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What Will Show Up on a Background Check? 9 Things You Could Find

Did you know that there is a huge amount of information about every single US citizen freely and openly available for anyone to access? It not just what you post of Facebook that can tell the world everything about you, but the Federal and State governments also keep records about various aspects of our lives and much of this data is in the public domain. This is how background checking sites work. They can access this publicly available data quickly and efficiently and compile reports on just about everyone in the US. That is why background checking sites are a great place to go if you want to find out about that weird guy who just moved in next door, the bloke your wife keeps talking about that just started in her office, or if you are trying to track down long-lost friends or family.

But just what type of information can these background checking sites access? That is not a simple question to answer. All background checking sites work in different ways and the data they access will depend on a number of different factors. But, broadly speaking, all of the best background checking sites will have access to the same types of information. In this article, we will tell you exactly the type of information you can expect to see if you use a background checking site as well as make some recommendations about which background checking sites will give you access to the most comprehensive range of information.

What Will Show up on a Background Check?

Before we begin to discuss which background checking sites offer the most comprehensive range of searches, it is worth highlighting exactly what sort of information you can expect to show up when you run a background check on someone. As we have already discussed, background checking sites will search through a wide variety of publicly available data sources to try and find out as much as possible about the person they are looking for. But what exactly does this publicly available data actually contain?

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It may surprise some readers to find out that the US Federal Government, State Governments, and their various agencies actually hold a great deal of information about us. Government transparency laws require a lot of this information to be made publicly available, but that doesn’t mean that you can just search the internet and find it. A lot of this information is held on large databases which you are free to access, but which you will often have to pay a fee to do so. Data on an individual can also be buried alongside millions of other records making identifying relevant information on the person you are looking for difficult. But exactly what data are we talking about. Different sites will use different sources, but broadly speaking, you can expect your background checking site to be able to find out most of the following things:

1. Personal Information

A background checking website is usually able to access a wide range of personal details about a person. This is possible even when based on a very limited amount of information provided to initiate the search. Public records will usually be able to identify any maiden names or legal name changes that a person has made. Marriage records are also publicly available, so a history of relationships can also be compiled. It is usually possible to compile a list of phone numbers and email addresses which are associated with an individual too. Details of immediate family members and close associates can also be discovered. And also, both current and former address records can also be pulled together. 

2. Criminal records

Any criminal convictions a person has, whether handed down at Federal, State, or County level will be recorded indefinitely and in almost all circumstances can be uncovered by a background checking site. Many sites will also be able to check sources such as Sex Offenders Registers too. Most sites will check under any alternative names that it may have discovered an individual has used in the past too. If the person in question has any non-convictions on their record (such as arrests, warrants, charges that were dismissed, etc.) these are usually kept on file for 7 years, so any recent history can also be reported. Some of these records may not be available to access digitally. In these cases, the best background checking sites will be able to send a researcher to the courthouse in person to search through records manually to ensure nothing is overlooked.

3. Financial Records

Many records about a person’s financial history are also available to access. This information can tell you a great deal about their personality and how they live their life, as well as how much money they have. Most sites will be able to report on what businesses they have a stake in, what property they own, and details of any other major assets that might be recorded in their name. They will be able to tell if they have a record of bankruptcy or any financial liens against their name. Details of their Social Security Number should be accessible as well as any credit rating information that is held too.

4. Employment Records

There are a number of different publicly available sources that a background checking site can use to compile a pretty accurate employment history for almost any individual. This can include such details as which company a person worked for, what dates their employment started and finished, and what role they held. Further information, such as salary and any professional qualifications obtained is also sometimes available too.

5. Driving Records

The DMV keeps detailed records of everyone’s driving history all of which is publicly available. This means as well as license information, a background checking site is also able to reveal whether a person has any traffic tickets, driving offences on their record, or has ever had their license either suspended or revoked. Other information that isn’t held by the DMV, but which is also often available includes details of any crashes they have been involved in, drunk-driving charges, and even more minor incidents.

6. Education Records

It is also possible for background checking sites to access various details about a person’s education history. This can include which schools and universities they attended, what courses they studied while there, and even what qualifications they achieved.

