This article overviews background checks, investigations, and the companies providing 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 data, information, and history. The information helps support all 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 need access to online data and information to complete client investigations.
- Small and mid-sized businesses need a service for new applicants’ employment verification, history checks, etc.
- Individuals who want to verify a person’s history.
- Individuals who want to run a check on themselves.
Accurint from LexisNexis
LexisNexis owns Accurint, a locate-and-research tool available to government, law enforcement, and commercial customers. It has proprietary data-linking technology that returns search results in seconds to the user’s desktop. Accurint’s key features include the following:
- 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 public and proprietary data file collection. CLEAR helps you find out about people and their connections.
Data-Trac Online Investigative Network
Data-Trac’s proprietary search technology mines through billions of public records and field agent data. The service allows users to conduct searches online, such as:
- Residence address history
- Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) searches
- Asset reports
- Social media
The services are available to licensed private investigators, law enforcement, corporate security departments, attorneys, and human resource departments. Data-Trac is used primarily as a locator tool to locate missing persons, track down debtors, find witnesses, etc.
Delvepoint is a skip-tracing tool that allows you to search over 65 billion records. The investigative search service offers reports and documents for people and businesses via an intuitive online interface. Use the service to find people, locate assets, and track criminals.
In addition, the online service has a variety of handy features. You can set up your Vault, which allows you to store your records for easy retrieval anytime. DelvePoint also has a Relationship Graph feature, allowing you to drill down into familial relationships quickly. Learn more at DelvePoint.
GoodHire is an employment screening and history check company. It is a good option for small businesses that need to outsource the screening process. The service is easy to use, and its 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 Searches, Traffic Violations, and Sex Offender Lists. In addition, it searches Domestic and Global Terrorist Watch Lists, Drug Screening, Employment Credit reports, Federal Criminal checks, Healthcare Sanctions, Education Verification, Professional License checks, verification of employers, and DMV records.
HireRight Express is an online service provider that allows you to do employment verification. It involves a criminal records search, motor vehicle history search, address history, terrorist watch list, and sex offender registry checks.
The Intelius Background Check report can provide a plethora of information about a person. Examples include (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) the offense type and date, court name, case number, and the outcome of the charges. Please read our full Intelius review.
IntelliCorp is a nationwide provider of employment screening products and services. Provides services such as SSN Verification, Criminal Records, Motor Vehicle Reports, and Drug Testing.
IRBsearch provides online access to over 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). Licensees use it to determine whether a prospective buyer can buy firearms or explosives. Before ringing up the sale, cashiers call in a check to the FBI or other designated agencies to ensure that each customer has no criminal record or isn’t otherwise ineligible to make a purchase. The NCIS handled over 100 million checks in the last decade, leading to over 700,000 denials.
Although Pipl is not a background check company, it offers data services to several 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. Also, it retrieves information from the deep web. Pipl’s robots are set to interact with searchable databases and extract facts and relevant information. For example, it 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. Then, it organizes it into simple and comprehensive online profiles accessible to consumers, businesses, and non-profits. Spokeo acts like a search engine to organize White Pages listings, Public data, and Social Network Information. As a result, you can safely find and learn about people. Read our full review of Spokeo.
TruthFinder is a public records research service that uses algorithms and machine learning to search data sources and compile reports. For example, data sources include federal, state, and county records. Also, the service searches social media data and the deep web. For instance, you may find background information such as:
- Contact information
- Relatives and related persons
- Birth records and death information
- Social media accounts and profiles
- Criminal and traffic history
- Employment and education credentials
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 the following:
- Skip Tracing
- Investigating and analyzing asset ownership to identify scams, the pattern of fraud, suspicious claims, and hidden assets 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 appropriate when an individual tries to purchase a gun from a federally licensed gun dealer. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms licenses all dealers. All gun dealers and retailers must 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 phone or online and can get a response in a few minutes.
Business background checks allow you to learn about companies by performing a comprehensive search before working with them. A business check can determine if they have filed for bankruptcy, who has liens against their assets, and if they are a legally operating company. In addition, it will check for important data and information such as:
- Business licenses
- OSHA violations
- Civil and criminal litigation cases
- Credit history or credit check
- Liens and judgments
- Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) records (if a publicly-traded company)
- Better Business Bureau complaints
- Chamber of Commerce in the city
- Consumer complaints
- Products and services
- Online Reputation
- Legal status (e.g., legal registration as a partnership, corporation, sole proprietorship, etc.)
- Major competitors
- Criminal check or the owners or officers of the company
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.
Nanny background checks are critical in hiring nannies, caregivers, babysitters, etc. The types of data and information pulled together for this type of history check don’t differ. However, parents will scrutinize the information more closely because they are using it to hire someone to protect their child/children.
Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) Search – Increasingly, key data and information about individuals are stored in open sources. For example, in social profiles, online discussion boards, the deep web, and more.
Self-checks. Proactive job seekers can use the resources below to get a copy of their reports. It is better to know what is in your report. That way, you’ll be prepared for questions from potential employers.
What is included in a typical report?
Most involve some combination of the following:
- Identity Verification includes the individual’s first and last name, social security number, marital status, and former residence.
- Criminal history – including criminal records, 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. When the person deals 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, diplomas, professional certifications, schools, and universities attended.
- 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.
Depending on the service provider and the detail you need with each inquiry, other information may be provided.
- 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 membership in various organizations, political affiliations, ethnic profiles, and religions. 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 varies widely. You will need to contact the provider directly to get pricing information. Usually, 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 investing just a small amount. Then, you can use their software and conduct unlimited searches for free. In reality, you do get unlimited access to their search tools. Unfortunately, unlimited access usually provides little more than free telephone number and address searches.
Our advice is to ignore the advertisements for free checks. Investing the money and working with one of the above companies is worthwhile if you need to learn about someone’s past criminal history, driving record, or online activity.
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 it for their purposes. In such situations, detectives rely on a variety of information sources, such as:
- Public records available at the county courthouse will show property details, ownership information, and other data.
- Public records search available through the companies listed above (or others)
- Search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing can quickly access publicly available information, photos, videos, and more.
- Online real estate and property information tools include 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. The private investigator’s job is to cull through the data and determine the relevant facts to the investigation. Ultimately, once all relevant information and data are assembled, it should be presented in a simple and easy-to-understand format.
Provide your 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, converse, 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
Please comment below if you have any questions about running background checks or the list of companies that provide the services.