Is it possible to perform a free background check on an individual, using the Web?
The information sought might include any previous employment, any criminal history, and an individual’s credit rating.
As is becoming well-known, some online businesses have recently come into being in the US which purchase public record data, and then resell it. The service offered is often intended to help people locate lost friends or relatives, but often background checks, using the same public data, are offered as well. This might cover things like property owned, marriage status, phone numbers and previous addresses. The criminal history or credit rating part of the check would usually come only with a fee.
It is worth remembering that federal and local government, which collects and holds the original records, usually offers access to the basic data free of charge, though some states like California can restrict access for privacy reasons.
The Privacy Rights Clearing House, which defends consumer privacy, has noted that the following public records are now freely available in many states:
– Property tax assessor files. These will have the name of the owner, a description of the property, and the assessed value for taxation purposes.
– Motor vehicle records – including registration, licensing, and driver history information, though this varies according to the particular jurisdiction.
– Registered voter files (also varies).
– Professional and business licenses.
– Court files, including tax liens and judgments, bankruptcy records, criminal arrest records, and conviction records.
So where are the sites which allow free searching for such information about individuals?
USA.gov – this is a directory and search engine which allows access to federal, state and local government public records. To make use of it, try its internal search engine to search for the specific information you want, for example ‘criminal records’, plus the name of your state. Though not particularly easy to use, this site may well help you locate the information you need.
Pretrieve.com – lets users find public information about a particular person, using their name.
Vital Records – tells you how to get information about marriage, divorce and land records from all states and territories in the USA. The opening page has a list of state names: clicking on the one you need will give contact information for records offices and local databases of public information of all kinds.
BRB Free Government Public Records Sites – has a list of government agencies which provide free search access. Selecting a state here will let you see such things as incarceration records, released inmates, sex offenders, property tax records, and real estate ownership.