Our research has identified the 5 most prominent criminal background companies and the tools & services they provide. We have also included a few useful tips about uncovering a person’s criminal history. After this we’ll answer some of the most common questions people ask on this topic.
1. US Search (Best for The Price)
The year it was founded: 1994
BBB (Better business bureau) grade: US Search is accredited by the Better Business Bureau and has A+ grade. You can learn more about BBB and their grading system at point 3.
- US Search is probably the oldest company of its kind (founded in 1994) and maintains a solid reputation. They are well known for the transparent and substantiated reports by letting you know the availability of court records by state, unlike some other companies that claim to index every single record. The only thing to be aware of is their discounts, if you want to take 20% off, be sure to cancel the subscription after your 7 days trial with their privacy protection partner.
- If you do not want a consent from the person you are trying to investigate, this is the tool for you (unlike some of the other ones below which will require a written permission).
- Their prices range from $20 to $80, depending on how detailed the report is. You also have certain add-ons you can get with your report (like instant deliver, the ability to do a check on yourself at discounted rate and so on).
Year founded: 2003
BBB grade: This company is currently not accredited by the Better Business Bureau and has B grade. The reason for this is not the quality of the service itself but the fact that upon purchase you are presented with an option to get a discount for your report if you involve in a ’7 day trial’ with their partner. The thing is, most people forget about their involvement after 7 days and get charged. Thus, the complains.
- Intelius is the most popular website of all mentioned here, with several million unique visitors per month. If you’ve done some research before reading this article you probably know about them.
- Also pretty transparent in telling what you get (not every state can provide you with proper court records, for example).
- Prices range from $20 to $40, again, depending on how detailed the report will be.
- Intelius has been in various battles because of their recurring scheme. Be wary if you are offered something like 20% off for enrolling into some other product trial. If you do that, remember to cancel after 7 days (or immediately) or else you’ll get charged automatically. Many people forget this and later complain when it was really their fault.
If you are unsure about which of these 2 companies to choose, use the search engines of both to retrieve background information about an individual provided for free. After considering this free information, you can select the provider that you think provided the most relevant information for the person you’re investigating.
3. Your Favorite Company/Service Goes here
Year founded: Knowing how long a company has been in business indicates a history of success. In the background check industry, the older the company is, the more reputable the it is. Be wary with newer companies (from 2008 on).
BBB Grade (BBB = Better Business Bureau): To find out if the company you are considering is reputable and duly licensed, you can search the Better Business Bureau database by website name to get a better picture. First verify that the company is a legal entity. Usually reputable (and big!) companies are in Better Business Bureau database. Some are accredited, some are not. If you don’t find your provider in the BBB database, look for more information like whether they’re really a legal entity, reviews online and so on.
You can learn much from the company’s contact page on their website. DO they list their address? Do they have a phone number? If they do not have either, the chances are good that they are not a legal or registered entity.
4. NAPBS (National Association of Professional Background Screeners)
The 2 companies above do not specialize in employer background checks. For this type of research, you will need permission from the person you are screening. You should be familiar with and respect all regulatory laws regarding doing employment background check on someone. Only use providers that are familiar with the state laws regarding background checks.
NABPS is a non-profit organization that designates the most competent background check companies through their policy. You will find many employee-screening companies proclaiming their NABPS accredited status on their websites. If you’re an employer, you’re probably already familiar with NABPS.
You can view a list of members of the NABPS here.
5. HireRight (for employment checks)
Year founded: 1995
BBB grade: Accredited, the BBB grade is A+
NAPBS (National Association of Professional Background Screeners) accredited: Yes
- HireRight fulfills all criteria for a good employment criminal check company
- NABPS Accredited (this matters a lot!)
- To get a report via HireRight, you will need permission from the person you want to perform a background check on. This is a written permission, as required by the employment law. If you can’t obtain a permission, use the companies under 1) and 2) (also be aware that they will display less accurate information, you can’t expect the same depth of information with and without a written permission from a person. Getting a written permission usually means getting access to more databases for screening)
- HireRight claims that many Fortune 500 companies use their services. See their testimonials for more information.
PART 2: Tips
Tip #1: Always double-check the information you get
No background check companies are 100% accurate. If you receive positive criminal record data, you should double-check to verify that the data is accurate. You can do this through the local courts. For example, if a person is convinced of a crime in Nevada, you can easily obtain the county’s court records online or via phone/rarely via address.
Tip #2 Decide what you want
There are many solutions on the market for running criminal background records. It is important to define what you want. For example, if you are hiring a nanny, there are specialized sites that provide you pre-screened nannies. If you are just curious about someone, Google could help. Learning a few advanced Google queries should be helpful in this case.
Tip #3 Talk to a private investigator
Background checks can be very expensive. Here’s where private investigators come into mind. If you’re trying to do check someone’s criminal history, however, even if your budget is tight, investigators come handy. Talking to many of them and you’ll probably get useful tips on where to look.
Tip #4 Hiring pre-filtered candidates
There are some excellent companies that criminal checks themselves and for a fee will connect you to a good nanny. Sites like Care.com have raised several million dollars to perfect their technology and provide pre-filtered candidates. There is probably a similar company for your own state or city. This is a good alternative to doing checks for a criminal background.
Tip #4 If Time > Money for you, go directly to the source
Basically all of the reputable sites that promise you to deliver some sort of information for someone use the same techniques. They access data from several state and federal resources and put them in one big database. For the most part, their sources are cort records. Most courts allow access to their public records, although some may charge a fee
Many records are available from courthouse sites directly. Just type “name of the city goes here” criminal records into Google and look for sites ending with .gov. or .us.