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									How to Run Free Online Background Checks
It may be that you've never considered using the Internet to run a background check. Neither did I until I tried it. But it's really not difficult
if you know how, and it's free.


The fact is, there are many situations in life where it's extremely helpful or reassuring to be able to quickly find out something about an associate's or
neighbor's background.


Here are a few scenarios to consider:


* You'd like to invest your hard-earned money in a business and you want to know more about the current owner.


* Your son or daughter has a new girlfriend/boyfriend and you want to check the person out.


* You're thinking of dating somebody you met on the Internet and want to know more about that person.


* Some new neighbors have moved in next door and they've been acting a little outlandish (or so you think). You have kids and would really like to
find out more about these people.


* You're about to start college and are thinking of taking on a roommate, but before you accept anybody into your apartment you want to check them
out.


* A used-car dealer has a terrific price on a car you want. But you want to check out the owner of the lot and see if he's been sued or has a criminal
record before buying a car from him (i.e., run a quick background check).


The Internet now makes these kinds of background checks possible - for free - and it's perfectly legal as long as you adhere to a few simple
guidelines, as described below.


In what follows I'll discuss how you can access online public records pertaining to just about any adult U.S. citizen. As I indicated, it's easy, but you do
need to know something about public records and where to access them.


Q&A


The easiest way to overview the subject of background checks online is with questions and answers.


Q: Are background checks legal?


A: The answer is yes, as long as you only access public records for your own use. That means records like real estate records, bankruptcies, tax
liens, and criminal records. Three things you should be aware of, however: First, you can't legally do a background check on someone you're thinking
of hiring without his/her written permission (a signed release); second, you can't use "pretexting" in your background check (for example, calling a
bank and impersonating the account holder in order to find out how much money he/she has in the account - this is
strictly illegal); third, you can't legally access someone's "non-public" information, especially medical records and credit reports, without a signed
release from the subject.


Also - please never hire someone else to do any of those things. You could be held responsible. There are plenty of private investigators and others
with Web sites that will gladly use pretexting to determine someone's place of employment or financial assets, for example. You should avoid these
people like the Black Plague.


(If your interest is primarily in employment- or credit-related background
checks, you should familiarize yourself with the Fair Credit Reporting Act.)


Q: Where do I get the information for the background check?


A: There are two ways to do it. You can do the work yourself for free, using government web sites that allow you to access public records (e.g.,
County/State real estate sites, etc), or you can hire a background-check company to do it for you. Needless to say, the latter method is easier and
faster but you need to be confident that the company you hire is legitimate and will do a good job. If you want to do it all yourself, try
BackgroundCheckGateway.com/statelist.html. It offers free access to public records in every State. If you want to hire an
online background check company, two of the biggest are Intelius and USSearch.


Q: What can I find out about someone?


A: First the bad news: You can not "Find out anything about anybody," even though a few Internet snake oil salesmen may tell you otherwise. But with
that said, there is still a lot you can find out about someone through public records. For example you can --


- Verify name and address


- Determine past addresses


- Determine marital status (married/divorced/single)


- Determine marital status (married/divorced/single)


- Check for bankruptcies and tax liens


- Check for honorable military discharge


- Verify occupation or profession


- Check on political contributions/affiliations


- Find out if subject has been written about in the news


- Find out if subject is a sexual offender


- "Listen in" to subject in online discussion groups


- Determine if subject has sued anybody or been sued


- Check for criminal records (in most States)


- Determine if subject has served time in a Federal prison


- Find out if subject is a pilot and/or owns a plane .


- And much more, as you'll learn as you get into the subject of public records more deeply .


Q: What about questions like "How much is he worth?", "Is he a drug addict or alcoholic?", "Does he have AIDS or other sexually-transmittable
disease?", "Does he have children?"


A: As to these kinds of questions, don't forget, you can't legally access somebody's credit report or medical records. And if you're thinking about
employing your subject, you have to comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which among other things requires a signed release before doing a
background check. You need to be clear on all that. Still, there's no law against guesstimating. As an example, you can get a pretty good notion of
someone's financial worth by where he/she lives. Home values are public information. So is stock ownership when the stockholder owns more than
5% of a public company. You can not however, access his bank or brokerage account information without a signed release or
court subpoena.


One pretty good way to find out personal information legally is to check civil lawsuits. If he's been sued or has sued somebody, the lawsuit case file
(which is public information) will often reveal you a lot, especially if it's a divorce filing.


Another way is to hire a private investigator. But you need a reputable P.I., and frankly a lot aren't all that reputable. Some P.I.'s are macho former
military types who are not overly concerned with niceties like the Fair Credit Reporting Act, State privacy laws, etc. These guys (and, yes, ladies) can
get you in serious trouble. Some are down-on-their-luck former cops or refugees from other occupations who you really don't want to get involved with
either.


It's interesting that the basic investigative technique in the P.I. profession is simply to follow people around. They term this "surveillance" and, frankly,
it works. A good private investigator can indeed learn a lot about your subject you'd never find out from public records. Just be sure you know who
you're dealing with - check the State licensing board and the BBB for starters to see if he/she is in good standing.


Main Points to Remember About Background Check Research


Background checks use public records, which are maintained at County courthouses and various State/Federal agencies. You can access most but
not all of these records on the Internet. Some agencies haven't gotten their records online yet, but more and more are getting their records on the
Internet as time goes by.


As a citizen of the United States, you have a right to free unrestricted access to U.S. public records.


Your use of public records is generally confidential. Except in rare cases like accessing driving records in some States, the subject isn't informed and
there's no paper trail.


All you really need to do public-records background checks is the Internet and a list of links to the various County/State/Federal public-records
repositories. For the latter, I suggest a free site called BackgroundCheckGateway.com/statelist.html


If you're doing a background check for employment purposes or to evaluate someone's credit, you need a signed release from the person. For more
information, read the Fair Credit Reporting Act.


Remember, you're only entitled to access public records, not private records like medical or credit records, unless you have a signed release from the
subject. However you can find a certain amount of "personal" information in some types of public records, like civil lawsuit case files.


Never let yourself get drawn into "pretexting" -- e.g., calling the phone company and impersonating your subject in order to get your hands on his/her
phone records, or calling any other type of business and doing this. Pretexting is illegal. (And don't hire a private investigator to do it, either. That's also
illegal.)


You can conduct your background check yourself, for free, using public records Web sites, or you can pay someone to do it for you. The former is free
and a bit time-consuming; the latter costs money (usually about $50 or so) and is faster. As I said, two of the better-known online background-check
companies are Intelius.com and USSearch.com, but there are hundreds more out there.


About the Author
Joseph Ryan is Director of Washington Research Associates, Inc., Washington DC. The firm's website, Web Search Guides provides helpful
10-minute tutorials on topics of current interest, such as home refinancing, asset-searching, people searching, student financing, and many others.


Source: http://www.article-idea.com

								
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