You might want to check a prospective tenant or roommate, look into the background of a new neighbor, vet an employment candidate, or are planning to meet someone from a dating site in real life. There are many reasons to want to do a background check on a new person in your life.
You might want to run a self-check before applying for a job because it’s the best way to clear up your digital footprint. A few clicks can reveal very important information. Are there any ways to get a free online background check? There are, but some are more effective than others. This article looks at five ways to get one and also explores the concept of low-cost or free trials. Before getting to that, let’s have a look at the pertinent background check laws.
The Law is the Law
If you are or represent a landlord, an employer, a medical or an insurance company, or a financial institution, you have to comply with the requirements of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Among them is one mandating you use a verified Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA) to do the check. CRAs comply with all the relevant laws for the protection of personal information and dispute resolution.
None of the free background check options discussed in this article can be used to make an official decision on tenancy, employment, or insurance, or financial products and services to provide to an applicant. However, they are helpful in gathering background information about a person, which can prove very useful.
1. Social Media and Google
These are the most obvious free ways to do a background check. You can start with either one, but most people begin with Google to pull up their search target’s social media profiles. Social networks make specific searches possible. Simply type the person’s first and last name into social media like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, TikTok, and Snapchat to see what comes up. Many social media users including their full name and place, and date of birth in their profiles. You can use this information to narrow down your search. You’re likely to get a lot of matching names, but the city and date of birth can help find the right person based on age range and location.
Googling someone’s name isn’t always going to yield useful findings, especially if the name is common. The right way to do a Google search is by adding a city and state to the full name if you know it. You can also try Google Images; a recognizable picture might turn up. If they were ever mentioned in the news, you’ll find information by checking Google News. Also, enter their name in Google videos.
2. Court Records
This is a more complicated but also a more reliable method. You can check someone’s public record data online if you know or at least have some idea of where they’ve lived in their past apart from where they live now. This search also starts with Google. You need to search for the person’s state followed by “court records.” For example, it would be this site in New York.
Once you’ve found the right government site, it gets easier. You will retrieve any information about your search subject that’s publicly available. The free search won’t yield a highly detailed report, but it will still be helpful.
There’s one more thing to consider. The person isn’t likely to have lived in the same state all their life. You’ll need to check every state’s court records where they’ve lived. The databases are somewhat limited in that they only contain records of events that occurred in the specific state, county, or city.
3. White Pages
The White Pages are useful if you want to run a check on a new neighbor, especially if you don’t know their name. Enter your address in the White Pages and the site will produce a map of your area. To access any publicly available data about your neighbors, simply click on the house or building.
While on the subject of neighborhoods, you can find out where certain photos were taken. There’s a tool called The Beat, which combines the meta-data in digital images with Google Street View to show people what publicly posted pictures were taken in their area. Many digital images feature geotags, which include the location where they were shot. Thus, you get an album of images taken by people in your neighborhood.
Why is this important? The Beat raises certain privacy issues to the point of provoking anxiety. If you want to take pictures in your area, turn the geotags off. That aside, these images can reveal interesting things.
4. Prison Records
One’s biggest fear can involve someone new in their life having a criminal record. By checking the prison records in a location they’ve inhabited, you might be able to retrieve this information. You can find the official state prison website on Google by searching by state. Once you’ve found it, enter their name and city. You’ll see basic criminal background data as well as criminal records. There can be inconsistencies though. What’s more, some states charge a fee to do this search. You’ll also have to do this for each state they have lived in or been to.
5. Low Cost or Free Trials
While there’s no such thing as a free background check provider (it’s false advertising, plain and simple), there are background check services that offer free or low cost trials. Keep in mind not all of them will generate reliable results. Still, a free or cheap trial can be worth trying if you want to save time. Most of the methods discussed above will require you to search numerous county and state databases for public records related to the subject of your search. There is never a guarantee that you’ll get the right person.
Should You use a Background Check Service?
Within the framework of a free trial, you can search as many public databases as you want. For example, providers like CheckPeople offer unlimited searches over five days for the symbolic amount of $1. Background check companies can provide information based on email address, phone number, social media details, and educational and employment background searches. They can retrieve data related to property ownership, criminal records, and information about the person’s associates, family members, or friends. They can also find recent contact information.
Accessing someone’s records will be easy if you have a lot of background details. Basically, the more you find, the more you can hope to find. You can get an email by searching for a name. Then, you can search using the email and perhaps get a current phone number and physical address, and so on. Conversely, you’re going to struggle with only limited data to go on. You need to know where exactly they’ve lived or perhaps committed a crime to be able to rely on court and other public records because the databases are organized at the city, county, or state level.
Hopefully, this information about the different types of free background checks has been enlightening. On a final note, professional background check companies save people time and effort because they require far less prior data and can guarantee reliable results.