Whether applying to a new job and wanting to know more about personal background checks or a potential tenant, you may want to learn how to run a background check.
In professional and personal contexts, exploring criminal history, past employment, and other elements of a person’s past can offer peace of mind and deeper understanding. However, if you plan to explore someone’s background, you must understand the legal implications of that decision, among other complicating factors. This post explores how to request a background report smartly and legally.
You can usually run a background check on anyone. If you have a person’s name, you can investigate their credit history, check their criminal record, find details about their driving record, and more. However, an important caveat is that you may not request a background check on a person without their consent.
The most critical aspect when you run a criminal background check depends on the purpose. Perhaps you‘re screening a job applicant you want to hire for your business. Alternatively, you’re a landlord who wants to vet potential tenants before you approve or deny their leasing applications.
In either of these situations, you will use a person’s background check report to decide their future. Numerous laws dictate what you’re permitted to do in this scenario. Crucially, you must obtain the consent of the person you vet before proceeding. Otherwise, you fail to comply with the law and disrespect the legallyprotected rights of a prospective employee or tenant.
Breaches of compliance on this level can lead to legal action. For instance, employers must comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) when checking a potential employee’s background. The FCRA has several detailed steps and policies that employers must follow. These requirements concern everything from the consent form to the process an employer should use to notify a candidate about an adverse hiring decision.
Ultimately, you can run a background check for criminal records on anyone professionally. Employers, landlords, and other decision-makers must screen candidates to protect themselves legally. If an employer hires a candidate with a violent history and that person hurts a coworker or customer, the employer can be held liable and sued for negligent hiring. Not conducting a check poses a more considerable legal risk for an employer than running one. However, employers can face legal repercussions if they don’t follow the correct protocol to ensure an FCRA-compliant process.
The FCRA and other background check-related legislation can initially be complex and challenging to understand. The good news is that learning the method is possible, especially with the guidance of a legal professional. Most employers use background checks to screen new hires and never encounter legal issues. These employers are exceedingly careful about following the FCRA to the letter, as failing to comply can be costly. Hiring managers can also learn the rules and guidelines to establish smart policies that protect employers from compliance lapses.
Not all screenings occur in employment or a professional setting. If you wish to run a background check on someone for personal reasons, it’s entirely different from screening a potential tenant or job applicant.
Essentially, anyone has the right to learn more about an acquaintance they know personally. Sometimes, you may want to know more about someone out of curiosity. Other times, your intentions may be more about safety. Either way, with personal relationships, you can use background checks to put your mind at ease about people in your life.
Here are a few potential background checks you may conduct in your personal capacity:
Perhaps you met someone online or via a dating app. Now, you naturally want to know more about them. You’re considering a personal relationship with this person, but want to know you can trust them first. You might check your would-be partner's background to verify their identity. While most dating apps screen users, many prefer conducting checks independently to ensure their safety.
You’re looking for a babysitter to care for your children after school or in the evenings. You might run a background check to look for potential red flags. You want peace of mind that your children are in good hands—a background check can provide that.
You recently moved into a new neighborhood and noticed suspicious people at the house next door. You think they might be involved in a criminal operation, but you aren’t sure how to confirm it. Running a background check on your neighbor could be advisable in this situation. Alternatively, a new person moved intoyour building, but you sense a negative vibe from them. Again, you may use background checks to learn more about that person and determine whether your concerns are unfounded.
You’re preparing for a job interview and want to know precisely what an employer will see when they do a criminal record search on you. As a precaution, you can run a background check on yourself to ensure your record looks the way you expect it to. Increasingly, job seekers use self-background checks to ensure they don’t encounter anything unexpected during the interview and screening process. These self-checks fall into the “personal background check” category.
The rules around general background checks are less understood and not enforced as strictly as in a professional setting. When an employer requests a screening on you, they know they must obtain your consent to remain FCRA compliant. If you asked the average person whether applicant consent was necessary for an employment screening, they would say yes. Answers could vary more if you enquired about checks for babysitters or potential romantic relationships. Do you need consent if you want to run one of these checks?
The answer is complicated. Criminal history andotherinformation discovered by background checks are on public record. You can sometimes find this data by doing a Google search of a person’s first and last names. If you don’t need permission to Google them or research their social media, do you need consent to order a formal check through a background check service?
