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Background check companies compile information on the background and history of individuals. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) has specific requirements for companies that do background checks, and you should be diligent in ensuring the company you hire complies with all relevant laws. Use our guide to research the best background check company for you.

by Ben Mannes Home and Personal Security Expert

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Available in 20149
TruthFinder
Read 1,187 Reviews

Founded in 2015, TruthFinder gives you access to millions of public records. By using machine learning and complex algorithms, Truthfinder searches data all over the web to give you background information on just about anyone.

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Instant Checkmate
Read 3,613 Reviews

Searches numerous public records from federal, state, and county government databases. Offers two subscription plans with unlimited reports for $35 or less per month. All search inquiries are confidential and secure.

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GoodHire
Read 633 Reviews

Offers background checks and pre-employment screenings for businesses of all sizes. Plans starting at $29.99 per month. Provides access to a large database. Extensive resources. Online portal.

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Spokeo
Read 720 Reviews

Uses public data to search for people. Search anyone in the U.S. by name, phone, email and more. Organizes white page listings and public records into personal profiles. Aggregates data using deep web crawlers.

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MyLife
Read 1,281 Reviews

MyLife is a website offering a service for people concerned about information on their background reports. For a fee, MyLife monitors your background report and allows you to enhance or correct publicly available information.

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BeenVerified
Read 362 Reviews

Specializes in online search services and search records. Through its public record search engine provides consumers with explanations about where information was collected and found. Mobile app available.

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Intelius
Read 471 Reviews

Intelius is a well-known background check service that allows people to do a reverse phone lookup. This service allows users to find out who owns a phone number and whether any public records are associated with that person.

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CoreLogic SafeRent
Read 86 Reviews

CoreLogic Rental Property Solutions helps landlords find out critical information about their tenants. Reports include information such as rental history, criminal background and other relevant details for landlords.

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USSearch.com
Read 143 Reviews

Founded in 1994, USSearch.com is a people finder website based in Washington. Users purchase public record information including name, address, criminal records and more; fees vary depending on how much information you request.

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PeopleSmart
Read 25 Reviews

PeopleSmart offers users a way to easily search for people by name, email address or phone number. With this service, users can connect with long-lost friends or relatives as well as conduct background searches.

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​What is a background check?

Background investigations provide records and information on people. They’re most commonly used by employers or landlords to vet applicants, but they’re also useful for screening romantic partners, new neighbors or coworkers. Background checks can contain an array of information on a person, like their credit history, driving record, criminal record and social media history.

How does a background check work?

Background checks pull information from databases, public records and the internet. If you’re undergoing a background check while applying for a job, it starts with validating your identity through your Social Security number. From there, a background check company uses databases or public records to gather information like:

  • Where you’ve lived
  • Where you’ve worked
  • Your criminal record

While background check services can access a lot of personal information, it’s essential to note that there are strict regulations about what type of information they can disclose. Because some background checks are officially considered consumer reports, they are covered in the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which states that you must give written consent before a third-party company conducts a background check on you.

While a company reserves the right to withhold employment based on certain information on your background check, it’s required to provide you with specific documentation of the incident. If inaccurate information shows up on your background check and causes you to miss a job opportunity, you have the right to dispute it within 60 days of receiving the report.

Background checks take
1 to 30 days

Some companies offer background checks that are not consumer reports and do not require written permission. These companies search criminal records, social media and other databases to provide information on the person you’re searching for. These checks do not access any information governed by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), and they cannot be used for purposes like employment screening, lease applications or credit eligibility.

These services are ideal for someone looking for friends or relatives they have lost touch with or gathering information on potential romantic partners they met on online dating sites like Tinder or Hinge.

How long does a background check take?

A background check can take anywhere from a day to a month, depending on the intensity of the check and the information a company or employer is seeking. Online background check searches that do not search for information governed by the FCRA may take minutes, but a basic background check takes approximately one to two days. Very thorough background checks, such as those conducted by the FBI, can take 30 days or more.

What does a background check show?

