A background check service can reveal some very telling information about your closest friends, upcoming date, neighbors or potential business partner. You can also perform a background check on yourself to ensure the information that others can find is accurate. The information contained within a background check report comes from public sources such as county clerks’ offices, courthouses and social media sites. You could find the same information yourself, but it would be very time-consuming and potentially frustrating. Generally, it takes only seconds to receive a report from background check services.
The U.S. Fair Credit Reporting Act restricts what you can do with information obtained from a background check. You cannot use the data to screen tenants or potential employees, and you can't use it to determine whether a person is eligible for credit, a mortgage or insurance. If you do need information for those purposes, you can use a consumer reporting agency, such as TransUnion, Equifax or Experian for credit checks or employee screening services.
We chose 10 of the best background check services. If you need an all-inclusive background report with criminal records, financial history, contact information, marriage and divorce records and a list of family members, you will want to check out our top-ranked service, Intelius. When you’re looking for an accurate criminal background check with information on arrests, convictions and even outstanding warrants, you have several more options. Many of the services we tested provide accurate financial history.
As you use these services, be aware that background check companies rely on a variety of public records for the data they need to create the reports they have available for purchase, so even if information seems outdated, it might actually be the most updated data available. We recommend Intelius, US Search and BeenVerified because all three scored very well in the accuracy and variety of information in our testing, and each service was simple to use. You can get extra information about screening people online by reading our articles on background check services.
Top-notch background check companies provide the information you need – such as date of birth, aliases, whether someone has a criminal background, or if a person has been sued or filed for bankruptcy – and they provide it quickly. The best services also make it easy for you to submit requests and access the reports you have purchased. Here are the some of the features you should look for:
An all-inclusive service for background checks should offer access to a wide range of information about each person you research, including accurate criminal records, personal information, financial history and more. The best online background check services will include updated public records, such as marriage and divorce records, and property information.
Since accuracy is the most important part of any background check report, we decided to test subjects who range from having completely clean criminal, financial and civil records to those with more checkered pasts. We ran background checks on them, compared their records with the reports we received and calculated the percentage of correct data for each service and each category.
Ease of Use
The more information you have about a person, the easier it will be to locate that person, but sometimes you only have a last name to start with. If that's the case, you'll want to look for a service that only requires one piece of information to begin your search. After you’ve purchased background reports, you might need to reference them more than once, so having your reports available in one place can be very helpful. The best background check services organize your reports so you can easily access them later. Also, the information contained in a background report may not be familiar to you, so it’s good to have a service that provides descriptions of each section of data. The services that offer an organized dashboard, report definitions and the single-search option scored the highest in our review.
The best background check services offer a preview page that contains the possible matches to the person you’ve searched. This preview is available before you buy a full report, so you can be certain you’re investigating the right person. Companies should also offer at least a few different ways to search for a person, including by name and approximate location.
Help & Support
Customer support should offer a variety of contact methods, including telephone, live chat and email support. You should also expect helpful FAQs and help menus. If you do need to contact a customer service representative, you should expect friendly and helpful service. Sometimes, a service may not be able to dig up the person you’re looking for, and having a person on the other end of a phone help you navigate the site or assist you by retrieving the background report for you is useful.
While the FCRA prohibits the use of these services for credit and pre-employment checks, tenant screening or similar uses, these services still provide useful information. Keep in mind that background check services may not have complete databases because of the limitations of government public records and commercial records. For more information on the types of data that is available, read the Terms of Service for each service.