What are Background Checks?
A background check is an investigation of a person's personal, professional, and legal or criminal histories.
Using Background Checks
A variety of people and businesses use background checks, including:
- Potential employers, to make sure the applicant was truthful and doesn't have a criminal history that would reflect poorly on the company.
- Landlords who strictly screen their potential tenants.
- Firearms dealers, to make sure they don't sell to anyone with a felony.
- Law enforcement, sometimes to help conduct criminal investigations.
- Government agencies, for purposes such as security clearance.
Sometimes, even credit card companies and car insurance providers conduct background checks.
Conducting a Background Check
Typically, people order professional background checks rather than conduct the checks themselves.
However, if you're interested in finding out more about someone on your own, understand you can use a variety of records to conduct a background check.
Such records include:
- Vital records such as birth certificates, death certificates, marriage licenses, and divorce decrees.
- Court records and criminal records, which include records of any court proceedings in which the person was involved, specific crimes, and jail and/or probation or parole time.
- Driving records, to learn more about a person's driving history including traffic tickets, license suspension and revocations, and even driving-related crimes.
Other records also can help you get a clearer picture of someone's background. Visit our Public Records section for details.
Ordering a Background Check
As mentioned above, ordering a background check is more common (and in most cases, easier and more thorough) than conducting one yourself.
For a fee, third-party companies that specialize in conducting background checks can uncover public information about a person more quickly and comprehensively than a private citizen. Please be wary of sites that offer a free employment history. As often the case in this industry if it's too good to be true, it usually is.
Some of these companies will even take identifying information about the person, run a quick screening, and let you know what kinds of records are available before you decide whether to order the background check in its entirety.