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Published: Feb 06, 2024 36 min read

Our editorial staff has close to a decade of experience in the background investigations industry, and our team has invested hundreds of hours researching the best background check sites. We’ve vetted 16 background check companies based on over 100 data points and reviewed the extensiveness of their searches, pricing and customer reviews. We also personally tested many of the sites on this list to assess user experience and accuracy of the results. Using this research, we picked the top nine background search sites, which include Checkr, HireRight and First Advantage.

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Type

People Search

People Search

People Search

Pre-Employment

People Search

Price

Plans start at $29.99 a month; $58.48 for three months

Plans start at $28.05 a month; $23.28 a month for a bi-monthly subscription

Plans start at $24.86 a month; $21.13 a month for a bi-monthly subscription

Plans start at $29.99 a month

Plans start at $19.86 a month

Ease of Use

Simple search, mobile-friendly (Apple and Android apps)

Simple to use, five-step search

Well-performing mobile apps, quick returns

Candidates can use mobile devices to complete forms and track their screening process

Find people in three ways: name, phone number, and/or address.

Accuracy

Uses available databases to return current and accurate info

Up-to-date information provided

Quick preliminary results; reports of inaccurate traffic records

Uses AI-powered technology to make any potentially adverse findings easier to categorize

Uses publicly available records from across the U.S.

Extensiveness

Criminal records, contact details, property records, social media

Contact information, bankruptcies and liens, social media, arrests, criminal records

Addresses, criminal backgrounds, traffic details, assets, licenses, public records, social profiles

Identity verification, address history, employment and residence history, driving record, credit record, sex offender registry, global watchlist records, national criminal records

Criminal records, social media, financial information, bankruptcies, civil actions, criminal and traffic records

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Type

People Search

Price

Plans start at $29.99 a month; $58.48 for three months

Ease of Use

Simple search, mobile-friendly (Apple and Android apps)

Accuracy

Uses available databases to return current and accurate info

Extensiveness

Criminal records, contact details, property records, social media

Best for Comprehensive People Searches
TruthFinder
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Type

People Search

Price

Plans start at $28.05 a month; $23.28 a month for a bi-monthly subscription

Ease of Use

Simple to use, five-step search

Accuracy

Up-to-date information provided

Extensiveness

Contact information, bankruptcies and liens, social media, arrests, criminal records

Best for Trial Periods
Intelius
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Type

People Search

Price

Plans start at $24.86 a month; $21.13 a month for a bi-monthly subscription

Ease of Use

Well-performing mobile apps, quick returns

Accuracy

Quick preliminary results; reports of inaccurate traffic records

Extensiveness

Addresses, criminal backgrounds, traffic details, assets, licenses, public records, social profiles

Best for Small Businesses
Checkr
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Type

Pre-Employment

Price

Plans start at $29.99 a month

Ease of Use

Candidates can use mobile devices to complete forms and track their screening process

Accuracy

Uses AI-powered technology to make any potentially adverse findings easier to categorize

Extensiveness

Identity verification, address history, employment and residence history, driving record, credit record, sex offender registry, global watchlist records, national criminal records

Best for Affordable Unlimited Reports
US Search
Our Partner
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Type

People Search

Price

Plans start at $19.86 a month

Ease of Use

Find people in three ways: name, phone number, and/or address.

Accuracy

Uses publicly available records from across the U.S.

Extensiveness

Criminal records, social media, financial information, bankruptcies, civil actions, criminal and traffic records

Money’s Main Takeaways

  • There are different types of background check sites, including pre-employment and people searches.
  • If you're conducting background checks on potential employees, domestic workers or tenants, you need a background check company that complies with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). This federal privacy protection law places limits on the kind of information that you can obtain on others.
  • By contrast, people-search background check sites don’t need to follow FCRA provisions. You can use these services to conduct searches on yourself, a new neighbor or someone you’re seeing.
  • People search sites can be a useful tool for finding relatives or doing reverse phone searches. However, using them for hiring or tenancy purposes is a federal law violation.

Why Trust Us?

Our editorial team uses its extensive knowledge and experience in the background check industry to independently assess screening companies, ensuring we provide readers with accurate and helpful information. Read the full methodology below to learn more.

