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Is There a Totally Free Background Check?

Michelle Wilson - July 21, 2022

Is There a Totally Free Background Check?

There are currently countless websites and platforms offering free background checks. Many places promise to investigate public records, court documents, criminal history, etc. These platforms focus on providing a comprehensive screening in a matter of minutes, only needing to enter a person’s details (for example, the name, location, and age). Press a button when all the information is entered, and the background check will instantly process.

This process can influence a person’s desire to use the website. With promises of free service, easy-to-read reports, and a hustle-free option for running the background check, it’s relatively simple to understand the appeal. Most of these websites don’t require a sign-up or login to conduct the background check.

A Word of Caution:

Using these platforms isn’t the best idea for someone using the free background check to make critical decisions. Using these websites isn’t necessarily going to be problematic, but they may not offer the level of information required to make an educated decision. You’ll want to use an NAPBS accredited background company for any screening outside of simple curiosity.

There are many reasons for avoiding a free background check. These reasons include:

Limited Sources for Information

Many free background checks source their details from records where information is public. In fact, these platforms will only search through documents that are digitally accessible online. That means anything non-digital won’t be searched through. With a free platform, the time and effort required to examine these documents isn’t an option (as it takes resources not available without a fee). As no one is paid to provide time and effort, thorough searches cannot occur. Unfortunately, the information returned by free checks isn’t always exhaustive.

Automated Search Results (No Human Examination)

With most platforms, free criminal background check searches are automated. These free screens are automatically created without human evaluation before passing the report to the individual who ordered it. The algorithm searches through multiple databases and will return the report. Therefore, some background checks are available in a matter of seconds.

Unfortunately, automated computer algorithms can’t identify subtleties (like two people having similar names). As such, the criminal history records shown may belong to someone else with a similar name.

No Verification or Vetting

A free background check is never verified or vetted for information. The vetting process requires multiple information sources, comparing the results found. Often, investigative work takes time and money. When the report is free, it’s almost certain that no verification efforts are made. After all, with some paid background checks not vetting their details, there’s virtually no way a free platform will do that.

No Focus on Accuracy

When someone uses a free background check, there is no focus on accuracy. Most results or reports will return with a disclaimer about their accuracy. The waiver will often waive the website from liability should the returning information be inaccurate. This doesn’t mean all data will be incorrect. However, it will always mean whoever orders the background check assumes the risk.

Minimal Accountability

Occasionally, things go wrong with background checks. For example, the results could be disputed by an applicant. In these situations, whoever ran the free background check must be held accountable. For paid background checks, the client can hold the company responsible. In many cases, the company will offer verification of disputed results for free. This level of accountability isn’t available for free background checks. Should they backfire, the client is essentially on their own.

No Guarantee of Expertise

Producing a quality background check will require a certain level of expertise. Some people are adept at hiding undesirable information from their past. It takes a level of experience to sniff out people, including the vetting process and legal compliance. Changing names, previous hidden criminal records, or false financial accounts are all effortless ways someone can fabricate the results of the background check.

Many free background checks won’t guarantee their expertise. This is because professional experience comes at a premium. When the website receives no compensation for the report, they’re less inclined to be accurate. For premium checks, the client can request credentials and professional affiliations of anyone conducting the screening.

Conducting and running a background check is often strewn with legal ramifications. The slightest error will occasionally lead to an expensive lawsuit. Many background checks know this, pushing relevant legislation to the top priority. Thankfully, many background websites offer compliance tips to their clients.

A free background check offers no guarantee of compliance, especially when they can run screening with simple information (name, phone number, location, and birthday). There is no need to verify an individual’s authorization for a free background check.

Minimal Compliance is Legally Questionable

Many laws currently exist to protect consumers from unlawful background checks. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) forbids conducting a background check on an individual without receiving written authorization. The implication for anyone running a free background check is the individual can get sued. For reputable companies, the service often includes reminders of compliance and written consent.

Essentially, using these free platforms isn’t a great idea. While it may seem to offer advantages, like cost-effectiveness and fast turnaround times, the potential problems will typically outweigh them. Especially when accuracy, reliability, and completeness are essential.

Understanding the Difference with Paid Websites

Although many could argue the same potential problems with paid background checks, a client can take specific measures to increase the probability that the details are reliable (particularly when making critical decisions).

Anyone looking for reliable background information should steer clear of the free background checks. Instead, prioritize finding a reputable company. While many of these platforms charge a fee, the security often offered significantly offsets the cost. These paid companies will increase the probability of legally compliant, reliable, and exhaustive reports. Many paid websites will include a manual review of the report to ensure all records relating to the proper individual. Additionally, non-digital records are often reviewed, providing a clear picture of the background report.

Conclusion

With the constantly changing and evolving laws and regulations regarding personal information, choosing a free platform to run your background screening is ultimately a bad idea. Many free reports only contain small portions of the record, preventing the user from making educated decisions. The minimal information with free websites will open the user up to potential legal problems. With more employers being sued (or paying out sizable settlements) for incorrect background checks, having the most transparent picture of an applicant is essential. Although saving money is always a concern, sometimes having the security of a paid service is worth the expense.

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