Nowadays, the background checks industry has grown into a sector worth $3bn annually. Growth of 3.8% over the last five years means that almost twenty thousand people are now employed in the industry. Given the size of the industry and its continued growth, we decided to check out some of the main providers to see who provided the best service. Following on from tests we conducted, the clear winner proved to be Intelius.
When conducting our tests, we wanted to compare prices, accuracy of information provided, how current it was, search options and the amount of information produced in each report. To do this we recruited three people willing to have background checks done on them and then had them check the reports we received back against the criteria outlined above.
Our subjects had names which ranged from the very common to the uncommon so that we could see how easily each company found the correct person. We checked the information in each report for accuracy, currency and range.
From the results of the reports we received and subsequently checked, and the breadth of information provided, ease of use of the websites and search options available, we ranked Intelius as our top choice. Their reports came at a competitive price and included information on addresses, criminal records and employment history. The reports were accurate, up-to-date and contained a lot of information.
The results of the top ten in our comparison survey can be read below, starting with the best, Intelius.
|#||Name||Price||Our Rating||More||Report Information||Value for Money||Searching||Accuracy||Social Media||Work History||Timeline||Background Check Price||Subscription Price||People Search Report Price||Download Report||Search Effectiveness||Search by Phone Number||Search by Email|
|1||Intelius||$ 49.95||4.5 / 5||
Read Intelius Full Review
|4.5 / 5||3.8||4.9||4.5||❌||✅||❌||$49.95||$29.95||$3.95||-||4||✅||✅|
|2||US Search||$ 19.95||4 / 5||
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Read US Search Full Review
|3.7 / 5||4.5||4.7||3.5||✅||✅||❌||$39.95||$19.95||$2.45||Free||3.5||✅||✅|
|3||Instant Checkmate||$ 34.78||4 / 5||
Visit Instant Checkmate
Read Instant Checkmate Full Review
|5 / 5||2||5||5||✅||✅||✅||-||$34.78||-||$2.99||4.5||❌||❌|
|4||Been Verified||$ 26.89||4 / 5||
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Read Been Verified Full Review
|4.2 / 5||2.9||5||4||✅||✅||✅||-||$26.89||-||$2.99||4.5||✅||✅|
|5||PeopleFinders||$ 11.95||4 / 5||
Read PeopleFinders Full Review
|2.7 / 5||4.8||4.8||4.5||❌||❌||❌||$39.95||$24.95||$1.95||$0.50||4||✅||✅|
|6||Spokeo||$ 13.95||3.5 / 5||
Read Spokeo Full Review
|2.4 / 5||4.9||4||2.5||✅||❌||✅||$49.95||$13.95||-||$1.95||4.5||✅||❌|
|7||Truth Finder||$ 27.78||3 / 5||
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|3.5 / 5||2.3||4.8||3.5||✅||❌||✅||-||$27.78||-||$2.00||4||❌||❌|
|8||USA People Search||$ 24.95||3 / 5||
Visit USA People Search
Read USA People Search Full Review
|1.8 / 5||4.7||2.3||2.5||❌||❌||❌||$39.95||$24.95||$1.95||$0.99||1.5||✅||❌|
|9||Verispy||$ 19.95||2.5 / 5||
Read Verispy Full Review
|0.2 / 5||5||3.3||0.5||❌||❌||❌||$19.95||$29.95||$19.95||Free||1.5||✅||✅|
|10||Veromi||$ 24.95||2 / 5||
Read Veromi Full Review
|0.8 / 5||3||1.5||0.5||❌||❌||❌||$39.95||$24.95||$9.95||-||2.5||❌||❌|
As we have established, Intelius was the top-rated background check provider from those surveyed. To achieve this rating the company had to provide reports which were as up-to-date as possible and also contained information on as wide a range of records as possible. From this point of view, Intelius finished as number one. The company's background check reports included the standard information you would expect on name, age, DOB, address, phone number, relatives, employment, education, criminal records, debt, bankruptcies, lawsuits, marriage and divorce. Intelius emerged as the company which had the most accurate information with a rating of 90% compared to a category average of 71%. They also had one of the top ratings on ease of use and the variety of search options.
In common with most companies of this nature, Intelius offers a range of search options. A basic people search will yield name, age, address, phone number, employment and education while a Premiere Plus subscription option includes all the background check information plus data on such things as aliases, address history, social media and email addresses.
Intelius has a rather complicated pricing structure, but this is something they have in common with other companies offering the same or similar services. Consumers should always be aware of this and read the small print before committing to purchasing a report or subscription.
Overall, given the ever-changing nature of the data requested by those seeking reports, Intelius performed admirably, providing accurate and current information.
US Search was rated as the best value-for-money background check provider. The company will provide accurate background checks covering the areas of addresses, phone numbers, emails, relatives, criminal records, assets, court judgments, employment history and social media accounts.
The company struggled occasionally with phone numbers and marriage records but this is not an uncommon occurrence. US Search does provide people with many ways to refine their searches and produces reports which are well laid out readable. The reports are not in chronological order though which can make finding your information a little more difficult. In terms of accuracy, US Search came second only to Intelius, with a rating of 85%.
