DIY Background Checks!
DIY Background Checks
Conducting your own background check will be an adventure! First and foremost, remember to view information you gather in a general light. Don’t be quick to jump to conclusions. The information you find may be accurate, but it also may be partially or totally inaccurate. A good investigator gathers information from many sources in order to review, evaluate, verify, and come to a secure conclusion.
So, step one – You need the
- Date of birth (DOB),
- Social Security Number (SSN), and
- Recent address of the individual.
Additional helpful information includes:
- Driver’s License
- Proof of automobile insurance
- Professional licenses
- Educational background
- Residential history
- Professional references
- Personal references
- Signed waiver for release of information
Step two – Legwork.
Local County Courthouse
A good place to start your DIY background check is at your county courthouse. Here you check county records for any civil actions against the person, such as divorces, restraining orders, small claims, tenant actions, litigations, claims or liens on property, judgments, etc. You may have to go to several different offices within the courthouse to gather this information, so be prepared. You will want to research county and state records. Most offices require a small fee for your copies of the records.
Local Federal Courthouse
Here you check national records of civil and criminal convictions, bankruptcies, etc. Again, you may have to travel to several different offices within the courthouse to gather this information, so wear comfortable shoes. Again, fees are usually required. These are important records for background checks.
Some states have their records available online. You can access nationwide searches to determine whether or not a party is involved in federal litigation using the U.S. Party/Case Index at www.pacer.psc.uscourts.gov. Not all federal or district courts participate in the Index. Here you register for free, and then pay per search.
You can search corporate records, professional and occupational licenses, for most states online. For example, in the state of California, we can go to the Secretary of State site (sos.ca.gov) and click “Business Entities”. From there we click on “California Business Search” and up comes the page with its own search engine. Our choice is to search Corporations or LP/LLC’s. Enter the name of the business you are searching and you will be provided with the agent for service information and address. Some states will provide you with a list of names of officers and directors for free. In this state, we have to fill out a form, pay money, and submit and wait.
For professional and occupational license verification or search, you will have to Google “professional license *state you are searching*”. In California, the Department of Consumer Affairs holds these records. When I go to the site, I have the option of clicking on the type of license. I then enter the name I am verifying the license on and up come their facts. I can see the date the license was issued, if it is current, an address, and if any disciplinary actions or citations have been issued. All free!
Department of Motor Vehicles
Your DIY background check may need to include information on the person’s driving history. A driving record can be accessed for free by the driver. For others to access this information, you must be a licensed investigator.
As I am writing this (Editor here), I am also clicking on the sites in order to verify I am providing you current information. I went to search DMV and it took me to dmv.org, which appeared to be the official website for California’s DMV. It had a background check link, so of course I clicked it. As I clicked further, it had a disclaimer across the top that said it was a privately owned site, not affiliated with the government. Hmmm… deception is already beginning. Okay well, I have a couple cups of Chai tea in me, so I entered in my own information, and up came 4 “matches”… none of which were me. This is verification of what we are talking about when we say there is no such thing as a free background check.
Local Police Department and Sheriff’s Department
The Freedom of Information Act allows you to enter your local PD or Sheriff’s office and request records on a person. Reports may have been made, but charges were never filed or were dropped. This is important information because it establishes a pattern of behavior. For instance, in domestic violence cases, it is common for many calls to be received and responded to, but not so common for charges to be filed. This is a sad, but true, occurrence. Don’t you want to know that the “gentleman” you are engaged to does not have a history of domestic violence? You may never know if you only check court records. Yes, this happens more often than you know. Utilize this resource for your background check.
Note: Our hometown heroes work hard to serve and protect our communities. If they are busy, please do not make additional demands on them. Instead, come back at a more opportune time. Be polite, and be grateful. Please.
When conducting your background check, don’t forget to call those former employers. Call those professional references. Call those personal references. Call and chat in a friendly manner. Ask for the number of their direct supervisor and call them. Let them know you are not calling in an official capacity, but just trying to get to know the person a bit better. Share with them what position they are interested in, and ask if they think the person would be good at that and why. Ask what they think their challenges would be in that position. For more on pre-employment screening, check back.
Know your state laws regarding privacy, and what questions you are allowed to ask of prior employers. Then get creative, so that you can find out the information that will be most helpful for you!
Now once you have gathered all of the information for your background investigation, check for consistencies and inconsistencies. Evaluate carefully. Understand that there are some situations where asking questions directly to the person you are investigating may be appropriate. People do make mistakes, and those mistakes do not necessarily define us. Mistakes can be a wonderful opportunity to learn and grow. Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.
What are the key elements of a criminal history check?
A criminal history check, or background search, must cover:
- National Criminal records. They reveal any convictions, sexual predator listings, and other relevant records.
- National Civil records. They reveal judgments and lawsuits against the person.
- Credit reports. Relevant for various reasons.
- Driving records, if this is part of the job.
- Verification of professional licenses and designations.
- Verification of education.
- Verification of professional references.
- Verification of personal references.
- Verification of identity!
Records must then be placed in a secured, locked, file. Privacy laws require it. Additionally, information gathered carries with it legal responsibilities for the way it is used, handled, stored, and destroyed.
It is not only your personal security that you must watch out for!
BEWARE OF FREE ONLINE BACKGROUND CHECKS!
Accurate and current information is NOT free!
Are Criminal Record Background Checks for pre-employment screening only?
For a security-minded person, background investigations should be done for a variety of reasons! Any time you are thinking of welcoming a stranger into your business, home, church, or life, it is prudent to do your due diligence.
Do I need to hire a professional Licensed Private Investigator?
Delegating a Criminal Record Background Check to a professional Licensed Private Investigator is a valuable investment. They are experienced in what to look for and where to look for accurate information.