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Under The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Title 5 of the United States Code, section 552, any person has the right to request access to public records: criminal records, arrests & warrants, inmate records, vital records & more.

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Research an Individual with a Background Check

Conducting a background check using a wide variety of publicly available records allows you to confirm or deny an individuals character, work history and even credit rating. Reasons for utilizing such a service may include checking the criminal background of a potential employee, confirming the credit rating for a potential tenant, or even collecting background information on a babysitter or housekeeper. Following is a discussion of the types of records used for a background check, the types of background checks conducted, as well as how to go about collecting background information on an individual.


Records Available for Use in a Background Check


If you've decided to conduct a background check on an individual or even a business, the amount of information you'll be able to access depends solely upon how much personal information you already possess about the person. For example, if you know the individual's Social Security Number, this will allow you to access more detailed records than if you only know his or her name and/or address. Combining these identifiers-name, address and Social Security Number-will allow for the best results possible.

Any background check should include past addresses, marriages and divorces, and even other public records such as court and criminal records. Educational, military and medical records are considered confidential and are only accessible by close relatives or individuals with strict permission to do so. Other records which may be searched include Department of Correction records, sex offender records, arrest records and even consumer reports. Investigative methods such as skiptracing someone may provide insight into his or her creditworthiness and character through checking personal references.


Types of Background Checks Conducted


Depending upon the type and amount of information you are seeking about an individual, you may need to conduct a specific kind of background check. An instant or online background check can often be conducted for no charge through any one of several public records search engines on the Internet. However, these may or may not be accurate and complete. Often, a check through local and state official records will need to be conducted to ensure this. In order to conduct a background check using official records, you will need to address each and every local government office where the individual has lived. This is because public records do not translate over state lines-they are always maintained in the state where the event that is recorded took place.

Private investigators also offer services for a fee in order to conduct a more thorough background check. These individuals not only access public records, but also conduct interviews and investigations with former neighbors, spouses and other individuals with whom the subject has been associated in the past.

If you need to conduct a pre-employment background check, you may need to obtain an Applicant Release Form to do so. This only applies in the case that your background check will not be conducted in-house, however. Using an outside background check service requires the permission of the applicant per the Fair Credit Reporting Act.


Collecting Background Check Information


If you choose to conduct a background check into an individual for any reason other than employment, you may do so yourself and without that person's permission. In this case, you'll need to search public records online through local and national databases, in addition to contacting individual offices directly. For example, if a quick online search reveals the individual was charged with a crime, you'll need to contact the corresponding law enforcement office to request details about the incident and to ensure it concerns the person you're researching. Address records, phone records and credit records will all give clues as to where the person has lived and worked in the past, too.

In addition, social networking sites offer a unique way to search for someone and research his or her character. These sites allow you to simply search for their name and location, and will provide their personal photos and proclamations that give insight into the type of company they keep and their extracurricular activities.


Legal Considerations


When conducting a background check or search on someone, ensure you are first familiar with your local and federal privacy laws related to an individual's personal information. Certain situations may require you to inform them of your search. Federal laws also regulate the ability to access sensitive information and data included in records related to military service, medical care and education. However, the Freedom of Information Act does apply when researching public records; they may simply have details such as Social Security Numbers or information regarding juveniles blocked from public view.

Utilizing the public records, online resources and even private investigative services available will allow you to conduct a thorough background check on a prospective employee or even spouse; you merely need to ensure that you remain within your legal rights to this information by respecting your state's privacy laws as well as federal disclosure requirements.



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