When looking for information on new acquaintances, many people turn to free searches, assuming that Google and WhitePages.com must know everything there is to know about a person. However, the best background check services need to return more than just basic information. If you need to make decisions that could affect your life, it’s best not to take that chance. Paid services have access to more information because they search multiple avenues, public databases, and state files. Join us as we review our list of the most accurate background check services, and, most importantly, where they get their sources.
Best Background Check Services: First Look
- Overall best background check service – TruthFinder
- Best for one-time background checks – Intelius
- Best criminal background checks – Instant Checkmate
- Best reverse phone background check – Spokeo
- Best background check prices – US Search
- Best online DMV records – Been Verified
- Most accurate background check – PeopleFinders
- Best advanced background search – PeopleTrail
1. TruthFinder – Best Background Check Service Overall
- You can’t buy individual reports for cheap
- No free trial
TruthFinder provides what they define as “Sensitive Information”, including national criminal records searches, addresses, phone numbers, property documents, civil judgments, and photos, and some other court documents. TruthFinder does not offer any consumer reports (credit checks) and specifically provides its services to individuals who are researching for skiptracing or protective reasons – not as a screening for professional or residential contracts. While known associates and contact information is common knowledge, Truthfinder also claims to scour the deep web and access harder-to-find records like birth, death, criminal and traffic, social media, dating profiles, assets, and education. But what put TruthFinder slightly ahead in our race was the fact that the company added a “dark web” search, which presumably goes even murkier than the “deep web.” What information about you has been leaked on the dark web? TruthFinder may have the answer. Tempting, aye? Basic: $24.95 monthly ┃ Premium: $29.95 monthly
2. Intelius – Best for One-Time Background Checks
- Lower monthly subscription than average
- Confidential searching guarantee
- Connection feature finds mutual acquaintances
- Not much of a free trial
- Some records cost more than others
Intelius offers unlimited instant searches and reports and offers a secure 256-encryption connection. Intelius makes sure that you never alert the person you searched, which is an issue not many searchers would even consider until you consider the risk. The background check company has earned points for reliability, being founded in 2003, and offering record searches for criminal offenses, location information, and fast searches. Not only can you access 20 billion public records, but you can also use the Intelius Connection feature, which allows you to open special associations between multiple persons of interest. Overall, the high cost and predictable lists of databases brought it to a respectable number two, but short of the top spot. Basic Search: 1$ ┃ Email: $6.95 ┃ Social: $6.95 ┃ Background Checks: $39.95
3. Instant Checkmate – Best Criminal Background Checks
- 5-day $1.00 trial
- Confidential searching
- Toll-free phone support
- Stellar reputation
- Encrypted and Norton-protected
- No individual reports (membership only)
Instant Checkmate cites its 70,000 good reviews and an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau to establish a good reputation. But even more impressive is its instant criminal background check option, which searches for criminal records, court documents, addresses, age, and known aliases. The price is fairly high, however, because of the fact that you can’t buy individual records, only pay for a monthly membership. The company also has a telephone support line that covers normal business hours 10 to 10 EST. The company’s commitment to customer service, a fine reputation, and an anonymity guarantee make Instant Checkmate a competitive entry on our list. 5-day trial: $1 ┃ Monthly: $22.86 ┃ 3 Months: $14.86 ┃ 6 Months: $9.86
4. Spokeo – Best Reverse Phone Number Background Check
- Detailed online searches
- Frequently updated reports
- Reverse call searches
- Online searches may mismatch names
Spokeo lets you look up a person’s name by email addresses, or other identity verification information, to get access to what it calls a wide range of industry-leading sources. You can also expect frequent updates on reports whenever new information comes in. Spokeo can help you find info on a person’s hobbies, education level, wealth status, dating profile info, and even some music and gaming accounts. Not all searches were accurate, however, as some names were mixed up, suggesting not much of a human touch. Still, Spokeo’s ability to run a reverse phone number search on unwanted spam callers certainly earns it a bonus grade. Monthly: $13.95┃3 Months: $7.95 ┃ 6 Months: $4.95 ┃ Court Records: $2.95 extra
