Whether it's to verify a friend met online, investigate a new love interest or check on someone who's recently moved into the neighborhood, there are countless reasons one might want to conduct a background check on someone they know. But what exactly can a background check uncover?
And is there a way to perform a background search online for free? With so many options to choose from, this article aims to answer these questions and more while exploring the features, prices, and limitations of the top background sites available to help you make an informed decision.
Best Background Check Services:
TruthFinder - Best Background Check Service Overall
Intelius - Great for Quick Background Checks
Instant Checkmate - Great for Extensive Checks
Spokeo - Affordable Background Check Service
InfoTracer - Service for Public Records
PeopleFinders - Good for Frequent Daily Searches
GoodHire - Most Straightforward Background Check Service
AccurateNow - Accredited by NAPBS
VeriFirst - Best Background Check Service Offering Niche Solutions to Businesses
CocoFinder - Best Free Background Check Service
How the Best Background Check Services Were Evaluated
Price - Price is a necessary factor to consider that cannot be ignored. That’s why the best background check service on this top 10 list either beat the competition in terms of price or offered more features and tools at a similar rate.
Features - Background check sites that offered more comprehensive search tools such as reverse phone lookup, address lookup, criminal record search, and more scored higher on this list.
Free Trial - Free trials or discounted plans to new users are a useful feature, no matter the product or service. Therefore, whether the background check site offered a free trial in one form or another affected the ranking on this top 10 list.
Interface - Since background check sites are primarily used to uncover extensive amounts of information, the ease with which the interface can be navigated is especially important. As such, sites with straightforward, intuitive interfaces scored higher on this list.
1. TruthFinder - Best Background Check Service Overall
TruthFinder can easily find anyone you'd like to check and supplies a wealth of unique features in their background checks, allowing you to review a great deal of information on any individual.
Unlimited background checks
User-friendly cross-platform support
Useful added features
Can't purchase individual reports
No trial period
Users can gain information from public and private databases, such as social media profiles, police records, dark-web activity, location history, and earlier addresses. You can even learn about possible relationships, which isn't a choice with other services.
The advanced algorithm the company uses provides highly accurate and recent information that you can trust without any misleading or out-of-date data. There are even self-monitoring tools, allowing you to see what would come up in your own background check.
Because you can perform an unlimited number of background checks, you never have to worry about search limits as you would on other sites. TruthFinder is available across a variety of platforms for maximum convenience. You can access it over Android and iOS, as well as any web browser. Simply plug in the information, and the interface will reveal results quickly.
Furthermore, TruthFinder provides easy to understand background reports. They even provide information about how you can use the information that they report back to you, such as what is and isn't legal. This kind of transparency allows you to rest assured that TruthFinder is forthright in its actions. Read the full Truthfinder Review here.
2. Intelius - Great for Quick Background Checks
Intelius allows you to find highly accurate information on potential employees and individuals. Their background checks include personal details, criminal records, address history, and much more.
Free limited searches
Affordable premium plan
Quick background checks
Search names, numbers, and addresses for free
Similar to many background check services
The trial period is not free
Pulling from local, state, and federal public sources, as well as government agencies and private companies, this background check site provides its services to those who need an affordable solution to their personal and business needs.
While the free background checks can supply a great deal of valuable information, the $29.95 per month premium plan allows you to receive extensive reports. These reports can cover details like email addresses, educational background, relatives, marriage and divorce history, known aliases, lawsuits, and more.
You can get your first month at a discounted rate of $14.95. However, it's important to remember that you cancel before the end of the trial period. One common occurrence is the renewal of the subscription for full price without the customer's knowledge, though the company frequently offers refunds in those instances.
Intelius can be a great way for larger businesses to eliminate candidates before running a more thorough background check using another service. The low cost can save a great amount of money by allowing you to quickly identify red flags in prospective employees.
Intelius also offers an app on Android and iOS, allowing you to run a background report from your phone or desktop computer. Read the full Intelius Review here.
3. Instant Checkmate - Great for Extensive Checks
Instant Checkmate is a well-known service provider that offers a simple means of performing background checks on potential employees, relatives, friends, and anyone else you’re interested in learning more about. Users don't have to be a member, and the platform allows you to conduct as many searches as you would like.
