Get to grips with the best background check services and you could quickly and easily find information on people that may have otherwise alluded you. These are for personal use, and it's worth noting that the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) means you can't use this information for work purposes.
The service will use a web scraping tool which scours the internet to find any information relating to your subject of search. That can mean public records for things like addresses, contact details, employment history and criminal records. But it can also mean searching through public databases and court records to get more information to help you. For even more details you may want to try one of the best people search sites too.
Coming back to that FCRA point. This act prohibits you from using background check results for professional decisions. Even the best background check services can slip up and mistake someone's identify for that of another person with the same name. Even if you cross-reference a lot there is a margin for error, where you may presume you're looking at the right person but in fact it's someone else. This is why FCRA exists in the first place.
But thanks to this guide you're going to get the best possible accuracy as that is one of the most important factors in our ranking below. So read on to find the very best background check services so you can find the perfect match for what you need.
1. Intelius: Best background check service overall
Intelius’ background check reports are comprehensive and include information about email accounts, phone numbers, marriages, and other legal information. In fact, the service’s reports provide many of the basic pieces of information a background check should, including relatives, addresses, criminal history, court judgments, bankruptcies and assets. Intelius covers all the areas you're likely to need for most searches.
Intelius’ reports are also easy to read and well formatted, although the information is not organized chronologically, so this may be an issue depending on what you are using the report for. While we determined that the information isn't always correct or up-to-date, you can directly access background report information without any other add-ons. In terms of accuracy, Intelius is above average.
When you get a report from Intelius, you're automatically signed up for a subscription service, so just remember to cancel the automatic Intelius Premier sub before the trial period is over, and you are charged. In fact, pricing is an issue with Intelius, as you may end up needing to pay extra for additional information, and you may struggle to understand exactly what reports you need.
2. Instant Checkmate: Best background check service for speed and accuracy
Instant Checkmate had the most comprehensive, accurate and up-to-date reports we saw. Each one included emails, phone numbers and addresses as well as information about criminal history, assets and marriages.
Most background checks cost between $40 and $50 – Instant Checkmate charges around $35 for a monthly subscription with unlimited reports and searches (3 months of unlimited reports will set you back $28 per month). This is a great value because for the cost of one report elsewhere, you can view as many as you want at Instant Checkmate. However, you have to pay $2.99 for any report you wish to download.
We ran background checks on three people, and Instant Checkmate’s reports were always the most current and had the fewest inaccuracies. It was especially accurate on phone numbers and emails, listing some that other services omitted. One of our subjects had moved recently, and their report didn’t include their new address, so information that’s changed in the past six months may not show up.
It’s easy to search for your target, no matter how common their name is. We had no trouble finding any of our subjects. By including a middle name, you can quickly narrow the results so you don’t have to scroll through pages of names. The more information you add, the easier it is to find who you’re looking for.
- Read our Instant Checkmate review
3. TruthFinder: Best background check service for detailed criminal history
TruthFinder offers detailed criminal report information and also offers a good grasp of job history and social media accounts. There's also a self-monitoring option, which allows you to search your details on the dark web and reveals if you have been part of a data breach. As long as you are a paying member, you can hide your data from other TruthFinder users.
TruthFinder won't let you pay for single reports, and instead offers a subscription option. This means that you won't pay for reports which may not even be on the person you meant to search for. However, we didn't enjoy the user experience. The 'funnel' feature means you need to perform a search before paying, which is a bit of a time waster if you know you want to subscribe.
- Read our TruthFinder review
4. US Search: Best background check service on a budget
US Search’s affordable prices, accurate background check reports and useful search tools make it the best value background check service. We purchased reports for three people and looked through them for inaccuracies and omissions. US Search’s reports were highly accurate, especially in the criminal history, addresses and assets sections. It didn’t return many email address results, though that varied from person to person. However, the email addresses it did uncover weren’t found by many of the other services we tested. The information on the reports was largely up to date, though this service didn’t find any of our subjects’ marriages.
Like most background check services, US search has switched to a subscription model for its services. This costs $19.86 per month, but there are usually introductory offers on this pushing prices down to $1.99 for the first 30 days.
It’s relatively easy to find the person you’re looking for, though it’s best to add all the information you have, including middle names, cities and states, to narrow the results. This is especially useful when searching for people with common names.