One area where consumers may find US Search less than satisfactory is that the company is not compliant with the Fair Credit Reporting Act. This means it cannot carry out credit checks and therefore its reports can't be used for decisions relating to employment, renting or lending.
The company offers a fairly wide range of search options, including a basic people search, a one-state criminal record check and, of course, the comprehensive background check. The full background check, while accurate and also cheaper than Intelius, has the obvious drawback that it can't be used for financial purposes. The company's monthly subscription is also cheaper than Intelius and some others, but as is the case with most of these companies, the pricing structure can be a little confusing and care should be taken to read and understand the small print.
Instant Checkmate was the company which managed to provide the most comprehensive reports from those surveyed. In some cases, they managed to return complete sets of information with nothing at all missing, which is not something that happens too often.
Although there is no guarantee of the minimum amount of information to be included in any report, Instant Checkmate may include information such as a visual timeline of address records, education, social media account creation, email registration, aliases, relatives (with the option to view their reports), marriages, phone numbers, email addresses, location information displayed on a map, criminal records (including dates of offenses and charges), social media accounts, professional licenses, sex offenders' register, weapons permits, hunting permits and more. These details can only be provided of course if this information is on public record.
The company provides several search options and the user interface is one of the easiest to use with options to help you refine your search. Individual reports cannot be provided by Instant Checkmate but their monthly subscription is reasonably priced and can be used to conduct multiple searches giving you standard reports. Premium reports are an extra cost. The pricing is not as complicated as some but, as always, be aware of the small print. One bonus is that Instant Checkmate offers a five-day trial, but be sure to cancel your membership before the end of the five day period.
One major drawback with these reports is that they cannot be used for the purposes of employment, renting or lending as the company is not compliant with the FCRA. For all other purposes though, these are probably the best reports you will get.
Been Verified was the most reliable for checks on employment history. Like some of the others surveyed though, it was not suitable for use in lending, renting or employment situations due to its non-compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
When employment histories were checked it returned more comprehensive results than any other background check provider and could potentially be used as an aide mémoire when filling out a resume.
Overall the reports were adjudged to be fairly accurate, coming in at around 80%. Phone numbers and emails were generally correct and included mobile numbers which not every service could provide. Details of marriages were rather more sketchy, but as we've seen, this is a not uncommon problem encountered by many background checks.
Been Verified requires you to take out a monthly or quarterly subscription with reports not available for purchase individually and any downloads come at an added cost.
With an easy to use interface, varied search options and numerous methods available to refine your search Been Verified is one of the better background search providers despite being FCRA non-compliant.
For those who need to run multiple background checks then a subscription service is often the best idea and PeopleFinders has one of the best subscription rates of those surveyed. Combined with a relatively good standard of report, this affordability makes PeopleFinders an attractive option for those who need to conduct multiple checks.
Most of PeopleFinders was up-to-date and accurate although the sections for phone numbers and email addresses were not always complete. Once again, the marriage details were missing, but as we've already seen this is a common complaint. On the positive side though, PeopleFinders did turn up information on a small company owned by one of the test subjects which other companies checks had overlooked.
It should be noted that PeopleFinders' background checks will not return any information on social media accounts or any kind of employment history. These reports are also not compliant with the FCRA, meaning they can't be used for any renting, lending or employment purposes.
The low monthly subscription is an attraction for PeopleFinders but note that any individual report, if required, actually costs more than a month's subscription. Despite being less comprehensive than other providers' reports this company does provide accurate information within its parameters and definitely gives a value for money return as far as the subscription fees are concerned.
In the internet age, the use of background checks has mushroomed alongside the exponential growth of the internet itself. So many of us now carry out a whole range of transactions and social activities online and so many of our past records are now digitized and available online, that we have now almost lost the ability to remain anonymous.
The rise of social media though has increased the possibilities to create fictional online personae and this has created a reciprocal demand for the verification of people's online identities. The internet though has also made it easier than ever to conduct these verification checks. Whereas in the past checking someone is who they say they are may have involved days, weeks or even months of painstaking research, this can now be achieved in a matter of a few minutes, or even seconds, by consolidating the information available about someone online into one easily readable report.
These reports need not be restricted to online identities, however. You can get reports these days on the new neighbors, get a criminal record check done on just about anyone or check that the person you're meeting for a date next week isn't married or a multiple bankrupt. The reasons are many and varied, as are the items of information that are searched for.
A competent background check can ease someone's worries, prove suspicions correct or otherwise, provide a prospective employer with peace of mind and so on, but what information can they reveal?
Often the results of a background check depend on how much of a digital footprint someone has. Anyone born since the advent of the internet is much more likely to have a large digital footprint than someone in their eighties who has never used a computer and whose records have not yet been digitized. The following is a list of some public information which background check providers will search for:
- Full name
- Date of birth
- Phone numbers
- Social media accounts
- Marriage records
- Divorce records
- Business associates
- Driving records
- Education records
- Property records
- Employment history
- Criminal records
Some of these records will, of course, yield no information and some will prove harder than others to find. A good background report will include as many of the above as are accessible and have information. Not every kind of record can be accessed though and the list below contains records which will not be accessed to produce a background report:
- Medical records
- Financial records
- Phone records
- Consumer records
- Behavioral/location records
- Test scores
- Social security number
Typically, when one thinks of a background report, one thinks along the lines of credit checks and potential employers verifying your employment history and education.