A background check can show a variety of information, depending on the type of search you’re conducting. Thorough consumer reports may pull sensitive information like people’s credit history, while instant online checks may only verify the person’s identity, address and criminal record.

Not every person is looking for the same information when conducting background searches, so the information pulled by background check companies differs based on the type of service they provide and the records they access.

It’s likely that the information they check will be related to the job or situation — a landlord would likely check to make sure you don’t have an eviction history, a potential employer would be more interested in verifying your work history, and someone looking for information about a potential date may be more interested in criminal records.

Background check types

Background screening companies often differ from one another based on the kinds of background checks they can perform. Background check services can include any of the following checks or histories:

Credit checks
Credit checks are run to see a person's financial history. Companies use this information to determine how likely the individual is to make payments. Landlords, lenders and insurance companies often request this type of screening. Some employers run credit checks, as well.
Criminal background checks
Background check companies research court, police and other records to determine whether you have a criminal history. While most employers want to know whether candidates have a criminal record, this information is especially important if the position is with a law enforcement agency or another government office. To access this information, background check companies frequently use county, state and federal records when conducting criminal background checks.

Criminal record background checks are also often used by online background check services so people can learn if their coworkers, neighbors or potential dates have been convicted of crimes in the past.

Driving records
Companies who want to hire drivers with clean driving records request this type of check to learn about a person’s driving history and ensure their license is current.
Drug testing
Many employers require drug testing for job candidates and employees. Some employers may require ongoing, periodic testing.
Employment and education check
Most employers want to verify candidates’ employment and education history, so background checks confirm these to ensure the person has all the qualifications they claim in their resume.
Sex offender registry check
While this is typically covered by a background check company, you can also check the sex offender registry on your own. For more detailed information, it’s best to work with a professional background check service.
Social media and internet check
Social media can give you insight into a person’s habits and interests, but employers, lenders and landlords should be cautious about using information gained through social media. A person’s social media account may contain protected class information, including their race, religion, relationship status and age.

While someone’s social media accounts can provide context or information on their hobbies or personality, protected information cannot be used in an employers’ hiring decision and is protected by the Equal Employment Opportunity Act (EEOA).

Reference checks
Similar to employment verification, it’s common for a background check company or employer to verify a candidate’s character and skill set by conducting reference checks.

Background check services

Background check companies offer multiple services, including specialty services that may not be available with other providers. Different companies may specialize in certain types of background checks, like the following:

  • Household employee background check companies provide services for those looking to hire people to work in their households.
  • Tenant background check companies run background checks for landlords who want to screen potential tenants.
  • Comprehensive background check companies run background checks on prospective employees and offer full reports – including criminal history, driving history, credit history and more – in their results.
  • Online background check companies provide fast and immediate results and are typically used by those trying to find people or check the history of coworkers or potential dates. These searches generally do not provide information governed by the FCRA.
  • Employment background check companies have specific laws and regulations they must follow, so it’s essential to work with a company that’s accredited and complies with the FCRA and the EEOA.

Background check companies also include different information, so consider what type of background check you need before committing to working with a specific company.

  • Strictly testing companies: Some background check companies simply run background checks and compile the results to give to people requesting the test. These companies generally are run fully online, making them accessible to anyone with an internet connection.
  • Full-service companies: Full-service background check companies learn about a company's recruiting strategies and desired employee type and help clients understand test results and further develop a recruiting plan. Larger corporations with a high number of job candidates going through background checks may want to utilize a full-service background check company.
  • Testing and consulting companies: Some background check companies run checks on candidates and offer advice to clients about how to interpret the results.

How much does a background check cost?

Monthly costs for a background check service start at $28, but most companies offer add-ons and extra screenings for an additional cost. Fee amounts and types vary significantly between companies, often based on the types of checks done and the scope of services required. Some companies offer a la carte background checks, while others charge custom fees or bill you based on the number of searches required. We’ve listed some possible pricing structures below, but always ask a company representative about pricing before committing to its services.

