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Criminal Background Check vs. Background Check: What's the Difference?

People are often confused about the difference between a background check and a criminal background check, and rightfully so. There is often little difference because regular background checks and criminal background checks both contain information on criminal history.

However, criminal background checks can be more thorough in some instances because they are specifically oriented towards criminal records databases. If you want a general overview of a person s background, including information on marriages, divorce, bankruptcies and similar topics, a regular background check will probably provide all the information you need. But if you are specifically concerned about a person s criminal record it may be a good idea to perform a criminal background search.

Most criminal background checks will include a person s name, known aliases, description including tattoos and other identifying marks, arrests, convictions and prison terms. Some may even include information on outstanding warrants. This information commonly comes from court records, police records and other similar sources. Some of the more thorough criminal background checks may include any available information about international warrants and arrests too.

It is important to note that some states prevent criminal background checks from displaying certain information about criminal records. For instance, California only allows records to show convictions, not arrests. Other states  policies vary, so try to find out what you can expect based on where you are conducting your search and where your criminal search subject has lived.

In addition to criminal background checks, many sites also offer nanny background checks, employee background checks and online dating background checks , which are specifically tailored to certain types of people. These background checks can also contain information about criminal history, since it is important to know if a potential online date has a history of violent crime.

Top Ten Reviews has ranked some of the most popular background check services and reviewed them so you can find the service and search that is right for you. Check out our background check site to see who made it into the top three.