From the bagel you ate for brunch last Tuesday, to the location of the restaurant, your favorite music, your real name and online alias, age, address, any vehicle offenses or bankruptcies - everything is on the internet for the public to see.
What Is A Free Background Check?
A few decades ago life was very different. If anyone wanted to find any information about you then they would only have a telephone directory as a reference. Failing that, they would need to consult a professional to hunt down information. Life has changed dramatically since then and now you can pretty much find anything about anyone on the internet.
Unless you’re a criminal, you might be wondering what the point of a free online background check is. After all, you have nothing to hide. But running a background check can bring up some real surprises and when it comes to new jobs and relationships – what does your online persona say about you?
You may be shocked to discover what information is available in the wrong hands. An online background check will show any criminal, educational, financial and commercial records. A free background check is something that you can do yourself, but be warned…it’s pretty labor intensive and requires a lot of time and energy.
Why Do You Need a Background Check?
Let’s spend a moment visualizing a scenario that happens often. Let’s presume that you’ve been offered a second interview for a high-profile job. They have seen your resume, met you in person and like what they see. What do you think the next stage would be? Would you be surprised if we told you that a percentage of employers perform online background checks of their potential employees?
Again, you might not be a criminal, but your Facebook profile pic of you hanging from a tree after one too many tequilas isn’t going to give them a good professional impression! In this case, running a background check on yourself would be helpful as it would show you what the outside world sees when they search for you online. This can be shocking if you’ve never done this before.
There are also other reasons why an online background check is not only useful but essential. Have you ever advertised for a roomie only to realize that after two months they’re not who you expected at all? Not only would you save time and energy by running a background check on them first, but you’d also know if your new potential roommate has a criminal background.
A background check can also be useful for potential dates. Save yourself the heartache and check them out online first. Know who you are going to let into your life, perform a 100% free background check and see what it reveals.
You can even verify people selling online using a proper online check, so you don’t end up getting scammed or find yourself in a dangerous situation.
How To Do A Free Background Check
The first thing to note with any background check is that although there will be a wealth of information available for free at your fingertips, you’ll still be limited by what you are legally allowed to access. More information is available if you pay to use a service but we’ll speak more about that later.
Here are several ways you can check your background online:
Use A Variety Of Search Engines
This should be the starting point to any free background check. Google is your friend when it comes to revealing information online. If you want to do a free people search then just type the specific name and location using quotation marks like this: “name, location”. If you don’t know the location then that’s fine, but obviously, if the name you are searching is popular, you might have to browse through hundreds or thousands of links before you find who you are looking for.
If you’re searching yourself then add “name, location” or “alias name, location” as many of us use an alias online. Google is likely to bring up all records of social media which you should be able to search through unless the settings are set to private. Using a search engine will also show you any websites that are linked to the person in question, photographs that have been posted online and sometimes the person’s address and current location.
Also, don’t just use Google. Although this is the go-to search engine for most people, it’s important to remember that different search engines reveal different results. Make sure you try the following additional search engines:
Other social media sites will bring up a surprising amount of personal data, regarding times, locations and connected friends:
- LinkedIn (if the person in question has registered with this professional network) Due to the professional nature of the website, you will likely be able to search for real names (not online aliases) and current information.
Venture Into The Deep Web
Now we know that this sounds pretty scary but the deep web isn’t to be mistaken for the dark web; it’s just basically information that wouldn’t appear in a normal search engine as it isn’t indexed like most website data. Used by many people including private detectives who may be looking to do a free public records search, the deep web will bring up relevant information that otherwise would have been hidden from the likes of Google which only looks at ‘surface web’ information.
We use the deep web all the time to access things like private bank accounts, personal emails, medical records, legal documents and other personal information that normal search engines can’t access because there are no links for them to trawl.
To access the deep web you can use services such as Pipl to see what type of personal information is available for the public to see.
Reverse Image Search
If you are performing a free online background check on someone and need to see if a photograph is genuine or you need to identify the name of the person in a particular photo then a really useful tool is the reverse image search. Where we would normally search Google for a specific image this works the opposite way. All you need to do is upload the original image or a screenshot of the image into Google Images or a website such as Tin Eye and they will show you the source of the image and will sometimes list the name too.
Check Your Address
If you’re looking to see what information exists online about you or someone who lives close to you, then you can use a website such as White Pages. This website (for US users only) allows you to enter a name and address and in return will give you a profile of who lives there, where they have previously lived, their age and people they’re associated with. Other information is available if you sign up to the service.
Access Public Records
One of the best ways to get a totally free background check on someone is to access public records. This is the tool that many private investigators use and if it’s good enough for them we think it’s definitely going to be good enough for us. Public records hold a vast amount of information and can be a valuable tool in gaining a full picture of your background. Excellent sources of information:
- The National Archives
- Social Security
- Death Index
- Local Tax Assessor’s Office
- Local State Department Of Corporation
- County Title
- Lands Records
Find your local offices to gain access to public records online by searching and using the location of the person in question.
Accessing all of this information independently means that your online background check is 100% free. The only problem with this is that you will be limited to what type of information you’ll be able to see and more importantly it also takes time…like a lot of time. For basic background check information then go ahead and see what you can find, but for more in-depth information then it’s worth spending a few dollars and getting a little help. Here are some of the best online background checking services currently on offer:
Companies such as these provide a professional service where they trawl the internet for you and then provide you with a comprehensive report. There are many benefits to using a service like this, but the main one is that most credible companies such as Been Verified, Truth Finder and PeopleLooker can access information that would normally be tricky to obtain or difficult to understand.
These websites usually give you access to information such as public records (and some even offer a court runner service if the information isn’t available online), police records, civil judgments, birth and death records, relatives, education and jobs, dating profiles and traffic reports. Some can even scan the dark web to see if your information is being used for criminal activity. These websites tend to scan deeper than your average search engine and therefore can uncover a wealth of information that is otherwise hidden to novice eyes.
It’s important to use a reputable company when performing a background check. The reason for this is because there are laws and regulations in place to protect an element of people’s privacy. You have to use the services responsibly too. For example, if you are looking for information on a partner, neighbor, family member, potential sex offender (wanting to check the sex offender register), friends, online sellers, celebrities or yourself, then most services are fine to use. If, however, you are an employer or landlord, or you plan to use the information for insurance or medical reasons then this is normally a big no-no. In that case you would have to use a specific Customer Reporting Agency or CRA.
Should I Pay For My Background Check?
There is no correct answer to this question as it largely depends on your needs and how complex your situation is. Generally speaking, the internet is a great place for totally free background checks, no credit card needed, and for this reason alone, many people choose to perform their own checks. The problem with this is that you might be doing something illegal without realizing it if you’re not in compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Not only that but your search is likely to be limited too as some bits of vital information could be tied up in public records and difficult to find.
For a small fee (usually around $20) it’s worth using a professional service to do the hard work for you. These services can bring up countless pieces of vital information that otherwise would have taken a very long time to obtain. They can even provide a court runner service to literally go and physically find the public records that you need, saving you time and energy.
The best idea is to do a quick initial check to see what you can uncover online. If you feel you need more information then it’s definitely worth paying for a little helping hand. Public records can be a pain to go through and tricky to understand. Special reports from background check companies make the whole job painless and fast. So rather than focus on a free public record search, hand it over to a company that understands.
The Bottom Line
Whether you decide to pay for an online background check or choose to pay someone to perform this task for you, depends on the depth of information required, but running a background check on yourself is pretty essential. There is an abundance of data floating around for everyone to access – isn’t it time to find out what your online data reveal?