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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.

Types of Background Checks and Their Uses

Background checks are very important in any situation where an individual will be entrusted with anything valuable. If you plan on providing someone with a key to your home or access to your personal property in some other way, it's vital to check and see if they are in fact trustworthy and safe. Everything from employment to marriage decisions may be made based on information found in several types of background checks; following is an explanation of some of the most common.

 

Criminal Background Check

 

A criminal background check may be conducted through local and state government offices, law enforcement and other resources to determine if someone has a criminal past in that area. This type of check will look for arrests, Department of Corrections' records, court records and even sex offender information. Most states maintain at least some of these databases electronically, so you can easily search them from home.

 

Personal Background Checks

 

If you simply want to know more about someone's personality, character or values, a background check may be conducted to investigate his or her personal life. This is quite easy with several social networking sites available online and growing in popularity. You may perform a simple search for their name and location to see if they have posted unattractive comments or photos online; this type of check also includes interviewing prior neighbors, employers and even friends to gauge his or her reliability.

 

Background Investigations by Law Enforcement

 

In the event of a crime taking place in nearly any part of the country, the responsible law enforcement office and/or entities will conduct a background investigation in to anyone who is involved or related in any way. A person of interest may result if a witness to the crime has a criminal past himself, for example. Or, perhaps a convicted rapist lives very near where a recent rape took place. This information points the investigators in the right direction to find suspects and hopefully guilty parties through the course of these extensive background investigations. Of course, these officers and investigators may access much more information about someone than the general public can, and with greater ease.

 

FBI Background Checks

 

Visiting the FBI website at http://www.fbi.gov/ will allow you to search national records regarding most wanted suspects and fugitives, as well as registered sex offenders. Searches using someone's name and/or fingerprints is also possible through the FBI for a fee. This type of check will provide information regarding someone no matter which state they live or have lived in, and may point you in the right direction if you aren't sure which state records to access. Many times, visitors will simply look through the Most Wanted and Most Wanted Terrorist lists maintained by the FBI on this site.

 

International Background Checks

 

Perhaps you need to research someone whom you have no idea where they are from. If this is the case, you may want to perform an international background check to search for any questionable activity by him or her. In order to ensure a complete search, the FBI records in addition to Interpol and the Department of Homeland Security records should be checked. These agencies will maintain information about the most threatening and dangerous individuals, no matter where they live. The Interpol Most Wanted list and Specially Designated Nationals are regularly updated to include the most recent additions or changes in information.

 

FCRA vs. Non-FCRA Background Checks

 

Another common type of background check is a FCRA, or Fair Credit Reporting Act check. This simply means that the check falls under the scope of the FCRA, and requires the subject of the search to sign an Applicant Release Form. These checks are conducted by a third party for employers to base employment decisions on, and can be disputed by the subject if employment is denied due to information uncovered. An FCRA background check includes researching credit reports, Department of Motor Vehicle information, employment and business histories.

A non-FCRA check may also be conducted by an employer (or any other interested party), but they must do so in-house. This does not require a release form, and hiring decisions may not be based upon the results. This type of background check can include skiptracing by creditors or private investigators, checking personal references and even contacting former landlords or employers.

These types of background checks are sometimes utilized for special purposes, but can generally be conducted by anyone with access to the right resources. If you are not a member of law enforcement and cannot access official government records in their entirety, a multitude of online and hard copy resources are also available through local and federal government offices.

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