This article provides an overview of background checks and investigations and the companies that provide products and services. In addition, we’ll cover the different types of checks that are available and what’s in a typical report.
A background check is a detailed investigation into an individual’s personal data, information, and history. The information helps support all types of decision-making, from employment decisions to handgun purchases.
List of Companies that provide Background Check Services
The companies on the list are perfect for:
- Private investigators who need access to online data and information to complete investigations for their clients.
- Small and mid-size businesses that need a service to do employment verification, history checks, etc. for new applicants.
- Individuals who want to verify a person’s history.
- Individuals who want to run a check on themselves.
Accurint from LexisNexis
Owned by LexisNexis, Accurint is a locate-and-research tool available to government, law enforcement, and commercial customers. It has proprietary data-linking technology returns search results in seconds to the user’s desktop. Accurint’s key features include:
- People Search locates neighbors, associates, and possible relatives
- Track down phone numbers not typically available to increase your chances of finding your subject. Users can access over 50 million non-directory assistance records, including cell phone numbers
- Accurint’s “People at Work” service links more than 132 million individuals to businesses and includes information such as business addresses, phone numbers, and possible dates of employment
- Link individuals with businesses, addresses, relatives, and vehicles
- Their Advanced Person Search helps find individuals when only old or fragmented data is available
Clear for Investigations
CLEAR is an investigative platform from Thomson Reuters especially for professionals who need data and information about individuals and companies. The CLEAR background check service provides fast access to a vast collection of public and proprietary data files, CLEAR helps you find out about people and their connections.
Data-Trac Online Investigative Network
Data-Trac allows users to conduct searches online such as residence history, Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) searches, Social security, etc.) for licensed private investigators, corporate security departments, attorneys, and human resource departments.
Delvepoint is a skip tracing tool that allows you to search more than 65 billion records via an intuitive online interface. The investigative search service offers reports and documents for people and businesses. Use the service to find people, locate assets, track criminals, and more.
In addition, the online service has handy features such as your own Vault that allows you to store your records for easy retrieval at any time. DelvePoint also has a feature called Relationship Graph that allows you to quickly drill down into familial relationships. Learn more at DelvePoint.
GoodHire is an employment screening and history check company that is a good option for small businesses that need to outsource the screening process. The service is easy to use and their prices are generally affordable. Their technology integrates directly into most major HR systems. Also, 85% of their results are available within one minute.
GoodHire’s results return checks on SSN Trace, National, State, and County Criminal Database Search, Traffic Violations, Sex Offender List, Domestic and Global Terrorist Watch Lists, Drug Screening, Employment Credit Report, Federal Criminal Check, Healthcare Sanctions, Education Verification, Professional License check, verification of employers, DMV records.
HireRight Express is an online service provider that allows you to do employment verification, criminal records search, motor vehicle history search, address history, terrorist watch list, and sex offender registry checks.
The Intelius Background Check report can potentially provide a plethora of information about a person, including (when available) criminal records, marriage/divorce documentation, lawsuits, liens, bankruptcies, property data files, addresses, phone numbers, relatives and neighbors, matching people search results, and more.
An Intelius Criminal Records search will locate available criminal reports (felonies, misdemeanors, DUIs, etc.) nationwide or in a specific state. A report may include (when available) offense type and date, court name, case number, the outcome of the charges, and more. Read our full Intelius review. Note: We do not recommend doing business with this company.
IntelliCorp is a nationwide provider of employment screening products and services. Provides services such as SSN Verification, Criminal Records, Motor Vehicle Reports, Drug Testing.
IRBsearch provides online access to more than 34 billion records from over 10,000 sources. If you need to find information about someone, IRBsearch provides searches for people, assets, businesses, courts, licenses, phones, and more.
National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS)
The NICS system is used by Federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs) to determine whether a prospective buyer is eligible to buy firearms or explosives. Before ringing up the sale, cashiers call in a check to the FBI or to other designated agencies to ensure that each customer does not have a criminal record or isn’t otherwise ineligible to make a purchase. In the last decade, the NCIS handled more than 100 million checks, leading to more than 700,000 denials.
Although Pipl is not a background check company, they do offer data services to several different companies. The Pipl query-engine helps find deep web pages that cannot be found on regular search engines. Unlike a typical search-engine, Pipl allows you to do a deep public information search by retrieving information from the deep web. Pipl’s robots are set to interact with searchable databases and extract facts and relevant information. For example, if finds contact details and other relevant information from personal profiles, member directories, scientific publications, court files, and numerous other deep-web sources.
Spokeo People Search
Spokeo is a people search service that aggregates and organizes information about people into simple and comprehensive online profiles that are accessible to consumers, businesses, and non-profits. It acts like a search engine to organize White Pages listings, Public data, and Social Network Information to help you safely find & learn about people. Read our full review of Spokeo.
TLOxp for Licensed Investigators
TLOxp for Licensed Investigators was created by the inventor of AutoTrak and Accurint and is now owned by TransUnion. It is a complete investigative system for finding knowledge and insight. It combines advanced search capabilities with massive and unique data repositories. Licensed investigators can use TLOxp for:
- Skip Tracing
- Investigating and analyzing asset ownership to identify scams, the pattern of fraud, suspicious claims, hidden assets and to authenticate legitimate claims
- Locate and analyze people, places, businesses, and interrelationships over time
- Research criminal histories and associations
- Find witnesses, and gather information to support litigation
Different Types of Background Checks
A gun background check is used when an individual tries to purchase a gun from a federally licensed gun dealer. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms is responsible for licensing all dealers. All dealers are required to run a check on the purchaser through the FBI. The buyer has to provide their ID and fill out a form known as ATF Form 4473, which collects personal information. The dealer can submit the information via the phone or online and can get a response in a few minutes.