  • Over 100 data points evaluated
  • 16 background check companies vetted
  • More than 80 authoritative sources used

Our Top Picks for Background Check Sites of February 2024

Pre-employment Background Check Sites

People Search Background Check Sites

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Best Background Check Site Reviews

Pre-employment Background Check Sites

Pros
  • Provides info from around the world
  • Executive background screening
  • Fingerprint background check available
Cons
  • Site does not include information on pricing
  • Difficult to contact customer support
  • Focuses only on pre-employment checks

Why we chose it: First Advantage stands out for its international background checks that include ID verification, criminal records search and financial checks, among others.

First Advantage caters to employers — from small family-run businesses to global organizations — by offering screenings that include criminal background, licenses and credentials, driving records, social media accounts and more.

While some services limit their searches to U.S. records, First Advantage offers searches in 16 countries around the world, which could help companies expand their recruitment pools. Employers can also choose post-employment criminal record monitoring and receive an alert if a criminal or adverse motor vehicle record is found for one of its employees.

First Advantage Pricing

Tier

Starting price

Screenings

Basic

$29

Standard screenings

Standard

$44

Single county criminal search

Choice

$65

- County Criminal (7 year)

- Watch List

Premium

$75

Driver’s license

Some available add-ons:

  • Driver’s License - $6.24
  • Education verification - $12.48
  • Employment verification - $15.60

First Advantage also has service bundles that can simplify hiring since they include both screening and onboarding. All three tiers include identity, background and drug screening. The second and third tier in particular include the I-9 form check to confirm employee work eligibility.

The company has an A grade on the Better Business Bureau site; however, several customer reviews — including one from an employer — note slow turnaround times and poor experiences with customer service.

Learn more on First Advantage's Secure Website >>

Pros
  • National and international financial background checks
  • Global locations and partners
  • Aviation industry screenings
  • Mobile app for candidates
Cons
  • Inconsistent turnaround times
  • Subjects have noted inaccuracies in background reports

Why we chose it: HireRight made our list because of its screening packages, which are tailored to particular industries such as hospitality, insurance, technology and transportation, among others.

HireRight customers can choose screening solutions based on the size of their business be it small, mid-size or global. Searches include, among others:

  • Criminal record searches
  • Identity verification services (to help determine candidates’ work eligibility)
  • Verification of candidate credentials, employment and education history
  • Civil litigation and media searches
  • Drug and health screening
  • Driving records checks
  • Post-employment monitoring

HireRight’s services don’t stop at pre-hiring, as it also offers post-hiring services such as criminal records monitoring.

HireRight Pricing

No pricing information on the website. For pricing, contact HireRight by filling out a form on its contact page or calling 888-234-5380.

As each industry must comply with different requirements and regulations, HireRight has ready-made screening packages for 14 different industries; however, it also lets customers pick and choose among its services to create a package that fits their needs.

Although HireRight is not accredited by the Better Business Bureau, the company had an A+ grade when it was. (Note that companies must pay the BBB to become and stay accredited). Customer reviews on the BBB website show a pattern of inconsistent turnaround times. Several job applicants shared that their background checks took too long, causing delays in their employment start dates.

Learn more on HireRight's Secure Website >>

Pros
  • Volume pricing for companies that perform over 300 checks a year
  • Candidates can use mobile phones to complete forms
  • Up to $40 off first order
Cons
  • Some complaints of slow turnaround times
  • No customer service number

Why we chose it: A consumer reporting agency, Checkr offers small businesses pre-employment background check packages, doesn’t charge a setup fee and lets customers pay per search.

Checkr is well-suited for small businesses looking for a high-tech approach to employee screening. The company uses AI-powered technology in its searches, which it says can make any potentially adverse findings clearer and easier to categorize. It can also predict how long the check will take and filters information to comply with local laws.

Checkr’s technological approach is not only used internally. This provider offers a mobile portal where candidates can track their screening process and contact support.

Checkr’s standard screenings include SSN trace, sex offender registry, global watchlist records and national criminal records. Checkr’s plans and pricing are:

Checkr Pricing

Tier

Starting price

Screenings

Basic+

$29.99

Standard screenings

Essential

$54.99

Unlimited county criminal search

Professional

$79.99

Education verification

Employment verification

Customers can also use the service to conduct global watchlist searches and international background checks, along with education and employment verification.

Court searches in certain jurisdictions and DMV records do incur additional fees, which vary by state. Checkr also offers several other individually priced checks as add-ons to its three plans.

In terms of third-party reviews, Checkr holds an A+ grade on the Better Business Bureau website. We evaluated customer reviews on the BBB site and found a pattern of complaints alleging slow turnaround times and difficulties contacting customer service, as Checkr doesn’t list a customer service number on its site.

