A Comprehensive Guide to Conducting a Free Online Background Check

Have you ever considered performing a personal verification of yourself online? It's a wise step to take for several reasons. There could be incorrect information about you circulating on the internet or in your credit report, and you might stumble upon an embarrassing photo or a comment you made years ago. Such details could potentially harm your chances when applying for credit or employment. Fortunately, there are ways to rectify or remove damaging information. Additionally, it's prudent to conduct a background check before entering into a roommate arrangement or going on a date with someone you met online. You never know what concerning or risky details might be concealed in someone's past. Given the importance of checking people's backgrounds, there are numerous methods available, and the best part is, some won't cost you a dime.

Before we proceed, it's essential to note a crucial fact about background checks. If you are conducting a background check as an employer, landlord, or for credit, medical, or insurance purposes, you cannot use just any service. According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you must use a Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA), which adheres to specific standards for data security and offers dispute resolution. Failing to use a CRA for background checks on potential tenants or employees, even for casual workers like domestic help, can land you in legal trouble. You can find a comprehensive list of CRAs categorized by credit reporting, job history, insurance, rental, and more on my website. Furthermore, you have the right to request and dispute the information these CRAs have on file for you.

When it comes to conducting background checks on roommates or romantic partners, you can employ various services or legal methods of your choice. Hiring a professional service is the easiest option, and numerous background check agencies are available online. However, be cautious of scam companies. Shop around and compare prices from multiple agencies to determine the average cost of a background check and steer clear of those that offer suspiciously low or excessively high prices.

If you're willing to invest some time and save money, you can perform many of the same checks yourself. In fact, you may uncover information about a person's habits or character that a professional service might overlook. There are four websites I recommend that can assist you in researching someone. These platforms search Google, Facebook, and other data sources to uncover details that individuals have willingly shared. A simple Google search might also reveal additional information that could make you reconsider your assessment. However, it's important to note that crucial details about an individual's past arrests or convictions may not be readily visible through online searches.

Fortunately, most court information is considered public record. To access it, visit your state's official government website or refer to the National Center for State Courts to find the relevant information. Make sure to search every county where the person you're checking has resided. Additionally, you may need to dig deeper to find felony and misdemeanor convictions at the city and county level. Keep an eye out for civil judgments, such as bankruptcies and court orders to pay debts.

In many cases, pulling a credit report requires a legitimate business purpose and written consent. If you're considering screening a potential roommate, asking them to volunteer a credit report can be a good approach. Every consumer is entitled to receive one free copy of their credit report per year from the three major reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.

Remember, the more information you have about a person, the more accurate your inquiries will be. Knowing their middle name and date of birth can help you eliminate individuals with similar names. If you're not entirely certain you've found the right person, refrain from taking action until you've verified their identity. Being penalized for something that isn't your fault is certainly not a pleasant experience.