Nanny background checks can be used in making hiring decisions for nanny’s, caregivers, babysitters, etc. The types of data and information pulled together for this type of history check doesn’t differ from any other. However, the information is scrutinized more closely, because it will be used to hire someone to protect one’s children. Read more.
Self-checks. Proactive job seekers can use the resources below to get a copy of their own reports. It is better to know what is in your own report. That way, you’ll be prepared for questions from potential employers.
Date checkups (to learn more about the person you’re dating). This is another popular trend. Anyone can use an online service to do a reference lookup on a prospective mate. Truly, we can all make better dating decisions knowing our mate’s criminal, employment and financial history.
Business background checks allow you to learn about companies before doing work with them by performing a comprehensive search. A business check can be used to determine if they have filed for bankruptcy, who has liens against their assets, and if they are a legally operating company. In addition, business licenses, OSHA violations, litigation, credit check, liens and judgments, SEC records (if a publicly-traded company), Better Business Bureau, Chamber of Commerce in the city, consumer complaints, products and services, reputation, legal status, industry, major competitor and finally a criminal check or the owners or officers of the company.
What is included in a typical report?
Most involve some combination of the following:
- Identity Verification including the individual’s first and last name, social security number, marital status, former residences.
- Criminal history – including criminal record, arrest records, police records and court records. If you’re looking specifically for a police report, read the article on how to get a copy of a police report.
- Financial / Credit History – including credit history, liens, and judgments. In cases where the person may deal with money or financial services, the company may pull a credit history report.
- Employment History Verification includes checking work experience, resume validity, personal references and more.
- Verify Education History and academic credentials, degrees, and diplomas, professional certifications, schools and universities attended, etc..
- Driving records and driving history or DMV records check help to determine if the candidate is a responsible driver, has outstanding tickets, has a valid driver’s license, etc.
Other information may be provided depending on the service provider and the amount of detail you need with each inquiry.
- Social media search
- Death record retrievals such as death certificates and obituary search
- Marriage and divorce verification or confirmation
- Miscellaneous public record retrieval
- Professional license search
- Real estate records, property ownership reports
Other key data points confirm such things as membership in various organizations, political affiliations, ethnic profile, and religion. However, these cannot be used in making a hiring decision.
In some cases, screening companies may go further than merely pulling reports. Additional steps may include a drug test and speaking with personal references. In cases where the person may be working with children, the company may conduct a sex offender registry search. Of course, if someone is applying for a position in the military, a military service history check will be necessary.
How Much Do Background Checks Cost?
The cost of reports and verification services vary widely. In general, you will need to contact the provider directly to get pricing information. In most cases, pricing will be either a subscription model (with monthly or annual charges) or fixed pricing. Some companies offer a “pay per report” option as well. Be sure to understand the cost and fees involved before purchasing. If you are working with a private eye, get a quote upfront for all fees.
Retired Service Providers
KnowX – The KnowX.com portal retired on July 31, 2017.
Free Background Checks or Online Searches
Of course, while searching online for companies that provide public records, you will likely come across advertisements promoting the availability of free services or police record searches. Truly, some reports and data may be available for free in the form of public records. However, a true free check is likely not available, or will likely be incomplete.
Some online detective software packages suggest that you can invest just a small amount. Then, you can use their software and then conduct unlimited searches for free. In reality, you do get unlimited access to their search tools. Unfortunately, that unlimited access usually provides you with little more than free telephone number and address searches.
Our advice is to ignore the advertisements for free checks. If you need to learn about someone’s past, criminal history, driving record, or online activity, it is worthwhile to invest the money and work with one of the above companies.
Real Estate and Property Reports
Real Estate Reports provide basic information on properties including residential real estate, commercial real estate, institutional, community buildings, land and much more.
Private investigators are often called upon to conduct research related to real estate including residential properties, small businesses, commercial real estate, community buildings, and other structures. In many cases, Private investigators may be hired to find the information, such as part of a surveillance project, or they may need to gather the information for their own purposes. In such situations, detectives rely on a variety of information sources such as:
- Public records available at the county courthouse that will show property details, ownership information, and other data
- Public records search available through the companies listed above (or others)
- Additionally, search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing can provide quick access to publicly available information, photos, videos, and more.
- Online real estate and property information tools such as Realtor.com, Trulia, or Zillow
The Professional Background Screening Association (PBSA) is a non-profit trade organization representing companies that offer employment and screening services. The association promotes ethical business practices and compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
Presenting Information and Data to Clients
After retrieving the raw data on the subject, take the time to analyze the information, and summarize the key information in the form of an investigative report. It is the private investigator’s job to cull through the data an determine the facts that are relevant to the investigation. Ultimately, once all of the relevant information and data is assembled, it should be presented in a format that is simple and easy to understand.
Provide your own detailed descriptions for various data points to help your clients understand the information, what it is and why it is important.
Also, don’t simply email or mail the report to your client. Try to present the information in person. That way, you can review the information, have a conversation, answer any questions or concerns, and agree on what needs to happen next. Presenting what you found or uncovered in person is a professional touch that will go a long way toward earning your client’s trust and potentially, their future business.
Questions and Comments
If you have any questions about running background checks or the list of companies that provide the services, please leave a comment below.