  • Base price and fees: Some companies charge clients a base price for their services with additional fees for each individual report.
  • Flat-fee companies: Flat-fee background check companies offer comprehensive background check services for one fixed price.
  • Custom fees: Some background check companies create custom fees and payment plans for companies. These plans are particularly common for big companies that need to run frequent background checks.
  • Price by search volume: Many background check companies offer tiered pricing based on the number of searches required. Larger companies or people who need multiple background checks at a time are ideal candidates for this type of program.

Background check questions

What background check certifications should I look for?
Many background check companies offer background screening services, and some have different official credentials than others. Knowing these organizations and the standards they uphold helps you identify legitimate background check companies. Accreditations to look for include:
  • Professional Background Screening Association (PBSA), formerly known as the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS)
  • Background Screening Agency Accreditation Program (BSAAP)
  • Background Screening Credentialing Council (BSCC)
Is there a totally free background check?
You can conduct a free, surface-level background check yourself through search engines, social media and publicly accessible government databases. Through these resources, you can uncover basic information about a person or business, but you may not be able to access specific court records or criminal databases unless you pay for a service. For a more in-depth check, you may want to consider paying for a background check service.
Are online background checks accurate?
Yes, online background checks are usually accurate if there’s no case of mistaken identity and the provider uses the right sources. Before hiring a background check company, ask about its credentials, such as accreditation from the Professional Background Screening Association, and whether it verifies the information it gathers. Check that the company has a physical address and phone number, as well.
Can you do a background check on yourself?
You can run a background check on yourself by checking your credit report, searching court records, going over your social media footprint and searching for your name on Google. You can also hire a background check company to do a self-background check.
Can you do a background check on someone without their permission?
It depends. You can run a background check on romantic partners, roommates or coworkers without that person’s consent if the search does not provide information governed by the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Employers, lenders and landlords must obtain permission and follow strict regulations.
How do you get a background check?
To obtain a background check, find a background check company with professional associations and accreditations, good reviews and the ability to find accurate, up-to-date information. Make sure the company you choose offers the services and reporting you need.
What shows on a background check?
It depends on the company and service you choose. A background check may produce some or all of the following personal information:
  • Full name
  • Age and date of birth
  • Contact information
  • Relatives
  • Criminal and arrest records
  • Driving records
  • Drug testing
  • Educational and employment history
  • Social media profiles
  • Credit history
Will someone know if you do a background check?
If you are performing a background check for personal reasons, then probably not. But in certain situations, it is against the law to run a background check without the subject’s consent. Employers, for example, must get permission before getting a background check on a job applicant.
How can I get a free tenant screening report?
Some companies offer tenant screening services for free. Check what’s provided as part of a free tenant screening report service; you may have to pay extra for the information you need.

Not sure how to choose?

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    Background check company reviews

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    Instant Checkmate

    Instant Checkmate searches public records to provide information about DUIs, arrests, driving convictions, sex offenses and other criminal records. Their services cannot be used for employment screening, including household workers or tenant screening. They also cannot be used to assess professional services or determine qualifications for education-related financial assistance, credit or insurance eligibility.

    • Comprehensive checks: Instant Checkmate checks over 30 data points, which means they offer a wide range of information about the person under investigation.
    • Unlimited checks for a low fee: Instant Checkmate offers customers unlimited checks and reports for a low monthly fee.
    • U.S.-based customer service: Instant Checkmate offers high-quality customer service to clients, via the Internet and the phone. The customer service representatives are all based in the United States, so they have a firm grasp of language and culture and can communicate easily.
    • Utilized by reputable clients: Reputable and trustworthy clients use Instant Checkmate.
    • Three membership plans: Instant Checkmate offers three membership levels, so customers can choose how much they want to spend and how often they want to utilize the site.
    • Important Disclaimer: Unlike many background check web-based businesses, Instant Checkmate is not a consumer reporting agency and does not furnish consumer reports as defined by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). This means that it is unlawful for consumers to use Instant Checkmate and the information it provides for (a) evaluating a person for employment, promotion, reassignment or retention (including employment of babysitters, nannies, cleaning personnel, gardeners or other contractors); (b) establishing a person's eligibility for personal credit, loans, insurance or assessing risks associated with existing consumer credit obligations; (c) evaluating a person in connection with leasing, renting or sale of a house, apartment or other dwelling; (d) evaluating a person for educational opportunities, scholarships or fellowships; or (e) any other purpose subject to FCRA. Any such use is strictly prohibited by Instant Checkmate and is strictly prohibited by federal law. Instant Checkmate further prohibits use of its site and the information it provides by businesses or other organizations. As a condition to use Instant Checkmate and the information it provides, a subscriber must expressly agree to these terms and must expressly agree that he or she is acting solely in his or her personal capacity for exclusively personal (i.e., non-business related) purposes.
    Read 3613 Reviews
    BeenVerified