Multiple search options
Transparency in information use
Thorough public information
The five-day trial for $1.99
Slow report load time
Poor customer service reviews
Can't purchase individual reports
You can pull up details about a person's email and mailing addresses, their social media profiles, phone numbers, criminal background, and much more through the easy-to-use platform. Reports are generated within minutes, allowing you to quickly pull up pertinent details that may be a deal-breaker for employment under your company.
The platform has a good-looking appearance that you can easily navigate, allowing you to intuitively progress through each step in the background check process.
One excellent feature allows you to use an email address or phone number to search for a person, which has proven beneficial to businesses as well as individuals who like to perform checks on those they meet through dating sites. Using Instant Checkmate can even help you screen candidates before performing their interviews, which can save you time and energy.
Instant Checkmate offers a five-day trial for a mere $1.99, though the membership does run a bit higher at $34.78 per month in comparison to other service providers. However, the cost may be offset by the platform's access to social media, availability on Android and iOS devices, and transparency about how the information they find can be used.
Read the full Instant Checkmate Review here.
4. Spokeo - Affordable Background Check Service
While Spokeo is primarily used for personal background searches, the service provider offers Spokeo Enterprise, which is a business-focused plan that provides personal information about individuals. You can use the platform to search people by name, email, phone number, or usernames on social media, allowing you to find a range of information quickly.
Efficient search platform
Quick and simple to use
Searches can lead down the rabbit hole
Ignores criminal records
Spokeo Enterprise offers unlimited downloads of the records you've searched, as well as customizable search plans to get you more out of each report, such as historical records, contact information, and criminal history. You can also run multiple background checks.
You can opt to use the free version, which is often used by people who are looking into lost friends, prospective partners, and family. The free platform offers details such as locations, age, and other general background information.
5. InfoTracer - Best Background Check Service for Public Records
InfoTracer is considered a public record one-stop-shop. The platform provides easy-to-read reports that cover a broad range of information that you can conveniently navigate, such as dark web scans, images, videos, and photos; court records; arrests and warrants; assets; and criminal records.
Search via name, usernames, and other information
Overviews offered before purchase
Only available via computer
While the platform doesn't specifically offer employee background checks, it can be used for quick lookups that can help you perform an early-round elimination before interviewing candidates for a position.
All information provided by InfoTracer is up-to-date, allowing you to easily find information on the person you are looking up. The background check provider offers a paid version that offers deeper information about individuals as well, such as death records, inmate searches, assets, and reverse IP search.
Also, the company has excellent reviews with the Better Business Bureau.
6. PeopleFinders - Best Background Check Service for Frequent Daily Searches
PeopleFinders was established in 1999, allowing users to efficiently access public records online. Businesses or individuals that require an extensive number of background checks daily may benefit the most from this.
Low subscription price
Good for multiple background checks
Doesn't report work history or social media
Individual reports cost $1.95, while the monthly subscription is $24.95 each month. The monthly subscription allows you to run an unlimited number of background checks.
The platform allows you to perform a variety of searches, such as property and bankruptcy, birth and death details; reverse address lookup; and criminal record searches. The information compiled in reports is reliable and accurate.
7. GoodHire - Most Straightforward Background Check Service
GoodHire is a fairly straight forward background check platform that is geared towards small business owners, though some bigger names take advantage of their services as well.
Ideal for small businesses
Flexible pricing plans
No refund policy
Pricing packages can be complicated
One-time setup fee to verify a company
The background check company offers very flexible plans based on your individual needs. However, this can become complicated, based on add-on services. For instance, if you need to request fewer than 25 reports annually, you'll pay per report as opposed to a monthly fee.
In addition, the service considers the information you need to be compiled, such as education verification, motor vehicle records search, ongoing monthly monitoring, or drug screenings.
The one-time setup fee may be harder to justify for businesses that only need to run a couple of background checks each year, so consider the frequency at which you must request these reports.
8. AccurateNow - Best Background Check Service Accredited by NAPBS
While AccurateNow is typically advertised towards small and medium businesses, it functions perfectly for smaller teams and individuals. With this platform, you pay for each report, as well as add-on searches, such as license verification, motor vehicle reports, and other details.