You may do so without consent if you want to conduct a name-based check on a love interest or neighbor exclusively for a personal relationship. For instance, if a dating app matches you with someone, you don’t have to notify them or ask their permission before exploring their criminal records. That relationship is strictly personal, meaning compliance with the FCRA or other background check laws is irrelevant.
However, do note that if there is an employer-employee relationship, you need written permission. This point raises a common question: Is a babysitter a personalacquaintance you can vet without formal consent?Or are they a professionalconnection whose background check must be FCRA compliant?
Indeed, hiring a babysitter to watch your kids might be less formal than hiring someone for a full-time job at your company. However, you are still the employer. As such, getting consent before conducting any background check is most advisable.
The same applies to anyone you hire to provide a service for your family—from housekeepers to investment brokers and realtors. While these relationships may blur the boundaries between personal and professional, the law considers them professional. As such, it is always better to be safely FCRA compliant.
Most checks we offer at backgroundchecks.com are for employers or other professional entities. However, we also provide a background check service through a partnership with BeenVerified that private citizens can use to see information about neighbors, significant others, friends, or other personal acquaintances.
Many criminal records checks involve going directly to a law enforcement source—a county court or a state police repository. These searches typically take several days, though the wait time can vary depending on the law enforcement agency or jurisdiction.
A personal background check, such as the BeenVerifiedoption described above, can be done anonymously. If you vet someone professionally, it’s illegal to do so without informing them.
At backgroundchecks.com, we offer a dedicated service to help customers run criminal history searches on themselves. Run a personal background check on yourself now!
These checks require compliance with many laws. In addition to the FCRA and guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), employers must be aware of all applicable local or state laws. For instance, many jurisdictions now have “ban the box” laws, prohibiting questions about criminal history on job applications.These often delay the background check until later in the hiring process. Ensure you know the relevant ordinances before conducting an employment background check.
Credit scores, in addition to a bankruptcy or credit check, constitute financial background checks. Typically, employers only utilize these checks for positions where the job responsibilities are expressly finance-related. If you’re seeking a job in that category, you may look into your financial history andunderstand what hiring managers will see.
Most states have laws limiting the criminal background check lookback period to the most recent seven years.
Some employers will check your driving history as part of their pre-employment verifications. What shows on these checks? Itconsiders a person’s driving record, including tickets and traffic violations, driver’s license points, restrictions, etc.These checks are not standard for all roles – only where operating a vehicle is part of the key responsibilities.
Similarly, most people doing background screening for personal reasons won’t need to see someone’s driving history, but it could be relevant. For instance, driving history becomes relevant when hiring a babysitter expectedto chauffeur childrento school and other activities.
If you’re curious about your own driving record, read our blog posts,How Do I Get a Copy of My Driver Record? and How to Get a Copy of Your Driving Record (and Why You Should).
Can you background check a neighbor or romantic prospect without their knowledge? In such personal situations, it is possible and legal to do a background search anonymously and without consent. This check could be as simple as a Google search or as in-depth as a search through our BeenVerified feature. Do note, though, that if you’re background checking a person for a more formal purpose – such as for a job – you are legally required to disclose the background check to them and get their consent to proceed. You cannot do formal checks anonymously.
No. A person’s internet browsing history is personal information and will not feature in any legal or ethical background check.
What a background check can show will depend on the type of check. In employment situations, hiring managers will use background checks to learn about a person’s criminal history, past employment, education, civil court records, driving history, credit score, and more. In less formal situations like those discussed on this page, searchers are often more focused on one or two specific categories – such as criminal history or sex offender status.
While social media background checks in an employment context are relatively controversial, that doesn’t extend to more personal matters. For instance, when learning about a new neighbor, a romantic connection, or a potential roommate, the first place most people start is on social media. These days, many have one or more online profiles, whether on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, or other networks. Learning about a person via these channels can be a hit-or-miss endeavor, given that some people make their profiles private or unsearchable. Alternatively,that person may not be active online. However, social media is a popular mechanism for investigating a new acquaintance: It’s free, easy, and accessible.
As for more formal background checks, like the services offered at backgroundchecks.com, none of our products incorporate social media searches.
The personal background check service at backgroundchecks.com is a quick, sophisticated, affordable way of checking your own background or doing a quick search for a new neighbor or boyfriend. Try our personal searches today!