Today, it’s easier to run a quick background check than ever. Online background checks are convenient and often free of charge. People have many sources of information available to them, such as social media, Google, and people finders like Check People, which have free and paid services.  

Google and Social Media Searches

While a professional background check is not free, there is plenty of information you can get on your own. A Google search is an obvious example. All you need to know is someone’s name unless it’s a common name. If that’s the case (there are tens of millions of John Smiths), you should add something to make your search easier, like the person’s job, city, state, or anything else you might know about them.

A Google search will likely yield their social media, which will provide a wealth of info if their profiles are public. You might find the person’s Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and more. If the profile is private, you could send a friend request to learn more. You might do this if you’re checking a new coworker or neighbor. If you have a picture of the person, you can do an image search on Google.

Free Sex Offender Search

A search of the public National Sex Offender website is free. If you have doubts about a new neighbor or candidate caregiver for whatever reason, don’t hesitate to use this site. Enter their name or address. If they’re in the database, you’ll see a picture of them as well as their work address. Sometimes, the profiles on the NSO site come with risk levels.

The Risks of an Online Search

Search engines and background check services are not immune to errors. They have mixed people up on occasion. This is especially likely to happen with common names. Public databases will reveal information, but it’s usually unverifiable.

This is a very real risk because many employers are tempted to run online database checks rather than hire a professional background check service. Online checks are fast and free or cheap and often seem to be a valid option. Unverified information might not be accurate, costing someone an employment opportunity.

Third-party background check services will verify sources and offer reliable results. They also guide employers through the screening and verification process and ensure accuracy.

Guaranteeing Verifiable Criminal Background Information

No unified national database of criminal records exists. All databases aggregate many different sources, none of which are 100% reliable. They become inaccurate or outdated easily because it takes time for new events and activities to be reflected. Courts, municipalities, and counties don’t always make their data available to national databases. Some are not required to do so.

Contrary to popular belief, fingerprint records are not always reliable. Someone’s fingerprints being in a criminal record database doesn’t have to mean they were convicted of a crime. In some states, the justice department may opt not to report records or even take fingerprints.

When performed by a background check service, a national criminal background search involves not only national, but also county, state, and municipal court records. The screening provider may get in touch with the court directly to verify whether the data matches the individual.

Job applications are part of accuracy verification as well. Many businesses opt for online applications and ask for consent to a background check to make sure they’re getting reliable data. This is important because the employer must ensure the accuracy of criminal record information. Under the FCRA, businesses are required to send a pre-adverse notice so the candidate can dispute any untrue reporting.   

Position-specific decision matrices allow employers to determine if someone can be disqualified due to specific criminal convictions. If the applicant is rejected after the evaluation and decision matrix consultation, the employer must issue them an adverse action notice.


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