The market for background checking sites is quite a crowded one. A swift Google search will turn up dozens of different sites, each of which claiming to be the best in the business. At first glance, they can all look rather alike, with very few popping up as recognizable or familiar. You might even be tempted to just click on the first link that pops up, and hope for the best. Beware, though, as the standard of service can vary quite substantially across different websites.
So, how to choose a reputable background check company?
In this article, we will give you an insight into what you should search for in a reputable provider. You’ll learn what these companies are and do, why free sites are risky, and how to choose the best background checking service for your needs. Read on!
What Is a Background Checking Company?
A background checking company provides its users with a research service fine-tuned to deliver comprehensive background checks on virtually any individual living in the USA. Such services delve deep into a subject’s online presence and public records to compile a clear and compelling profile within a detailed final report.
Of course, the amount of information in the public domain is truly massive and would take a herculean effort to manually parse. Luckily, background checking websites have developed powerful search technology and sophisticated methods with which to make the job quick, accurate, and inexpensive. With only the smallest amount of starting information, such companies can return a surprising amount of depth and clarity on your subject, often in mere moments.
The Risks of Choosing a Bad Background Checking Company
Modern online background checks are a product of online research technology, which improves markedly each year in terms of performance and price. As costs drop, more and more companies break into the market, often bringing novel and innovative solutions that raise the overall industry standard. This might sound great for consumers, and it generally is. However, a flooded marketplace is a double-edged sword.
Amidst the healthy competition, there hide many charlatans, often in plain sight. Some will just waste your time and bombard you with ads, while others may go quite a bit further in their unscrupulous acts. This can range from harvesting your personal data to be sold off to the highest bidder, to implanting malware on your device for even more nefarious means. General internet wisdom holds true for background checking sites: “if the product or service is free, you’re the product.” Read on for a closer look into the risks of using free services:
Poor-quality Background Checking
Some will just exaggerate their offering and, once you have paid, deliver a sub-standard service. Companies like this have cropped up before (and no doubt will do again), but word spreads quickly and these sites tend to disappear as quickly as they emerge. Users that do fall victim will likely get little in return for their money. I could even be as rudimentary as a basic Google search!
Some nefarious companies will see background checking as an opportunity to harvest user data. By setting up a bogus service, they will try and entice users to enter their own personal information as well as that of their subject into a website. This data will then either be sold on or even exploited by the site owners themselves.
Perhaps the most dangerous rogue sites are the ones which will try and plant malware onto your device. This might be done through the installation of desktop or mobile software and, once successful, could be used for almost anything from harvesting your personal data to illicit bitcoin mining or even connecting your device to a botnet.
How to Choose a Reputable Background Check Company
The best way to avoid falling into one of these traps is to do your research. You want to ensure that the background checking company you use is genuine, and will deliver the service it claims without any untoward risks. When seeking out a reputable company, there are a few different things you can look out for:
Background checking is a closely regulated industry and all official companies must be compliant with US law. The relevant piece of legislation is the Fair Credit and Reporting Act (FCRA). This law restricts the use of background checks for employers looking into prospective employees, landlords researching potential tenants, and anyone who wants to find out about possible domestic employees such as nannies.
All reputable background checking companies will go out of their way to be compliant with this law and will state as much somewhere on their website.
Positive Customer Feedback
Another way to tell if a company is reputable is to see what other users have said about it. Any company can put glowing testimonies on their website, but there is also no shortage of independent websites out there on which users can post about their experiences. Standards at the top of the background checking market are extremely high, so if a service has low customer feedback on these sites, they are probably best avoided.
Realistic Service Offers
Rogue sites which are trying to get you to sign up are likely to make outlandish service claims to try and win your approval. Be wary of this. If a service sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Most reputable background checking companies will be clear about what they can and can’t do.
Many will stress that they are not private detectives and they cannot guarantee that every background check will yield positive results. They will also often by upfront about the fact that they cannot offer 100% guarantees and, while they endeavor to get things right, mistakes do sometimes happen.
Avoid Free Background Checks
Pricing can be another indication of how reputable a company is. The best background checking sites are remarkably affordable given the high-tech solutions and fast results they offer. But there are always some sites out there that will claim to offer the same service for free. Treat these sites with extreme caution.
After all, the methods and technology used by background checking sites require resources to undertake. There is also often a cost involved in accessing public records, while the best services also have human costs and various other overheads, too. These expenses have to be covered somewhere, and genuine sites charge a fee for this purpose.
If a site claims to be doing this for free, there has to be a catch. Either they will be selling your data, or they have more nefarious intentions. Either way, you are much better off paying a small fee for a reputable provider.