    Been Verified is a people search site based in New York, NY. It aggregates public records into an easy-to-read report. According to the laws of the Fair Credit and Reporting Act (FCRA), BeenVerified is not a consumer reporting agency. This means there a number of restrictions in the way you can use BeenVerified. Consumers are restricted from using BeenVerified for: employment screening, hiring of household workers, tenant screening, educational qualification, credit or insurance and business transactions initiated by an individual customer.

    Read 362 Reviews
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    TruthFinder

    Truthfinder is an online public record search service. Use it to find information about neighbors, sex offenders, friends, online buyers and sellers and more. Price depends on which membership package you choose but the Truthfinder website says you can get unlimited background check reports for less than $20 per month.

    • People search: Truthfinder lets you search public records for free. This free service lets you find peoples name, location, phone number, current and previous addresses, occupation and more. People search integrates with your voice activated device like Siri and Echo. For example, you can tell Siri, “Truthfinder John Smith” and it will automatically look up the spoken name.
    • Criminal records: Use Truthfinder to look up criminal records such as felony offenses, misdemeanors traffic court records, sex offenders and more. The most common crimes Truthfinder looks up include property crime, larceny, burglary and violent crimes.
    • Reverse phone search: Truthfinder lets you input a persons phone number to get personal information such as social media accounts and location. Once you input the phone number, Truthfinder gathers a report that can be emailed to you once you put in your name and email address.
    • Pricing: Truthfinder offers a one-month membership for less than $30 per month. This lets you run unlimited standard background reports. A three-month subscription breaks down to about $26 per month. Truthfinder also has a plan that lets you look up an unlimited number of phone numbers for $2 per month. You can pay using a credit card or PayPal.
    Read 1187 Reviews
    Spokeo

    Spokeo operates as a search engine for people. Individuals and companies can use Spokeo and Spokeo Enterprise to find and validate people, including potential employees. They do not provide financial information, so users cannot use Spokeo to screen individuals for credit checks or insurance.

    Read 720 Reviews
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    PeopleFinders.com

    PeopleFinders is a Data-as-a-Service company that has access to public records on nearly every adult living in the United States. They also offer reverse phone lookup services and criminal record search. Based in Sacramento, California, the company has been in operation since 1988.

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    CoreLogic SafeRent

    CoreLogic provides a variety of services related to the real estate industry, including background checks, property tax management, loan modification, foreclosure audits and more. CoreLogic Rental Property Solutions acts as an advisor for multifamily property owners, including offer screenings for potential tenants.

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    Intelius

    Intelius was founded in 2003 as an information commerce company. They offer businesses cloud-based background check solutions that can be accessed on desktop and mobile devices.

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    USSearch.com

    US Search offers several services, including people search, background checks, criminal record search, social network search, property record search and reverse phone lookup. Individual reports can be garnered instantly for under $3 each. US Search is not a Consumer Reporting Agency and should not be used to make decisions related to employment, tenant screening or other purposes outlined in the FCRA.

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    PeopleSmart

    PeopleSmart is an online search engine of public records, and it specializes in reuniting lost friends and family members. They also offer reverse phone lookup and access to public records.

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    by Ben Mannes Home and Personal Security Expert

    Ben Mannes is a noted subject matter expert in public safety, exam integrity and investigations. He began his work in public safety in 1994 and has a Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership and a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice from California Coast University. He is both a Certified Exam Security Professional and Certified Protection Professional.

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