How to get a background check

free background check

I still remember the raised-eyebrow stare my brother flashed my way. I told him I was meeting a male friend I hadn’t seen since high school.

“Be careful,” he said, looking at me sideways. “You missed two decades.”

My friend and I had a great time, but my brother had a point: it pays to be cautious these days. If you feel there’s more to a person’s story, or need to do a deep dive before you agree to a second date, signing a lease, hiring a nanny, or other agreements — nothing beats a background check.

Personal background checks for peace of mind

Is it OK to run a background check for personal use — like a first date (or hookup, for that matter!?)? In general, yes. What matters is how you plan to use the information.

Maybe you are trying online dating and want the deets on someone who piques your interest. Perhaps you want to run a background check on yourself to verify what potential employers may see, as you pursue a new career.

Remember, protected rights fall on both sides when it comes to accessing personal data. Be your own watchdog. Don’t use the data to harass someone or as a basis for hiring or renting without the person’s consent.

Not sure about dating again? 9 reasons dating is so much better as a single mom!

Background checks frequently asked questions

What is a background check?

Sometimes called a background screening, a background check is a comprehensive process for verifying personal data for an individual.

There are level 1 (a state-only name-based check AND an employment history check) and level 2 (state and national fingerprint search, national criminal history records, as well as county criminal records) background checks. Businesses and organizations use them to make determinations about eligibility for:

  • Employment
  • Financial responsibility
  • Holding positions of trust (like being on a date with your fine self!)

In some cases, use of a background check is subject to laws:

Using a background check to make decisions about employment or credit worthiness is subject to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). The data must be issued through a Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA) and should ideally be recognized by the National Association for Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS). These types of checks require the consent of the applicant.

What does a background check show?

How far background checks go varies by state, but you can typically access 7 to 10 years of data such as:

  • Court records
  • Criminal records
  • Employment history
  • Education

When choosing an online service for a background check, be sure to review the types of data offered before proceeding.

Do arrests show up on background checks? What about warrants, misdemeanors or pending charges?

These appear on background checks:

  • Felony convictions
  • Misdemeanor convictions
  • Pending criminal cases
  • History of incarceration as an adult.
  • Arrests pending prosecution may also be reported.

Arrests that did not lead to convictions may appear in some background checks.

How long does a background check take?

Using reputable online services to run background checks for personal use usually yields instant results, but the turnaround time for offline services can take between one and five business days.

How to get a free background check

Some data may be public record and searchable through state government websites or the National Center for State Courts. You can also use Google and social media, but if you want to dig deeper, there are some free and fee-based options available that I’d like to share.

PeopleFinders and US Search are paid services and Better Future is a completely free background check service.

PeopleFinders background check review

PeopleFinders is a fee-based online search engine and public records database. The more you know about the person, the more targeted your results. At a minimum, you need a last name and a current or previous state of residence. No frills site design, but straightforward and intuitive. The report is not difficult to decipher and is broken into sections.

Is PeopleFinders.com legit?

PeopleFinders boasts a user base of nearly 8 million and an extensive database spanning 40 years. It has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau (BBB), but is not BBB accredited. It also uses HTTPS for secure communication online which is extremely important when exchanging personal data.

Founded in 1988, the award-winning Sacramento-based company manages billions of records in their database and has mentions on MSNBC, Fox News, CBS, CNN, NBC and in PC World. Honors include the Stevie Award, Deloitte Fast 50 and a number of employment, ecommerce and industry excellence awards.

On the PeopleFinders site, you can easily access testimonies as well as reviews from verified users of their site via TrustPilot. You can also peruse BBB for customer reviews, complaints and complaint resolution.

How accurate is PeopleFinders.com?

PeopleFinders touts itself as a provider of comprehensive and accurate data. Personal reviews are mixed about the relevance of data. Check the Contact Us link to access Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ). The FAQs address incorrect and outdated information.

What does a PeopleFinders background check show?

Besides the person’s name, address and phone number, a PeopleFinders background check shows:

  • Residences
  • Relatives
  • Aliases
  • Date of birth
  • Neighbors
  • Property records
  • Bankruptcies
  • Judgments and liens
  • Marriage/divorce
  • Birth/death records
  • Criminal history
  • Sex offender registry results

Is PeopleFinders.com free?

While PeopleFinders allows you to run a limited, preliminary background check for free, if you wish to review the instant report of findings you must pay a fee. In other words: You pay for the good stuff.

