able to uncover quite a bit of information about the person in question, such as:
- Public social profiles
- Phone and location information
- Current address
- Property information
- Neighborhood information
- Family members
Additionally, Spokeo offers a search service called ‘Search Angel’ which awards people who dedicate their time to assisting adult adoptees search for their birth parents. Their support section is also sufficient in that they offer an FAQ page as well as email of phone contact possibilities.
Their website is intuitive and they offer diverse search options on their homepage. As speed is one of the most important factors in background searches it is imperative to point out that they complete their reports faster than many of their competitors.
Read more about Spokeo in our extensive review.
There are hundreds of background check services available to you online, and selecting the right one for you really depends on the features that you need to get the information you want.
In saying that, there are search capabilities that have become standard. These include people search, property search, reverse telephone and email lookup. These are all search tools which people have become accustomed to having when doing a background check.
Other features which have become irreplaceable in background searches include mobile apps for both Android and iOS platforms. While some people are comfortable using their desktop, many of us are constantly on the go and so mobile apps are the best option out there.
The services listed as the top background search services have all performed well when it comes to value, their features, affordability and the level of detail they provide.