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By: and
Published: Apr 19, 2024 14 min read
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Background checks can reveal information that might impact your ability to take out a loan, get a new job and even find a place to live. That’s why it’s never a bad idea to learn how to do a background check on yourself. It could help you anticipate problems or discover (and fix) any inaccuracies.

This guide covers everything you need to know about how to do a background check on yourself. However, if you’d like help running a search on yourself, check out our list of the best background check services.

Read on to learn more about the process.

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Benefits of doing a background check on yourself

There are several reasons you might want to conduct a background check on yourself. The three most common reasons include:

To see what a background screening may yield

Conducting a background check on yourself helps you identify information that might raise red flags in a future screening process. For example, you can verify whether past incidents like a misdemeanor charge or bankruptcy still show up on your record.

It’s important to note that some cities and states have their own rules restricting when certain types of background searches can be conducted. For example, in New York City, the Fair Chance Act makes it illegal for most employers to check — or even ask about — an applicant's criminal record during the application process. Employers are only permitted to run a criminal history check after a job offer has been made, and even then there’s a strict process to follow.

To detect identity theft

Credit bureaus and courts can sometimes report inaccurate information. Regularly reviewing your files will help you spot these types of errors quickly, so they have minimal impact on your life.

To spot identity theft

Running periodic background checks on yourself is a proactive strategy against identity theft. It can reveal if someone has been using your identity without your knowledge.

For ongoing protection against ID theft, consider signing up for one of the best identity theft protection services offering continuous credit monitoring.

Step-by-step process to run a background check on yourself

A background check is a screening of an individual’s legal, professional, academic and financial past.

Professional background check services use public and private databases to discover and confirm information about your past. However, you can also do it yourself by following this six-step process.

1. Gather personal information

Be sure to gather your personal information before you start the self-initiated background check.

If you’re running a background check on yourself to know what a potential employer or landlord will find, it’s a good rule of thumb to list all the pieces of information you would have to show them if they were to run a check.

This can include your Social Security number, employment and academic history (with dates of employment and school attendance), and your address history for the past seven to 10 years. If you hold any professional licenses, be sure to have your license number on hand.

2. Search court records

The next step is to determine which databases you'll need to search. Most pre-employment or tenancy background checks will include a search for felony criminal records and, some, for misdemeanor records and civil litigation as well. These searches are usually conducted in the counties where you’ve lived over the last seven to 10 years.

Federal courts and many county courts have online portals that facilitate record searches. Note, however, that courts may charge a fee for each search conducted.

3. Check your credit report

Many background checks, especially if it’s for renting or employment in a financial field, will include a credit report check. This makes it essential that you know what’s in your credit report ahead of time so you can dispute any inaccuracies or ask for outdated information to be removed.

Traditionally, you have the right to check your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus for free every 12 months. But pandemic-era policies now allow people to request one free credit report from each major bureau on a weekly basis. You can do so online by visiting http://www.AnnualCreditReport.com and inputting the requested information.

If you find errors or inaccuracies, you can contact the credit bureaus to fix these mistakes or hire a credit repair service to help you navigate the process.

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4. Review online presence

Googling your name is another important step when running a background check on yourself. This will show you what information is publicly available about you online.

Your online presence may also include profiles, mentions and comments on popular social media sites. It's likely that anyone conducting a background check on you will also see your social media accounts, so reviewing your public posts and comments is important.

5. Verify educational and employment history

You can verify your academic records and degrees by contacting the institutions you’ve attended and requesting your official academic records. Alternatively, you can use the National Student Clearinghouse online service, which currently charges $14.95 per confirmed verification of degree and dates of attendance. (This is the service that potential employers or landlords will probably use.)

For detailed work history reports that can include salaries and even the number of hours you worked each week, you typically need to go through a dedicated provider, such as The Work Number, which is a subsidiary of credit bureau Equifax.

You can also request a wage and income transcript from the IRS. This will include income data taken from your W-2s, 1099s and other tax forms going as far back as nine tax years.

6. Check professional licenses and certifications

If a license is needed for your profession, a potential employer will most likely attempt to verify its status and see whether there’s any history of disciplinary actions on your record.

You can verify professional licenses or certifications through the government or professional agency that issued it. For example, the American Bar Association has records on all attorneys licensed to practice in the U.S.

State governments maintain similar databases for many other professions, from architects to dental hygienists to tattoo artists. The name of these offices may change from place to place. For instance, in California, these records are maintained by the Department of Consumer Affairs; in Vermont, it's the Office of Professional Regulation.

Once you've identified the corresponding agency in your state, you will likely be able to verify your license or certification — and check whether there’s any history of sanctions under your name — by searching the agency's online database.

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What does a background check report show?

Background check reports don’t all contain the same information. What a report shows depends on the purpose of the investigation and the company used to do it.

For example, a potential employer may focus on your employment history and criminal record. A landlord may do the same, but they will also likely want to know about your rental history and could run a credit check, as well. With that in mind, here are some of the different types of information that may appear on a background check report.

Social Security number (SSN) trace

Many background checks include an SSN trace. This can reveal previous addresses, names and the history of the number, such as when it was issued and where.

