What Comes Up In a Background Check?

Background checks are no longer reserved for law enforcement. In fact, they are industry standard when it comes to commercial transactions and hiring processes. Running a background check is so easy that people use them to research potential romantic partners before dates.

There are several types of background checks, what comes up depends largely on the information requested, and the purposes of the check. Here are some of the possibilities:

“Instant” Internet Background Searches

There are plenty of websites that offer instant background searches. A review site such as UnMask lets you compare different providers in order to find the one that best suits you in terms of price, accuracy, speed, and other important factors. It will also help you disregard scam sites that may steal your identity or charge you for services outside the law.

Most background search sites use technology to crawl the web and find information about a person. Their services rely on public information, such as court records, social media accounts, and address or telephone registries. What comes up in these types of searches includes (but is not limited to):

  • Marital Status
  • Current and previous known addresses
  • Criminal records
  • Sex offenders status
  • Financial records (only those available as a result of a court process, such as bankruptcies or evictions)

Credit Reports

A credit background check is common before most commercial transactions (buying or renting a property, business partnerships, credit applications). They are also requested by some companies during the hiring process.

Because of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), only accredited agencies known as CRA’s (Credit Reporting Agencies) can perform credit background searches. The information that can come up in a search like this includes:

  • Debt management (including mortgages, car payments, credit cards, and student loans)
  • Social Security Number (usually used for identity verification purposes)

There are restrictions to credit reports such as:

  1. The law requires written consent before a credit check
  2. Credit reports cannot include your credit score
  3. They cannot contain information that is seven years or older. Bankruptcies can only appear in a report if they happened in the last ten years.
  4. You must be told if the information is used against you
  5. You have the right to receive a copy of the report
  6. You can dispute any inaccurate findings

Education and Prior Work History Verification

Studies show that a large percentage of job seekers lie on their applications or during the interview process. There is also a concern for the growth of so-called “diploma mills,” which claim to be higher education institutions but sell illegal academic degrees. This is why an education verification is almost always required during the hiring process.

Prior work history verifications happen for the same reason. People can falsely claim to have work, have the experience, or have been working in a certain position within a specific company. This type of background check takes a bit longer and requires manual work.

These searches confirm claims about licenses, certifications, and work experience. They also verify earned degrees. The process requires the collaboration of other entities, such as the schools you attended and previous employers.

Remember that lying in a job application is always counterproductive. It can not only close doors for a specific job, but hiring managers usually alert others about candidates who make false claims.

Criminal Background Checks

Although criminal records are likely to appear in an instant background check through an online provider, some organizations require a more thorough search, especially those related to caregiving and law enforcement. A criminal background check searches for the county, state, and federal court records. It also searches global and domestic watchlists.

Gun Background Checks

Before selling a gun, stores must run a universal background check that includes in-state criminal records, mental health records, and warrants. The National Instant Criminal Background Check System is responsible for these searches, and they usually take less than two minutes.

Protecting Your Information

If you are worried about what a background search can show about you, a good idea is to run a background check on yourself. People often overlook the implications of false or misleading information, but it can be the difference between getting or not getting your dream job. Remember that you have the right to ask for corrections if you find conflicting information.

It is also important to proceed with caution when it comes to your online presence. New AI-powered background searches can find almost anything about anyone. This includes everything you post on social media.

Know Your Rights

You always have the right to refuse a background check, but it can be counterproductive. Usually, the idea is that people that have nothing to hide are open to verification.

Even when it is easy to find information about everybody, there are legal boundaries. For example, expunged or sealed records should never show on a background search. Hiring managers know that some information about a candidate can’t be used to make a hiring decision.

We also have a right to privacy, and you can ask websites and/or search engines to take down personal and/or sensitive information about yourself.


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