User-friendly and straightforward
Accredited by National Association of Professional Background Screeners
Ideal for small-to-medium size businesses
Premium Package reports are very limited
AccurateNow requires that you set up an account and get approved before requesting background checks. AccurateNow starts at $29.95 for each report, which offers a national criminal check, national sex offender registry check, and social security trace, among some other information.
At $59.99, the reports include a 7-year criminal history check, as well as a global watch. Lastly, at $74.95, you can check for education and employment verification. Basic-level background checks start at $9.99, making them ideal for smaller businesses and organizations.
9. VeriFirst - Best Background Check Service Offering Niche Solutions to Businesses
VeriFirst has been in business for over a decade, offering niche-specific solutions to companies that require background checks. The platform offers tenant-screening services, which can help anyone who owns the property they intend to rent or runs a property management business.
Customer ID verification
Online pricing unavailable
They can provide detailed reports on rental payment and collection histories, income and asset analysis, and credit searches, among other information.
The employment screening services compile comprehensive reports that cover a broad range of information. You can reliably verify education, professional licensing, drug screenings, credit reports, and more.
10. CocoFinder - Best Free Background Check Service
CocoFinder is a completely free background check platform that doesn't require that users create an account. It is ideal for those who are seeking information on someone as a precaution, allowing anyone to verify who they've met online or in-person is trustworthy.
In-depth information across a variety of fields
Long search time
There are several ways that CocoFinder allows you to look someone up, such as by name, email, or reverse phone search. Background checks provide information like relatives, vital records, arrest records, aliases, and traffic records, among other details. The platform is up-front about how the information provided can be used.
What Will a Background Check Reveal?
That depends on the service providing the check. Most will cover readily-available public information like arrest records and aliases, but others are quite a bit more in-depth.
It’s increasingly common for these services to provide users with their target’s social media profiles. The idea is that this gives them the most accurate picture of who the person is, as it reveals the private information they share with friends and family.
However, be careful about diving too deep into a candidate’s Facebook feed, as it can create a host of legal complications. Make sure you’re doing it the right way — and that the service you’re using can be trusted to keep you out of the courtroom.
You may also find certain services that provide financial information, like credit scores, previous bankruptcies, and rental and collection histories. These are especially useful for jobs in the financial sector that would be vulnerable to embezzlement, or government jobs that might be ripe for bribery.
There are others that will provide drug screenings, but this is often a separate charge, so you should likely expect to pay more for that particular service.
As a general rule, the more information you get, the more the service will likely cost. Then again, it can be worth every penny to find out whether the person you’re dealing with is truly trustworthy or not.
What Should I Look for in a Background Check Service?
This will vary depending on your specific needs, but there are a few general guidelines you should keep in mind when shopping around:
How many reports it provides: not every service will provide the same number of reports. Some are geared towards screening individual applicants, while others are capable of investigating multiple people at once (although these will likely be shallower investigations).
How up-to-date the databases are: not all background check databases are updated at the same frequency. As you might expect, more recent information is better (after all, you don’t want to miss something just because it happened within the past few months). Check how often the databases are updated before signing up for anything.
Their search platform: some services only allow you to search by name, while others give you a variety of options, like dates, user names, phone numbers, addresses, and more. You may not need all those other options, but it’s nice to know they’re there if you do.
Pricing options: many services have limited pricing options, such as a single subscription price. Others have more flexibility, such as allowing you to buy a single report or customize the features you use. You should also look to see whether the service offers free trials, as these can give you a good idea of how useful their background checks will truly be to your business.
Accreditation: you need to check if the service you’re considering is FCRA-compliant. If it’s not, then you can’t legally use it for pre-employment screening. You can also check to see if it’s recognized by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners.
Accuracy: this is the big one, but it’s also the hardest to judge. The services are worthless if the information they’re providing isn’t accurate, so you’ll have to figure out a way to determine whether the company in question is trustworthy. Checking to see whether they’re accredited will go a long way towards answering this question, but you should also check their user reviews and standing with the Better Business Bureau.
Turnaround time: some services can get back to you within a day or two, while others will take longer. If you need an answer immediately, you should look for one of the faster services.
