What's In a Background Check?

By Dan Hope
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Even though background checks have become very popular, especially for employers looking to hire, many people are confused about what kind of information comes in a background check and where the information comes from. This article will explain the information you can commonly expect from a background check.

Before continuing though, keep in mind that different background check services will vary a little in the amount of information they include in reports. Background check services can use different databases, and each service has different report packages that may include extra information from more specialized databases. The list below catalogues the most basic types of information you can expect from a background check. For more specific information, take a look at the services we rated in our background check review.

Background check services use databases of public records to find information. You might be able to do your own search cheaper because the databases are open to the public, but background check services offer faster searches and simpler reports that keep you from searching through multiple databases on your own. Convenience, expertise and speed are the real advantages of background check services.

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Background checks will almost always include information like name, address and phone number if they are publicly available. But the information can go much deeper than that. Criminal records, arrests, convictions, sex offender listings, driving records, vehicle registration, bankruptcy and liens, past employers, military records and court records are some of the most common sources of information. If information isn’t available from these categories it may mean it doesn’t apply to the individual you are researching.

There are several other types of information that aren’t as common but still may be included in the background check. Credit records, medical records, education records and character references fall under this category.

There are some states that restrict the kinds of information that can be displayed in a background check. Similarly, the federal government has regulations about displaying information on bankruptcies and liens after a certain period of time. It might be a good idea to search for laws and regulations that apply to background checks in your state so that you’ll know whether or not there may be information absent from the background check reports.

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