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How Background Checks Protect the Individual

Sunday, January 17th

How Background Checks Protect the Individual

In today's digital world - where information often is at the tip of our fingers in an instant - conducting a background check on an individual has never been easier.

The curious can Google a person's name and find out just about anything there is to know about that person that is part of a public domain. If a more detailed history is desired, there are a number of third-party agencies which will conduct a thorough background check for an agreed-upon fee.

There are three common types of background checks that are conducted:

  • Full Background Check. This is a comprehensive and thorough check, which includes such information as date of birth, marriages/divorces and claims of bankruptcy. It also will contain a criminal conviction history.
  • Criminal Background Check. Less thorough than a full background check, the only information provided in this kind of check is a criminal/conviction history. A number of third-party agencies conduct these checks at prices ranging from $15 to $40. Only criminal convictions will appear in these records. Arrests that did not result in a conviction are not part of public information records.
  • Credit Report Check. Credit checks are the second most popular kind of background check conducted today, especially by employers. Credit checks cannot be conducted without the individual's consent, so any employer or private agency which wishes to conduct such a check on an individual's credit history must first obtain that person's written authorization.

As of January 2013, employers must revise their Summary of Rights forms to comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act, or FCRA. The act is a federal law which stipulates the guidelines by which employers and other agencies can obtain information about an individual's credit history, personal character, reputation or other consumer-reported data. Employers who fail to comply with the new provisions risk being fined by the Federal Trade Commission, which oversees the administration of FCRA. These rules are designed to protect the individual, who may be subject to a background check which results in false or misleading information which in turn can prevent hiring.

FCRA does not apply to individuals who are conducting a background check on another individual for personal reasons, such as looking into the criminal history of a romantic partner prior to dating. However, any report which reveals damaging information should be verified through a second source. As with other public records, there is always a chance of mistaken identity or other incorrect information being included in a background check.

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Background Check Service FAQ

The information provided by a background check is determined by the service you select. Common details include traffic offenses and arrest records, known addresses and phone numbers, property ownership and court cases. Some of the more thorough services even attempt to track social media profiles and look for the individual's presence on the Dark Web.
That also depends on which provider you use to run the check. Most services make it more affordable to pay for a month of access than to run a one-off report. For example, one service charges $29.95 for a single background check, but $29.89 for a month of unlimited reports! You can take advantage of the longer subscription terms to research to your heart's content!
There are lots of reasons you might want to do a background check. Maybe you're in charge of a membership list that has outdated information and you need to track down the new contact details for a few people. Or you might be curious about your new neighbors and want to get some insights before you reach out (though, honestly, that might be a little creepy!). Background checks can also give you some peace of mind if you're into the online dating thing, to make sure that seemingly nice man or woman really is who they say they are before you meet in person.
Usually just a few minutes. You'll enter the information you have, like name and any known addresses, and then you might be asked to provide other details or confirm preliminary results as a match.
Absolutely! It's a great way to determine what someone else might find if they check YOU out! It can also give you a heads-up if you're going to have a background check done for some official purpose, like applying to be a foster parent or for a job that requires one. If you find something in your results that's inaccurate, it gives you time to get it fixed or to prepare an explanation for your agency or prospective employer.
Yes. You may not use consumer background check services to gather information to make decisions about tenant screening, insurance, employment or consumer credit. These all require FCRA-compliant platforms, which typically involve the consent of the person being screened. If you need a background check for any of these purposes, be sure to choose a service specifically designed to be legal and compliant.
This varies widely by service. Some providers really go to great lengths to return accurate results, while others seem to just scour the internet and dump every remotely-possible match they find. It's a good idea to read reviews and check out a background check provider's reputation before paying to run reports.
Most of the time, there isn't. However, many background check services give you a free trial, ranging from a day or two to a full week. Who knows, you might even be able to get the information you were looking for in that timespan and not need to continue on as a paid subscriber!
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