5. US Search – Best Background Check Prices
- Over 20 years experience
- Cheap individual name searches
- Comprehensive background checks
- Telephone support in the daytime
- The virtual assistant is sort of slow and pointless
- The cheapest searches don’t reveal much
US Search is surely the grandparent of the bunch, it first launching in 1998. Best of all, the service offers individual name searches for as little as $2.45, or unlimited searches for $20 a month. If you select the Omni-search option you also get a social networking search. The higher-end search is the official background check which costs a whopping $40 but includes a criminal record and some major financial information, like bankruptcy. Unfortunately, the pricey service didn’t offer much on basic or cheap searches individually. The only records worth paying for were available under a full background check. US Search does include more information than a free search, but not necessarily in every US state since state laws can differ on non-public records. Basic Search: $2.45 ┃ Background Checks: $39.95 ┃ State Search: $14.95 Criminal Background Search: $24.95 ┃ Social: $19.95 ┃ Omnisearch: $19.95 Monthly
6. Been Verified – Best Background Check Online for DMV Records
- Founded in 2007
- Vehicle and driver record searches
- Email/username search
- Online searches sometimes report incorrect information
Been Verified claims to have seven searches in one comprehensive background check, including address check, email lookup, username search, unclaimed money search, vehicle lookup, and online seller reputation. The VIN vehicle search, as well as a license plate search, can reveal information related to accidents, salvage titles, and even owner information – which is a step above most competitors. Not all searches sent back accurate information, as some of our own names were confused with other people entirely. Overall, however, most of our searches were productive. Some reports also contain photos, known associates and relatives, and even employment and education history, which is not common among free searches. Been Verified is one of the most comprehensive searches you can find, without credit reporting access. Monthly: $26.89 ┃ 3 Months: $17.48
7. PeopleFinders – Most Accurate Background Check Sites
- Founded in 1999
- Offers data-as-a-service options to businesses
- Genealogy searches
- Marriage and divorce records where available
- Ability to buy individual records
PeopleFinders has access to 43 billion records and offers fast results, a deep search for criminal history, property records, known relatives, and residential histories. Their reverse phone search works well and can fend off spam callers. Even better is their access to genealogy searches and major financial data, like bankruptcy, foreclosure, and other court records. PeopleFinders might help with skip tracing since it returns information about business partners and acquaintances that other services might not include. Some marriage and divorce records might also be included. We were disappointed by the lack of social media searches since most competitors offer this trendy feature for a low price. Otherwise, PeopleFinders did go above and beyond, offering data-as-a-service access to other large or small businesses, such as real estate agents, law firms, collection agencies, and private investigators. Monthly: $24.95 (unlimited) ┃ Monthly: $29.95 (unlimited background reports)
8. PeopleTrail – Best Advanced Background Check Service
- The original company dates back to 1994 – impressive!
- Personal searches and professional searches
- Privacy is guaranteed
- Very expensive
- Surprisingly, no vehicle searches
PeopleTrail is one of the most powerful searches you can do since it offers not only individual searches but also professional searches. From professional employment screening, to tenant applications, to criminal records and social media content, the company can assist your reasons, for business or personal protection. The cost is certainly high, and much more so for business-credit checks. Searches are also not as comprehensive as we hoped, considering the high price attached. Still, the Bronze program is worth a look. It’s available for anyone with a legitimate personal concern, such as dating someone new, working with a volunteer applicant, working with a babysitter, and so on. The silver and gold check programs are for business, though they are certainly convenient options to have for the right people. Monthly: $24.95 (Bronze) ┃ Monthly: $29.95 (Premium)
Background Checks for Employee and Tenant Screening
Because our list focuses on personal or preventive searches that protect the consumer, we won’t review the following companies, but do advise you to look up their reputations on TrustPilot and the Better Business Bureau. These companies do not provide services to the average consumer with only personal concerns, but instead, offer credit reporting and other private government records for qualified business-to-business purposes.