Learn more on Checkr's Secure Website >>

People Search Background Check Sites

Unlike the FCRA-compliant companies above, these background search sites cannot be used for employment purposes. You can, however, use them to conduct personal searches.

Pros
  • Unlimited number of reports
  • Deep web monitoring
Cons
  • Not FCRA-compliant
  • FTC lawsuit alleging FCRA violations and deceptive marketing practices

Why we chose it: Instant Checkmate made our list because it offers unlimited reports for subscribers.

Customers can use Instant Checkmate to search public records and other available data sources. Its reports contain date of birth, addresses, contact information, criminal convictions and other public information. Unlike many competitors, its subscriptions include unlimited searches and reports.

Instant Checkmate’s subscription search types and pricing is:

  • Person Reports for $35.12 a month or $28.09 a month for a 3-month membership
  • Reverse Phone Lookup for $5.99 a month

While both subscriptions include unlimited reports, the only way to download these are by paying a $3.99 add-on.

Upgrading to a premium report ($19.99 per report) will get you additional information if available, such as records of weapons or hunting permits, properties owned and foreclosures or tax liens.

We signed up for the 5-day trial to test the service. The search took about 10 minutes. While the relatives and address history in the report matched our search subject, the possible associates and relationships didn't. Additionally, while the results listed multiple traffic infractions, one was incorrect and we were not able to find the other records when we searched county courts directly.

Users should note that InstantCheckmate only accepts U.S.-based credit or debit cards for payment.

Instant Checkmate is accredited by the Better Business Bureau and has an A+ grade. However, it’s important to note that, on September 11, 2023, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sued Instant Checkmate and related companies alleging they made deceptive claims about its reports’ accuracy and violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). As of this writing, the FTC asked the court to approve a $5.8 million penalty to settle the charges.

Instant Checkmate reports may include:

Standard Background Report

Premium Report

  • Date of birth
  • Phone numbers
  • Address history
  • Relatives
  • Arrest records
  • Government license information
  • Social media profiles
  • Email addresses
  • Nearby sex offenders
  • Civil judgments
  • Corporate affiliations
  • Watercraft owned
  • UCC filings
  • Properties owned
  • Voter registration
  • Old phone numbers
  • Email addresses
  • Tax liens
  • Professional licenses
  • Hunting/fishing permits
  • Weapons permits
  • Foreclosures
  • Aircraft owned
  • Neighbors
  • Business associates

Learn more on Instant Checkmate's Secure Website >>

Pros
  • Allows fine-tuning of results
  • Dark web monitoring upgrade available
  • Provides customer support over the phone
Cons
  • Additional cost to download reports
  • Not FCRA-compliant
  • FTC lawsuit alleging FCRA violations and deceptive marketing practices

Why we chose it: We selected TruthFinder for its comprehensive reports that include information from federal, state and county records, as well as from social media platforms and websites.

TruthFinder services include people search, reverse phone number lookup and reverse email lookup. It also offered reverse address lookup, but the service is under maintenance.

TruthFinder’s membership options are:

  • People search with unlimited persons and location reports for $28.05 a month (or $23.28 a month if you subscribe on a bi-monthly basis)
  • Reverse email lookup that includes unlimited person and email reports for $29.73 a month
  • Reverse phone lookup for $4.99 a month including unlimited email reports

For an extra $3.99 a month, you can download reports and monitor them for updates.

For $2.99, TruthFinder also offers dark web monitoring, which alerts you if your credentials appear on the dark web.

When we tested TruthFinder, we found that the search takes about 15 minutes. The report looked very similar to reports from other competitors. It had accurate personal info, including aliases and possible relatives. However, it lacked a list of relationships, and the individuals listed as possible associates appeared to be people who lived at the same address but at different times.

We also noted that the only accepted payment methods are credit or debit cards with billing addresses in the United States (but not in U.S. territories).

TruthFinder has an A+ grade on the Better Business Bureau. Customer reviews on the BBB site show a pattern of customers having trouble canceling the service and getting billed even after canceling.

In our research, we found that TruthFinder was also included in the September 2023 lawsuit mentioned above for Instant Checkmate. Both companies were accused of violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). The suit alleges that TruthFinder deceived customers by claiming their service provides accurate results without showing proof, producing unsubstantiated criminal records and asserting customers could remove inaccurate information from their reports.

