These are the best background check services for discovering personal data, from employment, education, felonies and more
Using one of the best background check services is a useful way to source information on people online. Whether you’re wanting to locate an individual, discover more about their past, including their education, employment history and experience or find out about their criminal history, a background check service will offer accurate, reliable information. Giving you access to documents, public information and pictures they’re a failsafe way to search for lost family and friends or to even see what data has been made available about you.
While these types of background checks are often used by employers, businesses or even the police, this list of services are not appropriate for professional use. As established by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), you can't use one for work related searches. Why? Simply put, the information isn't 100% authenticated. Nonetheless, cross referencing with one of the best people search sites (opens in new tab) is a great way to filter out and validate potential information.
Below we’ve researched and compared some of the best rated background check services. We’ve looked at the reviews and assessed the types of checks, pricing plans and ease of use, so you can find the providers best suited to you and your requirements. So go ahead and get the information you need from these best background check services.
The best background check services
1. Intelius: Best background check service overall
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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(opens in new tab)
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 (opens in new tab)
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 (opens in new tab)
4. US Search: Best background check service on a budget(opens in new tab)
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 (opens in new tab)
5. PeopleFinders: Best background check service for those who need frequent reports(opens in new tab)
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 (opens in new tab)
6. BeenVerified: Best background check service for self-searching(opens in new tab)
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 (opens in new tab)
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.
What to look out for in the best background check services
How much do background checks cost?
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.
But 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 (opens in new tab) on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). You’re legally entitled to access this information once a year.