Choosing the Best Background Checking Site
Following the tips above will help you choose a reputable background checking sites, but how can you be sure to choose the best? Even when you have whittled out the various rogue sites, there are still a lot of providers that are reputable but will not necessarily offer the best service for your needs.
In combing the market, we developed a list of criteria we believe to be crucial for most use-cases. By applying these criteria, we have managed to narrow down the huge background checking market to just a handful of sites which can tick all of the boxes. Our recommended sites are listed below, but in the interests of transparency, the criteria we have used to pick them out are:
- Comprehensive Research – If you’re in need of a background check, you’ll likely require a fair cross-section of data points to satisfy your curiosity. The best sites dig deep into a multitude of sources–both online and off–in order to compile your search report.
- Accurate and Comprehensible Reports – Your final report brings together all the most relevant information uncovered by the background check. It should be clearly laid out and comprehensible, without compromising on detail.
- Fast Results – If you’ve gone to the trouble of signing up to a background checking site, you probably have an issue of some urgency to attend to. A good company won’t leave you waiting around, producing preliminary search reports in a matter of minutes.
- Search Customization – Top background checking services are sophisticated enough to produce details results, even if there’s not much starting information to go by.
- Usable Dashboard – On your online dashboard, you will manage searches, reports, and other data. But the design of these dashboards and their usability can also vary significantly. The very best sites will offer a dashboard which is both intuitive to use and very well-designed.
- Mobile Apps – More people connect to the internet from mobile devices than ever before. A good company will offer dedicated apps mirroring the functionality of their dashboard for Android or iOS (sometimes both!)
- Good Customer Support – If you encounter any problems with your search or have questions about results, you will need a reliable and helpful customer support service. The best of these can be accessed in various different ways and offers long opening hours.
On the basis of these criteria, we have identified three background checking companies which offer a high-quality and reputable service that users can depend on:
Instant CheckMate stays true to its namesake, delivering in-depth background check reports in just a few short minutes. With thousands of new checks completed every day, CheckMates’ homepage tally (numbering well over a billion) stands as a testament to the popularity of their service. Their offering is in fact broken up into two levels: basic and premium. Every report contains data from sources like criminal records, marriage and divorce records, details of relatives, address history, and any public social media profiles. Their premium fee offers a deeper dive into the archives, uncovering financial history, driving licenses, voter registration, and more.
CheckMate’s final reports are neat and easy to follow, and their online dashboard is also well-designed and straightforward to use. One downside to CheckMate is that it only has an Android app available right now. Fortunately for iOS users, the online dashboard works well on mobile browsers. Helpful customer support is available around the clock, every day of the week, so if you ever have a question, you can reach a real human being for assistance.
TruthFinder is a top-reviewed background checking site that has duly earned its reputation. In fact, this company stands at the top of the pile in terms of internet-related searches. You still get fare standard to the industry like criminal and court records, driving records, contact details, possible photos, and information on any known family. For a premium, you can expand the search radius to include sources like education history, voter registration records, weapons and other licenses held.
The cherry on top comes in the form of their unique deep web search, which crawls webpages that aren’t indexed by traditional search engines. This can be used to uncover hidden information about your search subject, as well as to scan the dark web for any indication of identity theft.
TruthFinder’s design ethos is apparent in its online dashboard and Android app, both of which feature streamlined, sensible user interfaces. This simplicity extends (perhaps most importantly) to their final reports, which provide a high amount of detail in a concise way. With 24/7 customer service on a toll-free number, you’ll never be left in the dark with a problem.
With over 50 million background checks successfully run, Intelius boasts an impressive track record, and has earned the trust of its users. Current contact details, criminal records, financial history, property records, education, address history, sex offender register details, and many more form a constellation of data points outlining the profile of your search subject.
Intelius offers a sleek and intuitive online dashboard where you can manage your searches and view your reports. Similarly, those reports strike the right balance between readability and depth of content. Adding to the mix are two dedicated apps for Android and iOS, respectively. Customer support may not be 24/7, but we nevertheless found their online troubleshooter tool a tremendous help.
Identifying a reputable background checking company can seem difficult, especially if you are not familiar with the industry. But there are a few key points which you can use to differentiate a high-quality site from a less reputable one. It is important to spot the difference, too, because there are a few extremely dodgy sites out there masquerading as genuine background checking services.
In this article, we have not only told you how to spot a reputable background checking company, but also helped you to pick out some of the best ones too. Based on both testing and user feedback, we are confident that each of our recommendations will offer a strong chance to find the data you’re looking for.
Have you ever used a background checking site? Have you been unfortunate enough to encounter a rogue site which has cost you money or failed to deliver on its promises? Perhaps you have used one of the sites we have recommended here and can testify to the high-quality service they offer? We always welcome the experiences and comments of all our readers, so why not share them with us using the comment box below.
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