TruthFinder Person Reports may include:

  • Full names
  • Known aliases
  • Age
  • Employment history
  • Education history
  • Possible relatives
  • Possible associates and relationships
  • Phone number
  • Address
  • Criminal and traffic records
  • Social profiles
  • Possible business affiliations
  • Hunting permits
  • Weapons permits
  • Bankruptcies
  • Liens
  • Civil judgments
  • Foreclosures
  • Evictions
  • Properties owned
  • Vehicles owned or driven

Learn more on TruthFinder's Secure Website >>

Pros
  • Extended customer service (6:00 am to 11:30 pm EST)
  • Has both Apple and Android apps available
  • Download reports at no extra cost
Cons
  • Limited to 100 reports a month
  • Pricing is not listed on their site
  • Not FCRA-compliant

Why we chose it:Unlike other background search sites, customers can use BeenVerified to make vehicle searches using the car’s VIN Number.

Our search on BeenVerified took under 10 minutes and the one result it provided was our intended subject. (Other services gave us results for people with the same or similar names.) We found the report to be more detailed than other providers, especially the section on possible relatives, which included addresses. However, some of the relatives listed were inaccurate.

Additionally, unlike competitors who list traffic records based on the subject's partial name, the report included only those under our subject's full name (that is, first, middle and last name).

BeenVerified memberships include standard people search services such as reverse phone, email and address lookup, as well as username search, vehicle lookup, criminal records and arrest warrants.

Finding prices for BeenVerified’s services isn’t a straightforward process. Potential customers have to visit its FAQ page and scroll down to current offers where you have to select an option and proceed to checkout. Here is where you can finally see BeenVerified’s membership options and pricing, which are:

  • One-month membership for $29.99
  • Three-month membership for $19.49 a month ($58.48 in total)
  • Seven-day trial for $1.00

Where BeenVerified stands out among competitors is in providing these services through its mobile phone apps. Its Android and iOS apps have a 3.6 and 4.6 rating in their respective app stores.

When using the apps, users can not only conduct searches on-the-go, but they can also access reports collected on other mobile devices or on their desktops.

The Better Business Bureau website gives BeenVerified a grade of C. Customer reviews show a pattern of complaints regarding subscription renewals, with many customers claiming that the service was not clearly labeled as a subscription. This confusion could stem from the fact that the site does not provide a clear pricing page.

BeenVerified reports may include:

  • Full name
  • Age
  • Current and past addresses
  • Phone numbers
  • Email addresses
  • Possible photos
  • Possible associates
  • Traffic and criminal records
  • Bankruptcies
  • Education, employers and business associations
  • Social media platforms
  • Blogs
  • Websites

Learn more on BeenVerified's Secure Website >>

Pros
  • One of the most affordable search services
  • Results returned within a minute or so for most checks
Cons
  • Complicated pricing structure
  • Not FCRA-compliant
  • Must purchase Investigator Membership Upgrade to download reports

Why we chose it: We selected Spokeo for our list because its people search services are more affordable than competitors.

With Spokeo, customers can search public records by using a person’s name, email, phone number or street address. Free searches yield a person's phone number, email and an address listed as current.

When we tested the service, the search took a little over five minutes. However, it yielded thousands of possible subjects. We had to manually narrow our search by state and city, and then we had to look at each profile to find a match.

Additionally, users must pay $19.95 to access details such as age, address history, name variations, properties, licenses and possible relatives.

Spokeo also offers a $19.99 background report upgrade which includes marital status records, bankruptcies, foreclosure and more.

Spokeo has an A- grade on the Better Business Bureau. Despite its excellent grade, customer reviews show a pattern of billing issues, with some customers claiming they signed up for what they believed was a one-time search, but were charged for a subscription. Many also claimed that they were unable to reach customer service to resolve the issue and, of those that did, many alleged they only received a partial refund.

Spokeo reports may include:

  • Name
  • Aliases
  • Phone numbers
  • Email address
  • Current and past address
  • Family and associates
  • Marital status
  • Education history
  • Birth information
  • Hobbies and interests
  • Property record
  • Investments
  • Estimated salary
  • Criminal records
  • DUIs
  • Sex offense

Learn more on Spokeo's Secure Website >>

Pros
  • Multiple plans to choose from
  • Subscriptions include unlimited reports
Cons
  • Not FCRA-compliant
  • Customer service difficult to reach
  • Difficult to cancel
  • Only accepts U.S.-based credit or debit cards

Why we chose it: We selected Intelius because it offers several product trials so customers can try out the service without having to commit to a membership.

