Background checks are performed on many employees who work with people such as medical personnel and teachers. A background check looks at a person’s past to see if they have committed any crimes that may be dangerous to the population that they want to work with. This protects the community, such as children in a school, who place their trust in the employee. A background check is not foolproof, but it is a good assurance that the person working with others will be a safe person to do the job.
There are many different reasons why you may need to run a background check. Perhaps you’re hiring a babysitter to watch your kids, or you’re a small business owner checking out a new employee. Maybe you’re renting out your home and want to know if any potential tenants have a criminal history. Whatever the reason, there is little information you can’t find out online about a person.
The amount of personal information available on the internet is staggering. Almost anything can be discovered about anyone through legal methods. Here’s how you can make use of Internet searches to discover a person’s background — mostly for free.
1. Know the person’s name.
If you know a person’s name, the entire process becomes easier. Many people go by nicknames even in business contexts, so it’s important that any potential hires give you their legal name, preferably from a state-issued ID. The first way to find out information about a person is through simple search engines and social media platforms.
We share a lot of information on Facebook and Twitter without a second thought. In some cases, that information can be incriminating. The type of information a person chooses to share with the world on social media platforms can tell a lot about them. By searching their name on Google and other search engines, any public information can turn up. However, unless they have a particularly unique name, you’ll have to sift through pages of information about people with a similar name.
2. Use Google’s commands to search specific domains.
If you’re looking for information about a person on a specific website, there are certain tricks you can use to narrow the amount of information you’re given. For example, typing in site:url.com “firstname lastname” will search for that person’s first and last name in the context of the URL you provide. Using quotations will narrow the results to only the specific phrase contained within the text.
Even if a user’s information is private, you can use these tricks on social media to find out what public pages they’ve commented on. It’s a good way to discover information that people have tried to hide from view.
3. Use free websites to look up phone numbers.
There are a number of websites dedicated to reverse lookups — in other words, by providing a name, you can find a person’s phone number and home address or vice-versa. Try performing a search for yourself and finding what comes up. It’s somewhat frightening how much information is readily available to anyone willing to search for it.
Finding Criminal Backgrounds
Searching for basic information such as a name or phone number is relatively simple. People share that information freely without a second thought, particularly with online marketplaces. Sometimes this information leaks onto the web. However, when searching for criminal records, the methods involved become a bit more complicated. Because people take more pains to hide any criminal record they may have, finding this information can be more difficult. Here are a few ways to do it.
1. Search for that person’s name + “arrest.”
If someone is arrested, it usually makes the news, if only as a minor write-up. By searching for that person’s name plus the word “arrest,” you’ll find any results in newspapers or online blogs about the event. At times, you may even find details about the arrest, such as when, where, and why.
If you find information about an arrest, use the any included details to perform more in-depth searches for events surrounding the time of the arrest. This can be helpful for forming a clearer picture of what happened.
2. Access public record websites.
There are several different websites that collect information that is considered public record and aggregate it into a single location. From these websites, you can find arrest records, criminal records, marriage and divorce records, and much more. This information is listed freely by the government, allowing anyone with any interest to access it. Something to keep in mind, however, is that even minor traffic citations are listed. Just because a person yields results while searching for a criminal history doesn’t necessarily mean they are “criminals.”
3. Use paid sites for more detailed information.
Some websites list full, comprehensive records of arrests, criminal incidents, and more for public access, but hide the information behind a pay wall. You’ll have to pay a small fee to find out more information regarding a person or incident, but it may be well worth it if you are curious enough.
Running a Personal Background Check
It’s a good idea to take the time and do all of these searches for yourself. You may be surprised to discover the kind of information that arises. Depending on the context, this information can hurt your chances at job interviews and other opportunities. There are steps you can take to have this information sealed and removed from public record, but keep in mind that once something is on the internet, it is very hard — if not impossible — to completely get rid of.
No matter what your reasons for running a background check, make sure you are actually looking at the right person before acting on any of the information. No one deserves to be penalized for something they did not actually do. If you aren’t sure, go down to the local sheriff’s office and perform a proper background check. They cost around $20 and can be performed for certain reasons, such as renting out a property or hiring an employee.
An internet search can reveal a lot of information about a person, but for true accuracy, you want the background checks performed by someone working in a legal capacity who knows what they are doing.