In reality, those kinds of checks can only be carried out by companies which comply with the Federal Credit Reporting Act, which doesn't apply to any of the companies we have reviewed above. Companies whose reports can be used for things such as tenant screening, lending or employment are known as consumer reporting agencies and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau maintains a list of these companies if that is what you are looking for.
There is no standard procedure for ensuring that companies recovering the information available on the type of reports we have looked at in our reviews follow the law regarding the FCRA. In practice though, it would be very detrimental to a company's reputation if it were to be caught scanning the reports from background checks and they could also suffer were they to be given erroneous information in one of these reports.
When you get your report there are certain things you will regard as more important pieces of information depending on what it is you require. One thing many people want to check for is criminal records. Some of the terminology used here can be rather confusing but some things to be aware of include terms such as misdemeanors. A misdemeanors is a relatively minor crime such as driving offenses or minor drug crimes. These are usually removed from a person's records after 3 – 5 years.
A felony, on the other hand, refers to a more serious crime which will not be removed from someone's record unless they go through a long and involved process to get it done. Felonies can cover a multitude of different crimes but are generally more serious in nature than misdemeanors. Crimes such as murder, arson, rape, armed robbery and so on are felonies.
Lien is another term you may see when checking through a background report. In essence, this refers to a situation where a creditor has gone through a legal process to claim the property of someone who owes them an unfulfilled debt. Most often these take the form of the debtor's home or property being claimed by a credit card company or the tax authorities, for example, if a person is unable to pay off their debts.
When ordering a background check report it is important to weigh up your needs against the cost of getting the report produced. Do you really need to spend nearly $50 to get a comprehensive background report when all you want to do is get in touch with your cousin Johnny you haven't seen in twenty years?
The best companies allow the customer to tailor the requirements of their report. If you just need cousin Johnny's latest address and phone number, then a scaled-down report, costing at most a few dollars, would probably be enough to enable you to make contact once again.
On the other hand, you would probably want to make sure you got all the information you could if your children were thinking of going on a trip organized by some club they've just joined and you know nothing about the organization or its staff. In this scenario, you would undoubtedly want a full report on criminal records and a sex offenders check done on all the members of staff who might be involved in the care of your children without your supervision.
If you are a landlord then ensuring you rent your property to a trustworthy and suitable tenant will require you to get a report from a consumer reporting agency. References from previous landlords can easily be faked and potential tenants may well not be who they say they are, so you will want a comprehensive background check which is also compliant with the FCRA to ensure peace of mind for both you and the tenant.
One useful thing you can use background check reports for is to check and see what kind of results turn up if you search for your own data. As we have seen above not all companies provide accurate or up-to-date information. If there is erroneous information out there which may prove detrimental to you it is good to know about and to have it removed.
Cat fishing is another phenomenon which has grown in popularity and notoriety in recent years with the growth of social media and online dating. This is where someone creates an entirely fictional persona online to lure someone into an online relationship. There may be any number of reasons why people do this, some innocent, others not so innocent. People who are really insecure about themselves may use false photos or exaggerate their status in order to impress a potential partner which is somewhat deceptive, but not criminal in itself. On the other hand, there are conmen and women out there behind keyboards working hard to draw in the gullible or naïve with criminal intent. They may wish to scam money or property from people, they may wish to have their own financial problems fixed by someone they have made emotionally dependent on them. The list goes on.
Among the worst of internet scams, of course, is the phenomenon known as 'grooming.' This is where pedophiles pretend to be young people themselves and lure youngsters into sending photos or videos with sexual content. Even worse, in some cases they will try to make contact with children by arranging to meet and, if that happens, then the consequences can be horrific.
Of course, those out to do damage or commit crime over the internet are a tiny minority and the growth of relationships which have begun on the internet is a testament to that. It pays never to be too trusting though, and that is where a background report can come in useful, even if it's just for peace of mind.
So make sure you choose the right kind of report for your needs. Get something from a company that is FCRA compliant if you need it, don't break the law by using information from a non-compliant company. Don't spend more than you need to for a full background check if you're looking to reconnect with a long-lost friend or relative. If you have children, make sure you look after them by getting a full report on anyone in a position of authority or care over them. Take care of yourself by being vigilant about online relationships with people or entities you are unsure of or have never actually met. Make sure you shop around and read reviews before you take the plunge and commit to paying for a background check report and ensure as much as possible that you are getting the right information from a reliable provider.
And, remember, when you buy a report you have to give the company your credit card and other personal details which may then be sold on to other third parties such as advertisers or marketing companies. Remember also to behave responsibly yourself. If you find the details of an old flame or a long lost relative, don't indulge in any behavior which may be regarded as stalking. Despite all the ways in which our personal data can be used, often without us knowing it, background checks can be a great way to make your life and the lives of those around safer and more secure, and that can never be a bad thing.