Intelius, similar to other background check services on this list, is a people search service for people looking to conduct a reverse phone lookup, reverse address lookup or other public records searches.

When we tested the service, the preliminary search took two minutes and yielded a list of several individuals. We then had to select the most accurate profile from the list before continuing with the full search, which took another 10 minutes or so.

The background report on our subject included their correct age, known aliases, address history and possible relatives. However, other details were inaccurate, specifically, some traffic records that didn’t match our subject's full name.

What sets Intelius apart from others on the list is that it has several affordable trial periods for people who’d like to do a quick search but don’t want to commit to the monthly subscription.

The first is a $0.95 five-day reverse phone lookup and people search trial with unlimited phone, person and address reports. These reports may contain the phone owner’s name, photo, address, social media profiles, address history, related persons and more.

Intelius also has a $0.95 six-day trial that includes reverse phone lookup plus people search with unlimited phone, persons and address reports. The reports may include the name of the phone number’s owner, their address and social media profiles.

The other trial is a seven-day address lookup and people search option for $0.95. Members get unlimited address and persons reports that can include name of the residents, location details, ownership history, property value, evictions and other information about the address.

Intelius also offers the following subscriptions:

  • People Search for $24.86 a month (or $21.13 a month for a bi-monthly subscription)
  • Reverse Phone Lookup (plus people search) for $34.95 a month
  • Address Lookup (including people search) for $34.95 a month

Know that if you don’t cancel your trial within the trial period you will be charged the full amount for the membership as per Intelius’ billing terms.

We checked the Better Business Bureau, where Intelius has an A+ grade, to evaluate customer reviews. Although no major recurring issues were reported, some customers claimed they were charged for a subscription even after calling to cancel the free trial.

Intelius reports may include:

  • Full name
  • Phone number
  • Past and present addresses
  • Age
  • Date of birth
  • Relatives
  • Aliases
  • Social network profiles
  • Criminal and traffic records
  • Marriage and divorce records
  • Lawsuits they’ve been involved in
  • Bankruptcies
  • Liens

Learn more on Intelius's Secure Website >>

Pros
  • Easy to use
  • Occasional promotional offers
  • Good customer support
  • No additional fees
Cons
  • Inaccuracies reported by some users
  • Not FCRA-compliant

Why we chose it: US Search offers unlimited searches each month for a flat fee with no additional charges, making them a great option if you're looking for background check searches in bulk.

US Search, like all people search services, uses publicly available records from across the U.S. to create its reports. Searches yield basic background information along with financial information (such as assets and real estate holdings), bankruptcies, civil actions, and criminal and traffic records. The user interface for its individual accounts is a little clunky, but the results are easy to read.

US Search markets itself as a service for legal professionals who need to do background research for cases. It may be useful for lawyers as a starting point for their investigations as users can get unlimited reports and unlimited PDF downloads for $59 a month or $599 a year.

We tested US Search and got preliminary results in under five minutes. These results were very broad, showing subjects with similar first or last names. After inputting our subject's initial to refine the search, we got one result. We chose to pay the additional $3.99 to download the report and found that the report had our subject’s correct age, known aliases, address history and possible relatives.

US Search offers the following subscriptions:

  • Standard Background Report for $19.86 a month (unlimited reports)
  • Phone Number Lookup (includes person reports) for $19.86 a month (five-day trial for $1.99)
  • Address Lookup (including person reports) for $19.86 a month (five-day trial for $1.99)

US Search is owned by Intelius LLC which, as stated above, has an A+ grade with the business accreditation site. (Note that the report they produce is exactly the same as Intelius’ report.) However, US Search itself does not have a profile on the BBB website.

US Search reports may include:

  • Addresses
  • Phone numbers
  • Email addresses
  • Social networks
  • Employment history
  • Financial information
  • Bankruptcies
  • Civil judgments
  • Liens
  • Criminal, arrest and traffic records
  • Potential relatives
  • Neighbors
  • Associates
  • Assets
  • Owned properties
  • Previously owned properties
  • Vehicles owned or driven
  • Hunting licenses
  • Weapons permits
  • Professional license

Learn more on US Search's Secure Website >>

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Other background check sites we considered

GoodHire

Pros
  • Customer help center available
  • Easy-to-read results, optimized for mobile
  • FCRA-compliant
Cons
  • Extra charges for some searches
  • Charges a set-up fee not listed on its packages

GoodHire, an FCRA-compliant background check service, offers in-depth searches into an individual’s background, gathering information on credit, education, criminal proceedings and more.