Criminal records

Criminal background checks can show misdemeanors, felonies, pending charges, warrants and arrests. If you have a felony criminal conviction, it will generally remain on your record unless you have it sealed or expunged.

However, this varies from state to state. For example, a California law that went into effect in July 2023 provides automatic record-sealing for most convictions (outside of serious felonies) once a sentence is completed, whereas other states may require you to apply.

Employment history

Background checks showing employee history can include details about your job titles and dates of employment. An employment background check in particular may also include getting references from previous employers.

Education history

An education verification finds details about the schools you’ve attended, the degrees you’ve earned and your enrollment and graduation dates.

Driving records

Some background checks include driving records. These reports can show your license status, any driving-related convictions you might have and whether your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has placed any restrictions on your driver’s license.

Credit history

If a background report involves a credit check, it generally includes a modified credit report. Such a report can show current liens, payment history and inquiries for things like loans and credit cards. The report could also show any bankruptcies or accounts that are in collection. However, your actual credit score typically isn’t included in these types of reports.

When someone runs a personal background check on you that involves credit, they have to get your signed consent, as dictated by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

Five background check services

There are a variety of online services that you can use to search public records. These services access public records and databases to put together a report that can include (among others):

  • Date of birth
  • Addresses
  • Some judgments
  • Social media profiles
  • Assets and property owned
  • Criminal history (if available online)

Note that many of these online services are meant strictly for looking up people you don’t plan on hiring or leasing to such as friends, family members or potential dates. This means they are not regulated by the FCRA and do not require the signed consent of the subjects of the investigation. This also means, however, that they won’t yield the same depth of information as a pre-employment or tenancy background check.

Here are five people search services you may wish to try.

Instant Checkmate

Instant Checkmate can help you find your address, email or contact information. However, it can’t be used for pre-employment or tenancy screenings because this service isn’t FCRA-compliant.

Instant Checkmate charges $28.09 per month for its People Search plan, which includes unlimited person and location reports. But you have to pay for three months up front, so the total cost is $84.28. (You can also choose to pay $35.12 for a single month of access.) The company also offers a reverse phone lookup plan that costs $5.99 per month.


Spokeo’s people search service subscription costs $19.95 and lets you search public records by name, phone number, address or email. When you run a search, the results can include latest contact information, current and past addresses, age and relatives.

Spokeo also offers an upgrade that yields marriage and divorce records, bankruptcies and foreclosures for an additional $19.99 a month.


PeopleFinders shows free basic records tied to names, phone numbers and addresses while charging for the more expansive full reports.

Accessing the reports requires a membership. The basic membership costs $24.95 a month and reports on contact information, aliases and relatives. PeopleFinders premium membership, which costs $29.95 a month, provides more detailed reports that include property, business and criminal records.


BeenVerified is a people search service that can help you find information on yourself such as name and aliases, addresses, emails, phone numbers and even usernames on social media profiles. However, the service, which includes 100 reports a month, is subscription-based.

You can choose between a one-month subscription for $29.99 and a three-month subscription for $58.48 (or $19.49 a month). BeenVerified also offers a seven-day trial for $1.


TruthFinder is an online people search service that can help you find police records, civil judgments, contact information, social media accounts and even photos. Its monthly memberships range in price from about $4.99 to $30. All three provide unlimited reports that include names, addresses, relatives, photos, social media profiles and location history.

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How to do a background check on yourself FAQs

Can you do a background check on yourself?

Yes, you can run a background check on yourself following the six-step process outlined at the beginning of this article. This process mirrors what background check companies do to gather your background information. However, these services have access to private databases and can conduct in-person records searches if necessary — resources that the average consumer may not have access to.On the other hand, if the error lies in your background check report, you have the right to dispute it with the screening company. You may also need to file a written appeal, although the specific process can vary depending on the dispute policies of the organization in question.

How to fix background check errors


If you discover inaccuracies during a self background check, you may need to file a dispute. Start by identifying the source responsible for the error. For example, if there’s an error in your credit reports, you should contact the credit bureaus and provide supporting documents to dispute the error.

On the other hand, if the error appears in a pre-employment background check report, you have the right to dispute it with the screening company. This may involve filing a written appeal, but the specific process can vary depending on the dispute policies of the organization.

How to search public records


The availability of records depends on the type of record and the jurisdiction. For example, if you’re looking for birth, marriage, divorce or death certificates, check the respective state’s Department of Health records. For civil litigation or criminal records, visit the websites of the relevant county courts.

Keep in mind that while many states have digitized records, some still require manual on-site searches or written requests for information.

What does an employment background check show?


The information revealed on an employment background check will depend on what is permissible by the state regarding what records a company can screen and how far back these screens go. Typically, employment screenings include past employment verification, education history, credit reports, criminal records (if any), social media profiles and professional licenses or certifications. ,/p>

Yes, you can run a background check on yourself following the six-step process outlined at the beginning of this article. This process mirrors what background check companies do to gather your background information. However, these services have access to private databases and can conduct in-person records searches if necessary — resources that the average consumer may not have access to.

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