When you apply for employment, a mortgage, or even to volunteer at a school, part of the process often includes a background check. Do you know what your background check says about you?
Types of Background Information
Some different types of information that a typical background check can include are:
- Employment: Many employers find out more about you by talking to previous employers and colleagues, researching your employment history, checking for criminal charges, and making sure you are eligible to work in the U.S.
- Criminal: Searching federal, state, and county arrest and court records can disclose if you have a criminal record.
- Social Security: Make sure your number isn't being used by someone else to access your benefits and earnings information.
- Credit: When you apply for a mortgage and some finance-related jobs, often a credit check is mandatory, but you must give written permission.
- Rentals: Many rental property owners search for information about you before letting you rent their space.
- Relatives: Many reports include possible relatives based on your history and lineage.
- Social Media: Find out what social media footprint you have and what other people can see.
The Results May Surprise You
Many people are familiar with running a background check on someone else, such as potential employees, renters, or even dating partners. Running one on yourself can reveal surprising yet useful results.
Finding what information is available to others can help you take steps to ensure the information is accurate and positive. You can improve your results, be it clean up your credit rating, legally remove an out-of-date minor criminal charge, or deal with hidden identity theft issues.
- Arrests without a conviction that occurred more than seven years ago should not be shown to potential employers, according to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). If you see such a conviction on your report, you can contest its inclusion.
- Even if you know you will pass a background check, it can still provide peace of mind to know what others can learn about you through public records and the internet. Knowing your own background information can also prepare you to explain the history behind results that reflect what you did a long time ago, help with talking points in an interview, or even remind you to delete forgotten social media accounts that are less than flattering.
- Running a credit check on yourself could reveal that your identity has been stolen, which most commonly occurs to open a credit card or access an existing account in your name. Checking periodically can help you find issues sooner and deal with damage before it becomes irreparable.
- Many schools and other organizations that use volunteers require a background check before you can assist with children, especially for off-campus activities like field trips.
- Some checks include a section about relatives, which could reveal long-lost relations. If you are concerned about a spouse's honesty, a search about yourself that includes your spouse can sometimes reveal surprising information.
Where to Do the Search Yourself
There are many ways to find information about yourself. Going to different agencies and talking to someone in person or calling to request your information gives you the chance to verify who you are, but it does take a lot of time. You can quickly start with an online search using common search engines, various social media sites, and the following free online search options:
- National Center for State Courts (NCSC) allows you to search local and state court records.
- National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW) provides public access to nationwide sex offender data.
- Social Security Administration lets you create an account and view your Social Security Statement online at any time.
- Visit your state-specific Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) site to search for your driving record. Report details and possible fees vary by state.
Online Background Check Companies
Performing an online background search has become easier than ever before as many all-in-one companies search hundreds of databases to compile different types of information into one report.
Services and information provided vary by each company and the FCRA sets out specific requirements that companies must follow to provide accuracy and fairness in credit reporting. A Consumer Affairs article suggests that "you use your own diligence to ensure the company you are hiring complies with all relevant laws." Among their top-ten, consumer-rated companies that provide background checks are the following:
- Intelius is rated among the best and it ranked as a gold award winner for best service by Top 10 Reviews. A specific background check includes all available current public information and a statewide criminal background check for $49.95. A nationwide criminal check that searches across 43 states is also available for $39.95.
- Instant Checkmate offers background check services that include arrest records, contact information, address history, licenses, and more. Premium reports cost $19.99.
- BeenVerified provides access to public information in an easy-to-use format that is fast and affordable with very responsive customer service. Join with a one-month membership for $22.86 or for three months for $14.86 per month.
- People Finders has 24/7 access to data from any mobile device, tablet, or computer. It issues background reports with records from local, state, and national sources for under $20.
- PeopleSmart delivers unlimited reports for contact, phone, and work and access to digitized public court records, etc. for $14.99 per month which includes a free Premium report on the specific person you were searching for. You can also opt for a single Premium report for $29.95.
Chad Brooks, a senior writer for Business News Daily, recommends the following companies for small business and DIY background checks respectively:
- Good Hire includes a specific Run Your Own Background Check section that promises a portable, accurate background check to share with an employer based on public, court and criminal records. A Starter check costs $19.99, a Basic check costs $29.99, and a Standard check costs $59.99.
- Background Report offers a specific Check Yourself section. After running a report, you can add notes to explain or dispute claims and check for inaccuracies and misinformation. Guidance is also provided to take steps to resolve any issues that you may find. A Basic check costs $19.95 and a Premium check costs $29.
Check Yourself to Protect Yourself
The information you gain from doing a background check on yourself can be a very valuable tool. Not only can you see exactly what a future employer, landlord, or partner can find out about you, but you also have the opportunity to do something about it. Online resources make it easier than ever to find and update your information to ensure everything is accurate and professional.