GoodHire customers can choose from over 100 employment screening services, including education verification, healthcare sanction checks, identity checks and more. Its basic checks include a Social Security number trace, sex offender registry search, global watchlist records check and national criminal records check for $29.99. Prices are based on single reports.

Why it didn't make the cut: It was acquired by Checkr and its services will soon fall under the Checkr brand.

Learn more on GoodHire's Secure Website >>

PeopleLooker

Pros
  • Easy to contact customer service
  • Offers data useful for sales, marketing and recruiting
  • Built to plug into platforms like Gmail, Hubspot and Salesforce
Cons
  • Coverage limited to people in the U.S.
  • Not a consumer reporting agency
  • Desktop version is less user-friendly than mobile app

This app-based service is able to conduct six types of checks, including people search, reverse phone lookup, and business-to-business information for sales teams.

PeopleLooker doesn’t currently provide pricing on its page. In the past, a one-month subscription cost $23.99 and three months were $57.57 with a limit of 100 searches per month.

Why it didn't make the cut: It offers similar services to other providers on the list and doesn’t provide pricing for those services.

Learn more on PeopleLooker's Secure Website >>

PeopleFinders

Pros
  • Updates data daily
  • Extended customer service hours
Cons
  • Searches limited to people in the U.S.
  • Not a consumer reporting agency

PeopleFinders provides searches based on public records for individuals and businesses. Memberships begin at $24.95 a month for reports that may include current and past contact info, reverse phone lookups, addresses, phone numbers, aliases, age, relatives and associates. If you’re looking for arrest records, criminal records, sex offender check or other legal information you must sign up for the $29.95 a month premium membership.

Why it didn't make the cut: PeopleFinders didn’t make the cut because it provides the same services as other providers, but at a higher price.

Background Check Guide

When a business, organization or individual wants information on someone before entering into a professional or personal relationship, background check services are an easy and convenient tool to get it. The following guide explains what a background check is, how it works and the types of information it can turn up.

Table of Contents

What is a background check?

A background check is an investigation into an individual or a company’s past. While they all have some similarities, not all background searches can be conducted in the same way.

For instance, searches on potential employees and tenants must comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), which requires background check services to get an individual's signed consent before conducting searches.

On the other hand, people search background search sites — that is, sites that specialize in searches on friends, long-lost relatives or neighbors — don't need to be FCRA-compliant. These sites show some information found in court or criminal records available to the public but not sensitive information such as credit reports or driving records.

To find out more about what a background check is and the different types of investigations available, make sure to read our article on What is a background check?

How does a background check work?

When a potential employer or landlord wants to run a background check, they must follow the provisions of the FCRA. The same goes for people looking to hire domestic workers — including cleaning professionals and nannies.

Here’s how it works:

  • Step 1: The potential employer or landlord obtains the individual's signed consent to conduct the search and a separate consent to obtain a credit report, when applicable, and sends them to a background screening company.
  • Step 2: The background investigation company conducts court searches, and obtains the credit report, driving records and/or other information requested by the employer or landlord.
  • Step 3: The employer or landlord receives the report, evaluates it and makes a decision.
  • Step 4: If information included in the report is used to deny employment or housing, the potential employer or landlord must inform the applicant.
  • Step 5: The applicant receives a copy of their background check report and the contact information of the company that conducted the searches. They will also receive a notice of adverse action if they were denied the job or property based on findings in the report.
  • Step 6: The potential employer or landlord gives the applicant enough time (generally 30 days from receipt) to dispute incomplete or inaccurate information in their report.

The right to dispute is particularly important given that errors or inaccurate reporting is a common customer complaint. For context, we spoke to Ariel Nelson, a staff attorney at the National Consumer Law Center, and she stressed that errors are a big issue in the industry.

"The matching practices that the companies use are inadequate, so you end up including other people’s records," Nelson says. She also mentioned how companies include records that haven't been updated or they report the same infraction several times.

What do background checks show?

What a report shows depends on the purpose of the search, the report requested and the source of the information. Searches conducted for the purpose of employment or tenancy are typically more comprehensive than so-called people searches (that is, searches on acquaintances, friends or neighbors).