The Shrewd Searcher’s Guide to Finding Quality Background Checks
The searchability of public records is a relatively new concept. Decades ago, employers and creditors only used personal references to verify a resume. Over the years, finding a source of objective information proved invaluable to commercial and residential searchers who wanted to prevent theft, crime, and poor job performance. Today, even when employers or federal government personnel run a background check, they are looking for the same basic information:
- Criminal charges, especially from the sex offender registry
- Drug use
- Irregular work performance
- Debt and serious financial problems
- Civil records or lawsuits
Consumers using private searches for personal protection are also searching for the same records, and are entitled to much of the same information. And while a quick Google search reveals a considerable number of legitimate background check companies, there are various factors you should look for before deciding which service is right for you.
What Factors to Look for in a Background Check Service
Access to Non-Public Information
The first thing you want in a premium background check is access to non-public information, preferably from a credit header. Credit headers are just the top section of a credit report and do not contain any private financial history or employment history that might not be appropriate for a non-business search. Credit headers can be used to verify unique identifying information, the most current address, phone number, and job information of an individual.
Access to State Records
Some states now offer free or low-cost searches directly, if you digitally or manually submit a form. However, given the tedious work involved in searching online (and perhaps in some offline databases) it’s much easier to pay for a premium search that includes state records of interest. A premium records search can also verify non-public information such as a professional license (in the state of practice), educational degrees, marriage records, death records, traffic violations, and other vital information that could verify a person’s identity and accomplishments.
Social Media Searches
It’s becoming increasingly common to include social media searches during screening sessions, just in case there are glaring issues following a person that might affect work or travel. While some free searches are limited to Google indexing public names and linked pages, some other background check services might include special software that searches trends, names, and profiles. TruthFinder performs a deep web search, even beyond the old Google name search, and can return skip trace quality results.
Custom Background Searches
Custom background searches may involve a variety of screenings in a package deal, and may also include more advanced tests that are directly related to a position of employment or individual contracting work, like babysitters, or housesitters.
Some background check companies advertise that they are accredited companies, possibly by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners, or a similar organization. Criteria for qualification may include protecting the rights of applicants and full legal compliance.
Best Background Check Services: FAQs
Are Background Checks Really Necessary?
No… unless of course, the truth matters to you. Surprisingly, a recent study conducted by the University of Massachusetts found that statistically speaking, most people lie in everyday conversation, just to appear likable, competent, and more in sync with the person they’re trying to impress. If statistically speaking, 60 percent of people lie once every ten minutes, how often do you think your friends-of-friends, co-workers, blind dates, babysitters, and other acquaintances lie? If it’s a matter that requires some degree of personal protection or loss prevention, making sure of a fact is invaluable. The best background check services may help to put your mind at ease if doubts are creeping in about your inner circle.
Is a Free Search Just as Good As a Background Check?
Honestly? No. Many results from free searches could be several years old and may even confuse some people’s similar-sounding names. Understand that free public searches are typically compiled from databases that are collected by commercial companies. Sometimes the data comes from dubious sources, such as magazine subscription databases, contests, and coupon signups, and sometimes opt-in lists from (snooping) companies that share your data. Many of these records are also outdated or taken from old phone book data or residential databases. Plus, free searches typically don’t have access to state records (criminal, motor vehicle, and civil), or credit headers (latest contact information).
What is the Fair Credit Reporting Act?
The Fair Credit Reporting Act was a federal law passed in the 1970s that attempted to help consumers by ensuring accuracy and reasonable privacy. Specifically, the law attempted to regulate the way credit reporting agencies collect and share consumer data. When a background check company claims to be FCRA compliant that means they are disclosing the search, getting written authorization, and following all procedures when considering sensitive information. FCRA laws also protect the consumer’s right to request all information that agencies collect on file for review or dispute.
Best Background Check Services: The Takeaway
In considering our final list, we had to consider the types of background checks offered, as well as the price efficiency. We admired PeopleTrail’s ability to run deeper checks for businesses, but for individuals, the basic searches weren’t as comprehensive as we hoped. Overall, TruthFinder impressed us the most, since it offered not only criminal history and sex offender searches, but also surface web, dark web, deep web, and other record searches that were not included with free WhitePages type searches we’re used to doing on our own. Why not run a background check today if you have the slightest doubt about a new friend, date, acquaintance, chatty workmate, family friend, or anyone who’s hanging around your home?