7. Military Records

If a person has served in any of the US Armed Forces, there will be plenty of information about them held in the public domain. This will include such details as the date and location of any active service, the dates they joined and left the armed forces, their home address during their service period, their records of military education, what ranks they held and when, what medals they earned, plus various other military details.

8. Licenses

There are a number of activities in the USA that you need a license in order to carry out legally. And if you hold such a license, that information is also publicly available. This means that a background checking site is able to carry out a license search to find out such things as if a person holds a pilot’s license, a gun license, a license to practice medicine of any kind, a private investigator’s license, or an attorney’s license. These license checks can also turn up more information, such as any complaints made against a professional license holder or any additional certificates held under an existing license.

9. Social Media Profiles

Many people spend hours posting all sorts of details about their private lives onto social media sites. But many leave this information in the public domain rather than listing it privately. As a result, it is often possible for background checking sites to build a pretty accurate portrait of a person’s life using just their social media accounts. This can include details on relationships, friend networks, employment, and where a person lives. They can also often obtain up-to-date pictures of a person too. 

Which Background Check Sites Are the Most Comprehensive?

There are a lot of background checking sites around at the moment, but some deliver a much better service than others. The difficulty faced by many users is how to identify which is the best site for them. Whatever your reason for wanting to run a background check on someone, the likelihood is that you want to get back as much information as possible from your search. This is why the range of information that a background checking site will search through is important. But quantity doesn’t always equate to quality, and while having access to a wide range of sources is important, there are other criteria that should also be employed when selecting a service.

Our Selection Criteria

That is the basis on which we have compiled our list of recommended background checking sites in this article. All offer access to a huge range of publicly available data sources. But all offer a great deal more besides. The criteria that we have employed to identify our recommended background checking sites are:

  • A full range of data sources – Most people running a background check want access to as much information as possible, so all of our recommendations guarantee to search all available data sources.
  • Proper research – Conducting thorough and reliable research is just as important as having access to the sources and all our recommended background checking sites have a great reputation for accurate and reliable research.
  • Accurate and understandable reports – The end product of any background check is the final report, so if this isn’t well written, the whole process can be futile. All our recommendations offer detailed, accurate, and well-presented final reports.
  • Search customization – Different background checks require different outcomes and almost all have different information to give up front. The best sites offer flexible searches and can find information based on a minimal amount of data.
  • Ease of use – Background checking sites tend to use an online dashboard to allow users to manage their searches and results. Some dashboards are much better than others though and our recommendations are among the very best.
  • Reliable customer support – Customer sfupport can be vital for background check site customers, so our picks all offer a great support service which is available for long hours and can be accessed in multiple ways.
  • Mobile apps – We all want to be able to access our data on the go these days, so all our recommended background checking sites offer mobile apps as standard.

It should be noted that background checking is not a precise science. No matter how many data sources a site access, it can still make mistakes at times. But the background checking sites we have recommended in this article are among the most reliable and accurate on the market at the moment. This has been shown both in our own testing and in the feedback we have received from users. As a result, we are confident, that if the information is out there, these three sites offer you the best chance of finding it.

1. Instant CheckMate

When you first open the Instant CheckMate background checking site, you are confronted with a pop-up window warning you that background checks can reveal shocking information. This is an exciting marketing gimmick of course (they are not the only site to use it) but in the case of CheckMate, it is certainly true given the range of sources they use.

The basic CheckMate service will search for information such as sex offender status, criminal records, marriage and divorce records, details of relatives, address history, and any public social media profiles. If you want to access such details as financial history, court records, driving licenses and weapons licenses, you will need to cough up a little more for their premium plan. CheckMate is also at the more expensive end of the background checking market, but they do deliver a great service.

Their reports are superb–some of the best we have encountered–and their customer service is available around the clock on either phone or email. They do only offer an app for Android devices at the moment, which is a shame, but for everyone apart from iOS device users, CheckMate ticks all the boxes.

READER DEAL: If you want to give CheckMate a go, why not take a look at our exclusive readers offer.

2. Truthfinder

Truthfinder claims to search through millions of public records in order to deliver such information as contact details, current and previous addresses, criminal and court records, driving records, personal information, and details of known relatives. Their deep web research service can dig through more online and social media records than any of their rival sites, delivering unique insights into information posted on virtually any major social media site.