People searches can show publicly available information on a person, including:

  • Birthdate
  • Relatives
  • Address history
  • Social media profiles
  • Criminal history (if available online)
  • Assets and property owned
  • Civil litigation
  • Tax liens
  • Some judgments
  • Bankruptcies

The information provided by people search services is gleaned from public records; but while these records are technically public, accessing them is not always free. Additionally, the information can be difficult to find if you don’t know where to look.

For most people, the easiest way of getting this information is to have a background check service obtain it for them. Professional background check services can find these records by checking government databases in the locations where the subject of the investigation has lived.

But the most important factor in determining what a background check will show is the purpose of the investigation. As we stated above, there are major differences between tenancy or pre-employment background checks and people searches.

What does a pre-employment check show?

Employment background checks are those run by employers when screening applicants.

This type of check needs signed consent from the subject of the investigation.

In addition to revealing the same information listed above for people searches, pre-employment checks can also show:

Identity verification

As the name suggests, this check aims to verify someone’s identity by running a social security number trace that corroborates names, date of birth and address history. An identity verification can also involve confirming citizenship or eligibility for work.

Criminal history records

Criminal background checks can include searches for both felony and misdemeanor offenses at both county and federal courts, depending on the comprehensiveness of the search requested. Background check services can also order in-person searches of court records (as opposed to just what is available online) and often search sex offender registries and global watchlists.

It’s important to note that states have their own laws to regulate what types of criminal records can be reported and for how long.

Employment and education verification

Employment checks typically involve calls to former employers confirming the candidate’s previous jobs and employment dates. Education checks confirm a candidate’s degree, the academic institution they attended, the dates of attendance and, in a few cases, GPA and honors the person earned.

Driving records

Motor vehicle records (MVR) reports show a candidate’s driving record including traffic violations, infractions, accidents, DUIs, whether the license is suspended or expired and what class of license it is (private passenger or commercial). An MVR check is especially important for jobs that require employees to drive.

Note that this search requires a separate signed consent from the subject of the investigation.

Credit history

This will include consumer reports from at least one major credit bureau. This will show payment history, level of debt, loans, bankruptcies, liens and/or collections, although not always your credit score. Employers must get the investigation subject’s consent to conduct the credit check.

Civil Litigation and judgments

Companies usually also search court records for any civil lawsuits, legal disputes or judgments in which the candidate has been involved.

Fingerprint background check

This level of check is not the norm, unless candidates need security clearance or will handle sensitive information in their day-to-day. This is a more in-depth criminal check given the fingerprints are cross-checked with those in the FBI’s Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System.

Social media check

This type of background check involves searching an applicant's social media profiles to determine whether they have any inappropriate content or behavior that could reflect poorly on the organization.

Levels of Background Checks

Most providers offer a range of searches that vary in complexity and thoroughness. These usually range from address traces and basic criminal record searches, to comprehensive searches that include federal and county courts, tax liens, judgments, bankruptcies and even media searches.

There are no set background check levels that are consistent across every background investigations company.

Typically, the lowest level of investigations will only include identity verifications, credit reports and criminal records at the county level. The most comprehensive reports will include that in addition to information from federal courts, educational verifications, social media checks and searches of media, in addition to any number of specialized investigations.

Searches will also vary by state. Some Florida employers, for instance, will require level 1 and/or level 2 criminal history record checks. Level 1 refers to a simple name-based check, whereas a level 2 background check entails a ​​state and national fingerprint-based check required for roles involving trust and responsibility.

How to choose the best background check site

Choosing the best background check site for you will depend on the purpose of your search.

If you want to learn more about a person in your life or conduct a search on yourself, you can use a non-FCRA-compliant background check company that offers people search and reverse phone, email or address lookup services.

However, if you're an employer, you need a company that complies with the FCRA and can not only provide timely and accurate information but also meet all applicable state laws and regulations.

Make sure the company you’re considering:

  • Complies with all applicable federal, state, and local laws and regulations, especially the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).
  • Follows best practices for privacy and security given they’ll be collecting and sharing sensitive information.
  • Uses reliable and up-to-date sources to provide accurate background checks.
  • Has quality control measures in place to ensure the accuracy of their reports.
  • Offers transparent and competitive pricing with a breakdown of their fees so that you can understand the costs involved.
  • Provides information quickly to avoid lost opportunities or increased risk to the organization.

You should also search for the company on the Better Business Bureau website and consumer review sites. These sites are also useful for seeing examples of customer experiences, complaints and to learn how the company handled the situation.

