Possibly you’ve never considered using the Internet to run a background check. Neither did I until I tried it. But it’s really not hard if you know how, and it’s free.
The simple fact is, there are many situations in life where it’s extremely helpful or reassuring to be able to quickly find out something about an associates or neighbor’s background.
Consider a few scenarios:
A local used-car dealer has a good price on a car you want. But you’d like to check out the owner of the lot and see if he’s been sued or has a criminal record before buying a car from him (i.e., run a quick background check).
The Internet now makes these kinds of background checks possible – for free – and it’s perfectly legal as long as you adhere to a few simple guidelines, as described below.
In this Guide I’ll discuss how you can access online public records pertaining to just about any adult U.S. citizen. As I said, it’s easy, but you do need to know something about public records and where to access them.
Q & A
The easiest way to overview the subject of online background checks is with questions and answers.
Q: Are online background checks legal?
A: Yes, as long as you only access public records for your own use. That means records like real estate records, bankruptcies, tax liens, and criminal records. Three things you should be aware of, however:
First, you can’t legally do a background check on someone you’re thinking of hiring without his/her written permission (a signed release); second, you can’t use “pretexting” in your background check (for example, calling a bank and impersonating the account holder in order to find out how much money he/she has in the account – this is strictly illegal); third, you can’t legally access someone’s “non-public” information, particularly medical records and credit reports, without a signedrelease from the subject. Also – please never hire someone else to do any of those could be held responsible. There are plenty of private investigators and others with Web sites that will gladly use pretexting to determine someone’s place of employment or financial assets, for example. You should avoid these people like the Black Plague.