- Read our US Search review
5. PeopleFinders: Best background check service for those who need frequent reports
PeopleFinders is our choice for the best subscription service because it combines accurate background check results with a low monthly price.
There are some advantages to paying for a background check subscription, especially if you plan to run many reports over a long period. However, we must caution that you can’t use this information for rental or employment decisions. For that you need to contact a consumer reporting agency.
PeopleFinders’ reports include information about possible relations, contact information, marriages, divorces, criminal history and bankruptcies. The information is accurate and well organized. A subscription to PeopleFinders costs $24.95 per month.
- Read our PeopleFinders review
6. BeenVerified: Best background check service for self-searching
If you’re looking for information about someone’s work history, BeenVerified is the best option. Work history is another good data point to use to find someone you’ve lost track of. It can also be helpful if you need to reconstruct your own work history as you write your resume.
BeenVerified reports have accurate information, and there's currently a price-reduction in place on the site. Subscriptions cost $22.86 a month for a 1-month plan and $44.58 for a 3-month plan, which represents good value for money.
- Read our BeenVerified review
7. Whitepages: An alternative service, which provides some free information
Whitepages is another background check service available to you. Of all the services we tested, it was the least accomplished, and we actually had a lot of issues with it. We've only really included it in this guide because it's one of the larger services, and it does provide a limited amount of free information before you hit a paywall. You might be able to find an address or phone number, but the accuracy pales next to others like Intelius and Instant Checkmate.
You have to be good at searching and parsing information yourself, as the search function and data you get back from Whitepages is tough to read (and find in the first place). Combine that with a bewildering pricing structure, and we simply wouldn't recommend giving your credit card details to this company. It's not a scam, as some user reviews claim, but you don't get good value for money, based on the reports you receive.
How much do background checks cost?
Background checks can be done on an individual basis with prices varying depending on what you need. Expect the lower end of pricing to start at $19.95 and the high end to be around the $49.95 mark.
Beyond single reports there are options to sign up for subscription models where you get multiple reports per month. These prices run from $19.95 to $35 per month. But note these can add costs for additional information like permit data.
How do background checks work?
All the information that is found in a background check is public. That means it's available for you to seek out yourself. The only issue there is knowing where to search and having the time to actually do it. By using background checks all that data scraping is done for you. That can include information bought from companies like Facebook and Twitter.
The other advantage here is that all the information is collated in a helpful report that makes for easy reading.
How long does a background check take?
Typically you can expect a background check to take between two and four days for employment and criminal information. But this can run longer, with up to a week in some cases. Using an online background check company can mean access to information instantly in a lot of cases.
Can background checks see private social media?
Private social media accounts are just that, so no, nobody outside of those you invite should be able to see that information. However, anything you posted publicly before making the account private, for example, could be accessible still. Old tweets, indexed by Google, for example, may still be accessible.
Personal background checks
If you're interested in just how exposed you are online then it can be a good idea to carry out a background check on yourself. This will show you exactly what is available to find on you in the sphere of public records.
Not only is this useful for privacy but it can also be helpful in finding and deleting any outdated information still held on you online. A good place to start with this is to simply Google yourself and take a look at what you can find for free in the time you have.
This will vary from person to person depending on their digital footprint online. But here is a list of public information these services mine for:
- Full name and aliases
- Address history
- Phone numbers
- Marriage and divorce records
- Known and assumed relatives
- Business and social connections
- Social media profiles
Professional & Civil Records
- Education records
- Employment history
- Property records, licenses, deeds, permits
- Criminal record
- Driving record
- Lawsuits and civil judgements
Here’s information you won’t find in background check reports:
- Social Security number
- Consumer information (credit score, consumer habits)
- Financial records (salary, wealth, debt, collections, tax history)
- Medical records (protected by HIPAA)
- Phone records (who they’ve called)
- Behavior (location tracking, context for gaps in work history)
- Test scores
What background checks do employers, landlords and financial institutions use?
These types of background checks are performed by either specialty consumer reporting agencies or credit reporting companies.
There are really only three credit reporting agencies in the states: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. There’s a much wider variety of consumer reporting agencies available. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has a list of agencies here. You’re legally entitled to access this information once a year.
The background check services we reviewed are different from those used to make rental, lending or hiring decisions. The Fair Credit Reporting Act actually makes it illegal to use reports from the background check services we reviewed for any decisions related to potential employees, renters or borrowers.