Why are background checks important?

Background checks are essential for many organizations' hiring process and business practices because due diligence can help them protect their company’s and employees’ interests alike.

Due diligence involves gathering all available information on a person to assess their financial and legal standing. The main reasons for conducting a background check include:

  • Litigation purposes
  • Risk management
  • Personal relationships

Litigation purposes

Background checks may be conducted for legal reasons such as finding out information about parties in a lawsuit or checking the accuracy of financial claims.

Risk management

Both financial institutions and individual investors can choose to perform background checks on potential borrowers or business partners. These searches can be extensive and complex, and can include searches for assets, litigation and more.

Relationships

You may want to perform a background check before becoming involved in a relationship, whether that relationship is business-related or personal. People also often use background check services to help find information on biological family members or long-lost friends.

Best Background Check Sites FAQs

How much does a background check cost?

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The cost of a background check depends on the type.

Many of the top background check websites provide several different types at a range of price points for people checks (i.e. not a pre-employment screening). These services can run from around $20 up to $60 or more for a monthly subscription. Free or cheap trials are sometimes available, but make sure to cancel before you're charged.

Prices for pre-employment checks are not usually available on company websites. You'll need to contact the company so they can provide a quote based on your specific needs. These screenings can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to thousands.

The final price will depend on factors such as the scope of the check (is it local, national or international), the industry (some require more in-depth information), turnaround time and how many checks you want. Some companies do offer bulk pricing.

How long does a background check take?

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As a general rule, background checks from an FCRA-compliant provider can take between one to three business days. However, the depth of the check can affect turnaround times. Many services can provide reports in minutes if they're a simple check, while others, such as FBI checks, can take up to 30 days.

What does a background check show?

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This largely depends on the type of background check performed. A pre-employment background check can show a person's credit history, education, driving records along with public records, such as civil or criminal litigation, tax liens, judgments, bankruptcies and more.

Non-pre-employment background checks — for example, checks that that can be performed on "people search" sites — can show where the person has lived, any criminal records available online, sex offender registry listings, and sometimes tax liens or judgments. They could also include searches of the deep web.

How far back does a background check go?

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The time period covered by background checks varies according to the type of check conducted. Also, the FCRA sets rules for consumer reporting agencies about how far back a search can go.

Bankruptcy details typically cover the last 10 years of financial history and credit history reports often go back seven years. Criminal records, felonies and misdemeanors are usually reviewed for seven years from the filing date of the charges or the date of conviction. However, this duration can vary based on the state and the nature of the offense.

Driving records are commonly examined for up to 10 years, although the duration may vary depending on the state. Educational background checks typically have no time limit and employment history checks often do not have a specific time frame.

How We Chose the Best Background Check Sites

To pick the nine best background check services, we reviewed 16 background check companies based on over 100 data points grouped under the following categories:

  • Testing: We tested the people search services to assess the user experience and search results. We also evaluated the report’s format, accuracy and comprehensiveness of information. We couldn't test pre-employment screening companies because these types of companies need a legally permissible purpose (for example, employment or tenancy) in order to conduct a search.
  • FCRA compliance: We verified whether the companies were FCRA-compliant to determine which offered background check services for employers and which were people search services.
  • Extensiveness of background checks: We analyzed what type of information each company accesses and includes in its reports. For pre-employment check services, we favored companies that offered industry packages.
  • Additional searches and add-on services: We assessed add-ons like global watchlist searches and specialty services such as international searches, employment and education verification.
  • Pricing: We compared prices for each service, including the tiers and the costs of available add-ons. We also checked whether a service charged per check or offered monthly subscriptions.
  • Customer reviews: To see what customers had to say about each company’s reports, turnaround and overall customer service, we researched and read customer service reviews on the Better Business Bureau (BBB) site.
  • User interface: We evaluated each background check site’s user interface to determine if the sites are easy to navigate and provided key information useful to consumers.
  • Legal actions: Many of the companies in this industry have been the subject of legal actions. We carefully evaluated lawsuits found during our searches and highlighted those that were particularly relevant to consumers or involved regulatory violations. Do note that this research is based on records found online, and not on an extensive review of court records.
  • Interviews with experts: We spoke with several industry experts, including a former investigator, a consumer law attorney and a human resources professional who regularly uses background check services for the purposes of hiring.

Summary of the Best Background Check Sites of February 2024

Pre-employment Background Check Sites

People Search Background Check Sites