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Background Check

What Is a Background Check?

Background checks are routine investigations into an individual’s prior activities that involve looking through professional licensing records along with various government databases. Many different types of background checks are utilized to investigate past crimes, employment history or educational background. Background checks can be a useful resource to find out important information about potential employees, new neighbors, and long-lost family members, among others. Many different types of records can be found through routine background checks. Below are some of the most specific uses of background checks in the United States:

  • Polygraph Tests
  • Military Records
  • Sex Offender Records
  • Criminal or Arrest Records
  • Citizenship, Immigration or Legal Work Status
  • Employment History Records
  • Social Security Number
  • Pertinent Financial Records Including Credit Defaults and/or Bankruptcies
  • Educational Records
  • Professional Licensing Records
  • Drug Tests
  • Personal Interviews
  • Driving and Vehicle Records
  • Medical Evaluations
  • Mental and Psychological Evaluations

What is important to realize is that not all records will be accessible to everyone. There are certain kinds of records that only specific government agencies or particular individuals can access. That said, many records are available via the Internet by paying a minimal fee. When checking whether the data collected is accurate, pay close attention to which organization the data came from. If the data originated from an organization outside of an official court, police station or government organization, verify its accuracy carefully before making important decisions.

What Steps Are Required to Complete a Background Check?

When deciding to complete a background check, it is essential to verify the state laws where the background check will be performed. For example, many states require notifying the individual before completing a background check on them.

Employers and landlords typically start the background check process by researching different Consumer Reporting Agencies (CRA’s) to find the best one to generate a report. Upon receiving the results, it will be possible to see any criminal records, prior employment, and credit history that occurred in the past seven years. It may also be possible to see any bankruptcies that occurred in the past ten years.

Aside from employers and landlords, other private citizens may want to conduct background checks on potential nannies or roommates. When completing a background check on an individual as a private citizen, the process is slightly different. The key is to research public records on the Internet. The Internet is a very powerful tool to find information. Public records available on the Internet will typically include information about potential arrests, convictions or incarcerations. That said, there are still certain records such as school or military records that are only accessible with the permission of the individual. However, for more serious inquiries it may be best to hire a professional website or a private investigator to get more in-depth information.

Why Are Background Checks Beneficial?

Background checks are something to provide employers with a sense of ease and thoroughness with their hiring practices. Employers want to make sure the person they are hiring is who they say they are, and ideally, does not have any criminal records. For more personal issues such as roommate verification, background checks make it possible to find out whether the individual is a convicted felon, which may greatly impact a tenant’s decision. In the United States, it is important to look at criminal records by state to get the best results or to complete a search on a national scale to get the most comprehensive results.

Permitted Uses of Background Checks

While there are many potential uses of background checks, these are some of the most popular:

  • Investigating and Retrieving Public Court Documents
  • Verifying an Individual's Current Address
  • Looking Into One’s Own Background Report
  • Finding Old Friends or Former Love Interests
  • Double Checking One’s Upcoming Online Date
  • Finding More Information About Distant Relatives
  • Verifying Credibility of Online Buyers and Sellers
  • Scoping Out One’s New Neighbors
  • Reviewing Demographic and Important Census Data for Your Neighborhood
  • Making Sure Sex Offenders Are Not Living Nearby
  • Looking Up Former Classmates
  • Researching National and Local Politicians

When Not to Use a Background Check

When someone chooses to use background checks, there may be certain restrictions in place regarding which information can be accessed and for what purpose it may be used. Depending on which state the criminal check is taking place, there are safeguarding measures particularly surrounding employment background checks to protect prospective job applicants from being unfairly scrutinized. Typically, the most standard background checks will include basic information such as contact information, criminal and arrest records; locations lived, sex offender registration, census data, professional licenses or potential relatives.

Guarantees Regarding Sex Offender Records, Incarceration, Criminal or Arrest Records

It is essential to understand that each state within the country has different laws and restrictions in their statutes about what information is a public record and what information should be private. For this reason, depending on the state where a record is being searched, the results will vary due to the different privacy protections.

Background checks are an excellent resource to fill in many potential doubts and gaps in a person’s personal history. Be sure to make use one of the various online databases and resources available since the Internet has made background checks more accessible than ever before.

Background Check Glossary Definition:

Background checks essentially compile several different types of records about an individual’s personal history from public sources. Typically, background checks can include information related to criminal offenses or arrests, prior residences, citizenship status, membership on the sex offender registry, previous employment or educational records. Depending on the researcher’s preference, different information found in background checks can be compartmentalized according to relevance. Depending on which state the background check is conducted, there are unique regulations about what kind of information can be searched. When considering conducting a background check, make sure to investigate each state’s different rules to be sure that any information obtained is done so legally.