What are the Pros and Cons of Performing a Background Check?
It’s important that you know what you’re getting yourself into before you sign up to perform a background check. They have their advantages and disadvantages, and you should be aware of both ahead of time.
The biggest pro is that they can provide you with a safer workplace, as you can weed out candidates with criminal pasts. They can also protect you from theft, negligence lawsuits, and potentially damaging public relations incidents.
The downsides are that they cost time and money, and if done improperly, could leave you open to discrimination lawsuits. That’s why it’s important to use a reputable service, as you want to be sure that every action is performed according to the letter of the law.
Whether or not the pros outweigh the cons is a decision every business will have to make for themselves. As long as the search is done the right way, though, many companies will find them to be well worth the cost.
Are Background Checks Just for Large Corporations, or are They Useful for Smaller Companies as Well?
Virtually any organization could benefit from running background checks on anyone who they’d potentially employ or associate with. It protects everyone involved from making a bad hire, creating a negative working environment, or even becoming exposed to a potential lawsuit.
In fact, you could make a strong case that smaller businesses have even more reason to run background checks than giant corporations. After all, if a huge business makes a bad hire, it’s just one person out of thousands. If a mom-and-pop company makes a mistake, it could have a massive effect on their bottom line.
Are Industry-Specific Background Checks Worth It?
That depends on the industry and what, specifically, you’re looking to find out. Generally speaking, though, they’re definitely worth it in some industries and not as valuable in others.
People in different fields will care about different things, and you’ll want to make sure that whatever service you use is checking for the things that are important to you. If you’re hiring a truck driver, for example, you’ll definitely want a service that focuses on the candidate’s traffic history, whereas that may be less important to a hiring manager in the healthcare field.
It’s worth noting that, in some cases, basic background check services will offer most of what the industry-specific checks would. In that case, it may not be worth the extra money. Also, some services offer a variety of targeted checks, or the ability to customize what information you’re looking to discover.
Are Background Checks Guaranteed to Provide You with a Quality Hire?
Unfortunately, no — there’s still no crystal ball that will reveal whether that candidate is a stud or a dud.
There are lots of important things that background checks can’t tell you — like how hard the person will work, whether they work well as part of a team, and how quickly they pick up new skills.
However, there are many important things that background checks can reveal. These include:
How trustworthy the candidate is: did they lie about or try to hide something major? That’s a big red flag. On the other hand, if they’re up-front about their prior missteps, that may mean that they’ve learned from their mistakes and can now be trusted.
How much education they really have: many candidates will inflate their academic history, figuring no one will ever call up their alma mater to verify anything. A background check will let you know if they really have all those diplomas hanging on the wall.
Their true experience level: as with education, many candidates fib when discussing their prior positions and responsibilities. If it’s absolutely vital that you have an accurate picture of their work history, a background check is a great way to find out for sure.
Background checks aren’t infallible, but they’re an extremely valuable tool for any company that cares deeply about the quality of people they hire.
What About DIY Websites? Are They as Good as Professional Background Check Services?
That depends on what you’re looking for. However, many DIY websites have become quite sophisticated, and they can offer much of what a professional service would at a fraction of the price.
Some of these websites, like TruthFinder, are extremely comprehensive, making them almost as good as any professional service. However, if you need extremely deep background information, you may need to trust a specialist.
Many businesses, however, will do just fine with a DIY option.
Are the Subscription Services Easy to Cancel?
For the most part, yes. Most of them allow you to cancel online or over the phone, and it should only take a few minutes to stop them from billing you.
However, some are more difficult, requiring you to jump through all sorts of hoops to get out of your contract. It’s worth checking around before signing up for any particular service to make sure that other users haven’t had any issues with cancellation.
The Bottom Line
Background checks are an invaluable part of selecting excellent candidates for employment. They provide crucial information about the applicant, such as identity verification, credit history, criminal records, and more.
Background checks can also be useful for personal reasons such as investigating a potential love interest, checking up on a new neighbor, or ensuring the babysitter you’re looking to hire is trustworthy. You can also use background check sites to connect with lost relatives, friends from college, and work colleagues from a job you worked at years ago.
If you’re looking to conduct a background check online, the above top picks are a good place to begin your search.
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