Truthfinder is another background checking sites that offer a two-tier service with information such as a person’s education history, voter registration records, licenses only coming up in their premium level searches. They also only have an Android app at the moment too, which is a pity. But they do also round the clock customer support, which is not only really high-quality but is also provided on a toll-free number. And their final reports are nicely presented and easy to follow as well. Truthfinder is another service which users can be sure will delve into a huge range of data sources and turn up as much information as you are likely to find anywhere.

READER DEAL: If you want to give Truthfinder a try, why not take advantage of our special discounted rates and sign up today.

3. Intelius

They not only offer one of the widest ranging searches around, but it is available at a very reasonable price. Their extensive service also includes such features as a reverse phone number lookup service. Intelius will seek to compile information about such things as a person’s criminal records, their financial history, property records, educational history, and plenty more besides. What particularly impressed us was their attention to detail. And clearly, we are not alone. Intelius has already completed more than 50 million background checks for satisfied customers from across the USA.

Another nice touch with Intelius is the human element to their research. For example, they can also send an individual to search through non-digitized records in criminal and civil courthouses. This helps to ensure that their automated systems stay on course and helps to improve report accuracy rates. The Intelius online dashboard is a well-designed and simple-to-use tool, and their reputation for producing accurate and simple-to-read final reports is superb to boot. Also on offer are dedicated apps available for Android and iOS devices, as well as an excellent customer service team who can be contacted via email, on the phone, or through their online troubleshooter service. As all-round background checking services go, Intelius is quite simply the best in the business.

What is an online background checking site?

Online background checking sites use the latest technology to search through millions of different records, and compile that information to build a fairly accurate profile of virtually any individual. What’s more, these types of sites perform this service much faster than any single one of their customers could hope to accomplish on their own. All of the information they search through is legally open and already in the public domain, so there is nothing underhanded about what a background checking site is doing.

Not all background checking sites are created equal, and as a customer you’ll be better off using some services than others. Namely, sites which claim to offer background checks for free. These dubious sites usually provide you with little more than what could easily be found with a simple Google search, and at worst may even be collecting and selling your own information to third parties. Yes, that means you’re best off paying for online background checks, but the safety and surety you get more than justify the costs. Paid services provide the most comprehensive and easy-to-understand reports, and offer the best chance to find what you’re looking for.

When can I use a background check?

Before you run a background check on someone, it is worth bearing in mind that there are certain circumstances where what you are doing could be illegal. While all of the data accessed by these sites is legally available, there are some scenario’s where running a background check on someone has been legislated against under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). It is therefore important that users of background checking sites are clear about when they are and are not permitted to run a background check on someone.

Background checks are ok for…

It’s ok to carry out a background check on someone in the following scenarios:

  • Finding out more about your new neighbors
  • Looking into your new date
  • Seeking out long-lost friends or relatives
  • Finding out who it is that keeps calling your phone
  • Identifying for sex offenders in your community
  • Looking into your own publically available information

Background checks are not ok for…

It’s not ok to carry out a background check on someone in these scenarios:

  • Researching future employees without their permissionThis is illegal under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). If you want to research a potential employee, you must first obtain written permission from them before doing so.
  • Looking into the background of domestic workers. This is also illegal under the FCRA without again obtaining written permission in advance.
  • Checking if someone is eligible for credit, insurance, scholarships, or grants – also outlawed under the FCRA
  • Identifying suitable tenants for a property to be rented out. Again this is illegal under the FCRA.

If you do try to use a background check site such as the ones we have recommended for one of these purposes, you should be aware that if you are caught, you could face legal repercussions including potentially having to pay sizable damages to the person you have checked up on.


Running a background check on someone can turn up a whole host of information including many details that you may not even have thought of. Different sites will research different data and results can depend on which tier of service you pay for with some companies. But in general, you will be able to turn up enough information to paint a pretty detailed portrait of the life of the person you want to know more about. Even better, most sites can achieve impressive results with an absolute minimal amount of information being provided by you too. There are a lot of background checking sites out there, but in this guide, we have highlighted the three which our testing and user feedback indicate provide the most comprehensive research services and the best all-round results too.

Have you ever carried out a background check into someone? What sort of information did it manage to unearth about them? Did you use one of the background checking sites we have recommended in this article? What sort of experience did you have with them? We always welcome the feedback and opinions of all our users, so why not share them with us using the comment box below?

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