The very best background check services are built from the ground up with your security in mind. That means if you find the right one it could help in revealing all you need to stay safely informed.
Whether you require personal data about employment, to do with education or perhaps on the subject of felonies, these services will have you covered. Perhaps you need to find a specific person -- these services will give you access to the records you can use to help identify that individual accurately.
Each service will give you access to public documents all in one place that's easy to access and makes searching simpler and faster than doing it manually. It always pays to cross reference with one of the best people search sites for the most accurate result.
It's worth noting that under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) employers aren't permitted to use these services as a way to profile employees – as it's not 100% accurate. That isn't to say it's not very helpful, just that it's best not to use for work stand alone, in case a person is turned down for a job based on the actions of someone with the same name, for example.
So which is the best background check service for your needs?
The best background check services
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.
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
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
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
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
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
If you're an employer that wants the easiest and fastest way to run background employment checks then GoodHire is a top pick. Built specifically with employers who are hiring in mind, this is all about making short work of the process – knowing you're likely doing it for lots of potential applicants.
As such everything is laid out clearly and minimally in a system that is mobile optimized, making it possible to continue working with this when on the move. There is a helpful resources section which allows you to dive deeper as needed, perhaps for those applicants that get a little further in the process.
Usefully the system will let you know how long results are expected to take, allowing you to plan accordingly with your hiring process. There is also a helpful Comments for Context feature that allows applicants to explain any potential questionable points, helping speed up the process and cut down on back and forth.
Everything is reasonably priced, built to work at scale and used by over 100,000 employers right now.
What to look out for in the best background check services
How much do background checks cost?
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The cost of background checks can vary considerably, ranging from as low as $10 to $100. The price point typically depends on the type of information you’re wanting to get and whether you choose to pay via a monthly subscription or single report. Criminal record and felony conviction reports are usually at the lower end of the price range, with employment and education information more expensive. We’d suggest that prices from $20 to $30 per month is a reasonable amount to pay.
How do background checks work?
Background check services provide publicly available information in a written report that may be difficult to source yourself. How? Using a combination of online technology and in-person investigation, it will discover details such as felonies, employment history, experience and personal info. This data will then be collated into one file for you to review. Using these services works to save you time and money too. Searching databases and scraping information together yourself may take longer than necessary and cost a buck. Background checks are a simple and easy way to find details you can’t get with a quick google.
How long does a background check take?
You can expect the background check to take as little as two days but as long as four days for criminal or employment information. In some cases this may run up to a week but this is more rare.
However, by using one of the best background check services you may find that a lot of that information is available instantly.
Can background checks see private social media?
Even background check services can't get you access to someone's private social media. It is private so there is no accessing it without the person's consent. That said, anything posted before the account was made private may still be available online. Old tweets indexed by Google, for example could still be available to you.
Personal background checks
One great use for background checks is to find out how much of your information is out there for others to access. Carry out a check on yourself and you'll have all revealed to you.
This can be useful to make sure any outdated personal information isn't still floating around out there. Where to start? Google yourself for a free way to see what's available and exactly how difficult it is to find yourself online.
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?
If it's a professional background check service you require then you'll need to use a specialty consumer reporting agency or credit reporting company. There are three major credit reporting agencies in the form of Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
For consumer reporting the options are broader with a list found here on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). You’re legally entitled to access this information once a year.