US Search review
US Search is a background check service that exists so that consumers can access publicly available information in one place, all at the same time. With the help of other data brokers and technology, US Search aggregates information like addresses, phone numbers, criminal records, and some financial records that have been converted into digital form. All the information that can be found in US Search reports can be found through other means, whether it be in a public records house or online.
As such, due to the nature of people search sites and their business practices, information in reports may be missing, incorrect, outdated, or attributed to the the wrong individual. It is likely that there will be at least one error in any given report, and this is a reality we've considered in our review.
This is the reason why the FCRA law exists: this is the law that determines how the data in reports generated by US Search and similar services can be used. Because of the high likelihood that at least some of the information may be erroneous, these services cannot be used for official purposes, such as establishing job, tenant, scholarship, or credit eligibility, as well as other purposes as determined by the FCRA law.
So, is US Search legit?
Yes. While the notion of data aggregation and brokerage can scare, even anger some people, it's important to note that it is a perfectly legal, and yet somewhat shady process.
US Search review: Sign up and cost
US Search's pricing and plans were a somewhat difficult to understand, mostly because there are plans that appear to be the same, but are priced differently depending on which tab you pick. In fact, depending on your needs, you can choose between "People Search," "Criminal Records," or "Background Check." How they are essentially different is unclear, and to our knowledge, there are simply small differences in the type of information available in each type of report. And although it took us some time to find, we uncovered a link on the US Search home page that offers potential customers an OmniSearch subscription without the purchase of a report.
We've identified the following people search or background check reports:
- People Search report
- 1-state Criminal check
- Background report
- Nationwide Criminal Search
- Basic Background Check
- OmniSearch subscription
Price for all plans range from $1.45 to $39.95. For this review, we opted for a Background Report (which includes People Search Report information) and an OmniSearch 2-day trial package for $29.95.
US Search would benefit from a master page with all the possible plans and what can or cannot be found in each one of them so users are less confused about the services offered. However, we suspect that the reason why the plans are so confusing is in an effort to divide customers into three basic uses or needs.
Potential customers should note that, to add to the confusion, some single reports come with "OmniSearch," which is essentially a subscription to a basic people search, with added reverse phone number and address searches. Also keep in mind that trial periods for OmniSearch are unusually short, lasting just 2 days after sign up.
Plans available: Pay-per reports with a monthly subscription, one-time payment for a single report, subscription
Cost: $1.45 to $39.95
Extras: Property records, email address search, nationwide criminal search, state criminal seearch
Additional services: Address search, reverse phone number search with OmniSearch
US Search review: Advantages
One of the biggest pain points customers complain about when reviewing people search and background check websites is the 'customer funnel' that forces potential users to wait for results only to be met with a request for card information before having to access a report. The funnel gives the impression that the information is being searched for in real time, but also that, ultimately, customers will be able to view phone numbers, addresses, and more for free. US Search has no funnel before the paywall, and search results appear within seconds.
Albeit a little crowded with information, we found US Search reports to be, overall, well-designed and well-organized. We appreciated the color-coded sections that make it clear where the sections start and stop.
We also liked the inclusion of a map for the "Known addresses" section of each report.
We found that the existing information in the reports was quite detailed. While there was some data missing (see 'Disadvantages'), the data included was more informative than we anticipated it would be. In the "Properties search," for example, you can find property details such as tax amount, number of bedrooms and baths, land value, total value, and so much more.
US Search: Disadvantages
We found the plan options confusing and difficult to understand, mostly because not all of them appeared on the same page. If a customer visits the site without knowing exactly what they're looking for, they're met with several options that can fit their needs without explanation as to why the prices are different between similar plans. Although this isn't uncommon, we find that it takes away from the customer experience, and count it as a disadvantage in opting for US Search.
In our first few searches, we found that people with fairly simple names and no nicknames either had duplicate reports or no report results at all. This is not unusual, but most of the people search and background check services we reviewed didn't have as many duplicate or missing reports.
We found a lot of incomplete information in US Search reports. While the reports themselves are crowded with data, there are several areas that the service can improve on. In reports we accessed, phone numbers were missing, neighbors and associate information was scant, as was the information on possible relatives. We noticed that US Search may limit the number of associates to two in the report, although there may be more. Much of the information, though accurate, was old and outdated.
Social network information was also missing, which was slightly concerning due to the fact that social media is one of the most public information about any person. We also thought the one-state criminal check was a waste of money - any search is better off with a nationwide check. The statewide check is based on what US Search is the person's current state of residence. However, if that state of residence is wrong, you may not get the results you're looking for.
Bare bones searching: no dark web search or other tools
We were disappointed to find that there were no added features - even the fun ones. We found no sex offender tracker, dark web search, horoscope compatibility, and others we've seen in other people search services.
We searched high and low on the US Search website for a customer service contact number or email, but only found the FAQ page, which can only answer some questions. We only found the customer service toll-free number on the "Account Information" page by accident, while attempting to cancel our subscription. This hard-to-find information should be featured more prominently on the site.
US Search review: Customer experience and service
While the customer experience may be somewhat neutral, the advantages and the disadvantages being better balanced than for other people search or background check services, customer service seems to be virtually non-existent. The FAQ page can address some questions, but any issues customers have can only be submitted through a request form, the link to which is carefully hidden on the top right corner of the customer service FAQ.
US Search: User reviews
Most of the user reviews for US Search are negative, with customers indicating that the results that they found after performing a search were incorrect, or that they couldn't even find a report on the person that they were looking for. In our own search, we found many report information omissions, and reports themselves were duplicated or didn't exist at all. Many are also caught off-guard by the recurring charges on their credit or debit card after signing up. While we believe this is mostly due to user error, we agree that US Search does not do a good enough job at clarifying that customers are, most of the time, signing up for a subscription while purchasing a report.
Should you use US Search?
US Search, owned and operated by Intelius, isn't the worst choice for a people search service: it's well-organized, detailed, and easy to use. However, we think that the complex plan structure and information inaccuracies are too significant to soundly recommend it. If you opt for US Search, pick your plan wisely: we think a subscription service like Instant Checkmate or BeenVerified is your best bet, and in that case, your money doesn't necessarily go to waste.
How to remove your information from US Search
US Search provides an "opt-out" page that allows users to request that their records be removed from the site. However, it's important to note that nothing guarantees that your information will reappear on the site at a later time. US Search says that requests are usually processed within 7 days.
How to cancel a US Search subscription
Fortunately, cancelling your US Search subscription seems easy enough. Log in, visit your "Account Information" page, and next to "Membership Status," you can find a link to cancel your service. You will still have access to your reports until the next billing cycle, when you will not be charged.
Even if you purchased a single report, it is still wise to check whether or not you inadvertently signed up for an OmniSearch subscription within two days to avoid additional charges.