PeopleFinders prices:

1 month membership$19.95/month
3 month membership – $12.95/month
Background and criminal record report$29.95/report


Trial memberships are available. You will pay a cancellation fee of $2.95 if you end the trial. If you don’t cancel, regular monthly billing starts at the end of the trial period. There is no contract and you can cancel at any time in your account or by calling customer care.

Get a PeopleFinders background check >>

US Search background check review

Another fee-driven background check search engine is US Search. This online background check resource provides multiple streams of data with searches powered by names, states and phone numbers.

Is USsearch.com legit?

US Search is under the umbrella of PeopleConnect Inc. and is an alias of Intelius, a Washington state business accredited since 2014 with the Better Business Bureau with an A rating. Intelius was founded in 2003. US Search has mentions in The Wall Street Journal and on CBS News and 60 Minutes.

US Search uses 128-bit encryption and a valid security certificate to safeguard the transmission of personal information. Check BBB to get a feel for what past and current customers think of the service.

How accurate is USsearch.com?

US Search maintains a database of billions of records from public and commercial sources and consolidates the data into a detailed report. Search engines tend to grab data from historical and current data sources, so you are likely to have some out of date references included in the report.

What does a US Search background check show?

There are two options for a background check with US Search. You can run a basic background check or a nationwide criminal search. You can also view a sample report so you can see how the data is arranged. You can expect to see the following data:

  • Identifying information such as name and date of birth
  • Addresses and phone numbers
  • Relatives and known associates
  • Criminal history including details of offenses, arrest and case disposition

The basic background check includes data for the state entered. The national check includes results form 43 states. You also have the option to add on a social network search for a fee.

Is USsearch.com free?

There are two price points. The special price includes a free two-day trial of OmniSearch, an additional product for unlimited searches billed at $19.95 a month until cancellation.

Basic check     $14.95/report with OmniSearch·        $19.95/report
National check     $18.75/report with OmniSearch·        $24.95/report

There is no contract and you can cancel at any time in your online account or by calling customer care. Your account will be canceled at the end of the current billing period.

Get a background check from US Search >>

Better Future background check review

Better Future offers a free background check for personal use. Site is user friendly and intuitive. You can preview a sample report or run a personal background check for yourself by clicking the ‘Get Started' button on the site.

Is Better Future legit?

Featured in publications such as Entrepreneur, Better Future is a product of Checkr which uses artificial intelligence (AI) to run background checks on the corporate side for companies like Uber, Zillow and Lyft. Site uses 256-bit encryption to protect transmission of personal data. It is NAPBS recognized.

Checkr is a BBB accredited business with a rating of A- and has been in business since 2014. Better Future was launched in 2018 as part of Checkr’s corporate mission to aid applicants with criminal backgrounds to secure better career opportunities. Be sure to review the Checkr BBB profile to gauge user satisfaction.

How accurate is BetterFuture.com?

Better Future advertises that it has run 13 million background checks since its launch and sources its data from federal databases and public records from more than 3,200 counties nationwide.

While there is a potential for accessing data that is out of date or inaccurate, the company encourages users to report inaccuracies to support@betterfuture.com.

What does a Better Future background check show?

To get results of your background check, you must create an account using your full legal name, date of birth, current zip code and social security number (SSN).

Once you receive your full report, you can expect to view the following data:

  • Address history
  • SSN trace
  • Sex offender search
  • Global watchlist search
  • County criminal searches

It takes about three days to get the results of your personal background check. You must certify that you are submitting your own information during the signup process.

Is BetterFuture.com free?

Yes, Better Future is completely free! No credit card necessary.

Related: Which dating site should single moms use?

About Robyn Evans

Robyn Evans is an award-winning writer, inspirational author, and occasional songstress (especially in the shower). Born and raised in Baltimore, she focused on helping women make healthy choices for body, mind and soul. She’s a grateful bonus mom to a photographer son and activist daughter and works with young writers through a non-profit organization. Robyn writes for corporate clients, is a former feature writer for The Carroll County Times, has written for The Baltimore Sun and is the author of three books. Learn more about Robyn here.

2 Comments

  1. Stephanie on June 5, 2019 at 8:49 pm

    very good info! Particularly for us WSM who value our time and want to be safe and smart using it. I used to use an app called Stud or Dud which was AMAZING. You could find a dude and check his background, criminal record, etc with only his phone number. I liked it because it enabled me to corroborate his story about himself. BUT… For some reason, the app has been disabled. Thank you for the tips on a great replacement!

  2. Erica Hawkins on May 28, 2019 at 8:03 pm

    Awesome content. Very informative read!

Leave a Comment