Why You Shouldn’t Rely on a Free Background Check
Michelle Wilson - March 12, 2022
There are countless websites available offering free background checks. The promise holds that users can enter the user information and receive in-depth background screening from public records, court documents, and countless other locations. Two popular domains allow anyone to perform a background check on another individual within minutes (or instantaneously). The user simply inputs the candidate’s details (name, location, and age), submit the form, and receive the background check instantly.
The concept is often luring for users wanting a rapid result without paying cash to view the result. The platform focuses on a simplified background process instead of securing registrations. These free background checks don’t require user input or sign-in to operate.
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Choosing Between Paid Versus Free Websites
If you’re looking for a reliable background check to make a significant decision, the free options are likely not the best idea. Although there’s nothing inherently wrong with free websites, the simple and basic functionality is probably going to leave you wanting more from your search efforts. Paid websites will offer multiple reporting areas, often outside the automated database results found online.
These additional components might include criminal history, education or credential verification, or social media accounts. Although many of these areas are available online, confirming the details manually is imperative for correctness. Many situations pose problems for background reporting (for example, a similar name or wrong candidate attached to a screening), which can wrongfully influence the report overall.
Showing the Results to the Candidate
Although free websites may seem like a cost-saving opportunity, they often hold minimal recourse for disputing the final report. An individual has the opportunity to dispute anything on the completed report that doesn’t adequately represent their history. These might include misreporting employment information, criminal records that judges previously expunged, or mistaken identity with credit accounts.
Inaccurate criminal history is the most damaging component of the screening process, especially regarding charges and convictions. Mixed files are one of the most common causes of incorrect information showing on a background screening. A candidate can dispute any errors found within the background check, and all mistakes must be removed or corrected within 30 days of the dispute. Finally, suppose you used the background check to make a qualifying decision (to revoke an employment offer). In that case, you must notify the candidate in writing and provide a copy of the report to the applicant.
Important Notice to Consider:
An individual can sue anyone found violating the Fair Credit Reporting Agency, especially when pulling background reports for employment purposes.
There are many reasons to use an accredited background screening service provider. These reasons include the following:
Access to Limited Sources of Information
The majority of free background check websites are automated websites—the platform searches digitally accessible records without using non-digital documents for verification. Non-digital records require manual proof to confirm the results. These search efforts take extensive time and effort, making it an exhaustive option for free background checks.
Automated Search Results (without Human Examination)
Most free criminal background check websites are entirely automated. The algorithm searches through various databases and sends the report based on those preliminary results. Unfortunately, this method fails to identify subtleties or differences in the results (for example, two people with a similar name). Most free platforms fail to manually check the information before passing it on to the individual that authorized the search.
No Manual Verification Tactics
Vetting requires an individual to search multiple information sources for accuracy. Employees cross-reference all records with paid platforms to ensure the information matches before compiling the details. This referencing typically requires manual investigation (taking valuable resources from the background check company). On free websites, virtually no effort is made to confirm the information.
Focus on Quantity, Not Accuracy
Offering a product or service without cost often removes an element of accuracy. Most websites will include a disclaimer about limited accuracy. The terms of service also include the removal of liability, especially if the information is inaccurate. This clause doesn’t mean that anyone ordering a background check will receive falsified details; it simply removes the risk of liability from the company in the event a problem occurs. No Accountability
Occasionally, things go wrong with background reports. When a report generates, the applicant can dispute the results. When using a paid provider, a client has grounds to hold the company accountable. Most services offer verification of disputed results free of charge. With complimentary reporting, accountability doesn’t exist. Should these reports turn up inaccurate, the client is left fighting the accusation independently.
No Guarantee of Expertise
Compiling a complete and accurate background check requires skill and expertise. Periodically, individuals with undesirable information undergo extensive measures to mask and hide unwanted information from their records. For example, an individual hiding criminal history can pass through automated background screening. Alternatively, a paid search holds the expertise to compile information, regardless of the effort to hide it.
Minimal Guarantee of Legal Compliance
Background screening can be a legal minefield of problems. Minor errors could lead to costly lawsuits and fines. Most legal background check companies understand the terms and conditions required by legislation. Many companies offer compliance tips and feedback to clients to improve compliance.
Free background checks offer no guarantee of compliance or authorization efforts. Authorization is virtually impossible when a user doesn’t have to create an account on free platforms. These websites require personal data to pull the information, whether the full name, phone number, location, or age). Unfortunately, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) restricts background checks on anyone without obtaining written authorization. This stipulation suggests that anyone using a free website to create a background report can easily face legal consequences.
Understanding the Difference of Paid Background Checks
While the same requirement is upheld from the FCRA for paid background checks, a level of assurance is often attached to paid platforms. The paid website will offer a reminder or confirmation of authorization before completing the scan in most situations. For a client wanting to avoid legal issues long-term, paid websites with proper clearances offer safeguards that free websites can’t match. In a discrepancy, a paid website provides recourse to the reported individual to correct the inaccuracy.
The temptation of free background checks is often appealing to those with limited financial resources but poses significant problems for anyone wanting to make informed and educated decisions overall. Free background checks are often limited in content, with minimal resources available for cross-referencing. Anyone looking for comprehensive information should always consider a paid platform when accuracy is a top priority.
Individuals using free background checks as the primary search method for review are leaving themselves open to legal issues, mainly when the information contains bogus or irrelevant information attached to a result. Free background check websites fail to protect their clients, particularly when disclosing and ensuring the proper dispute process for the candidate in question.