Best Background Check Services of 2018

Eli McCormick ·
Finance Senior Writer
We maintain strict editorial integrity when we evaluate products and services; however, Top Ten Reviews may earn money when you click on links.

We spent over 40 hours evaluating background check services. To test them, we searched for three people with names ranging from common to uncommon. After purchasing reports from each company, we checked them for accuracy. Based on our results, Intelius is the best background check company overall. It has some of the lowest prices we saw, and its reports include information about work history, addresses and criminal records. The reports are current and especially useful for finding email addresses, since it pulled results other background searches didn’t find.      

Best Overall
Intelius has some of the most comprehensive reports we saw. It includes information about work history and marriages as well as the basics like emails, addresses and phone numbers.
View on Intelius
Best Overall
Best Value
US Search
With its low prices and detailed, up-to-date reports, US Search offers the best value of any background check service we looked at.
View on US Search
Most Comprehensive Reports
Instant Checkmate
Instant Checkmate’s reports are the most up-to-date and thorough. Also, they include information other services missed like marriages, bankruptcies and registered businesses.
View on Instant Checkmate
Report Information
Social Media
Work History
Background Check
Monthly Subscription
People Search Report
Download Report
Search Effectiveness
Search by Phone Number
Search by Email
$49.95 Intelius
4.5 3.8 4.9
$19.95 Ussearch
3.7 4.5 4.7
$34.78 Instantcheckmate
5 2 5
$22.86 Beenverified
4.2 2.9 5
$11.95 Peoplefinders
2.7 4.8 4.8
$13.95 Spokeo
2.4 4.9 4
$27.78 Truthfinder
3.5 2.3 4.8
$24.95 Usa-People-Search
1.8 4.7 2.3
$19.95 Verispy
0.2 5 3.3
$24.95 Veromi
0.8 3 1.5
Best 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 judgements, bankruptcies and assets. In addition, Intelius is one of the few background check services that lists educational history in its reports. This gives you another data point to use to get ahold of someone you’ve lost touch with. Intelius’ reports are easy to read and have a unique spider graph that shows how your subject is connected to relatives, jobs and other parts of their life. A background check through Intelius costs $49.95, which is the highest price we saw, though the company shares that distinction with several other services. A monthly subscription costs $29.95 and may be a better option. However, you need to remember to cancel your subscription when you are done using it. You can purchase a people search report, which doesn’t include information about criminal history and other legal matters, for $3.95. One of Intelius’ drawbacks is you can’t download the reports you purchase.
  • Education and work history included in reports
  • Well-designed reports
  • Subscription and single-report purchase options
  • Information not arranged chronologically
  • Reports not downloadable
  • Inconsistent information
Read the full review
Best Value
US Search’s affordable prices, accurate 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. A background check through US Search costs $39.95, which is less than many services charge for comparable reports. In fact, many companies require you to sign up for a monthly subscription to view background reports. If you only need basic information, such as addresses and emails, you can purchase a people search report from US Search for $2.45. You can download PDFs of the reports you run without paying an additional fee. 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
  • Accurate and up-to-date information
  • Affordable reports
  • Multiple search options
  • Doesn’t find marriages
  • Reports not in chronological order
  • Email addresses not up to date
$19.95US Search
Read the full review
Most Comprehensive Reports
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. 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.
  • Subscription costs the same as a single report from other services
  • Reports are accurate and current
  • Search tools make it easy to find who you’re looking for
  • Must pay to download reports
  • Can’t buy single reports
  • Can be inconsistent with phone numbers
$22.86Instant Checkmate
Read the full review
Best For Work History
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, though is some cases you may have to purchase add-ons – for example, if you want information about property or other legal matters. You need to pay for a subscription to get background checks. This costs around $27 a month, and you pay an additional $2.99 to download the report.
  • Work history is comprehensive and organized chronologically
  • Need to pay extra for property information
Read the full review
Best Subscription Service
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 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.
  • It’s one of the more accurate services we reviewed
  • Reports don’t include social media information
Read the full review

Why Trust Us?

We’ve been reviewing background check services for over 10 years. For this latest update, we spent 40 hours searching for people and comparing reports. We purchased reports for this update so we could verify the information they contain was accurate and current.

It’s easy to confuse these services with those lenders, employers and potential landlords run before making lending, hiring or renting decisions. However, background checks from the companies we reviewed only contain personal informational, not information about a person’s credit history or other financial matters.

You can find information in these reports about a person’s criminal history, marriages, bankruptcies and any other court judgments. This can be useful if you want to vet potential business partners or dates or want to see what information about yourself is out there. 

How We Tested  

Background checks can cost between $40 and $50 each. Before you spend that much money, you’ll want to know if a service provides correct information. To gauge accuracy, we purchased reports for three people. We chose to look at multiple reports because much of the information comes from public records, and it can vary depending on the state your subject lives in.

For each report, we had the subject verify the information about their addresses, phone numbers, emails and relatives was correct. We saw that there was more variation with phone numbers and emails, especially cell numbers. Some of this may be due to how much a person shares on social media, but we noticed some background check companies didn’t include any of this information at all.

We also considered how current the reports were. We saw a wide range in the results. Most had current addresses, though one of our subjects had moved recently, and the most recent address wasn’t in the reports – you can expect a small lag if there have been recent changes. Some of the lower scoring services had addresses our subjects hadn’t lived at for more than a decade.

We also evaluated these services on how easy it is to search for the person you’re looking for. The best services make it easy to find who you’re looking for by giving you the option to include middle names and cities in your search.

How Much Do Background Checks Cost?

Depending on what you need it for, how much information you need and how many reports you need, a background check can cost as little as $19.95 or as much as $49.95. Most services we reviewed let you purchase single reports. However, signing up for a subscription can save you money because you get many reports for one monthly cost. Subscriptions range from $19.95 to around $35 per month, though some services charge additional fees for information like social media and addresses. These additional fees range from $5 to $10.

Can I Get a Free Background Check?

If you’re looking for a free background check, you’re not going to find it unless you’re willing to put in the work. Many sites, such as and, appear to provide free background check reports, but as soon as you enter the name into the search tools, you’re redirected to BeenVerified. And while this service strings you along with an impressive array of animations to make it look like it’s scanning the internet for information, ultimately, you have to pay for the information. Even, whose slogan is “Information is Free” doesn’t give up any information for free.

Starting With A Purpose

To do your own background check on someone, you need to know what you’re looking for and why. What purpose is the background information going to serve? This can help keep you from wasting time looking for divorce decrees when you really just want to know if the person is a felon.

Court Records

Most background checks involve looking at court records. These include criminal convictions, bankruptcies, divorces, marriages and more. And most of the information is public, which you can request for free. However, this usually requires setting up an account with the government website, filling out a specific records request form and waiting for a response, which can take days or weeks. Some courts also require you to submit records requests in person. This can take time, especially if you’re careful to make sure you’re getting records on the correct person.

Sex Offender Registry

If an individual has pleaded guilty or been found guilty of a sexual crime, they are required to register as a sex offender. This database is maintained by the U.S. Department of Justice and it’s completely free to use. If you don’t know the person’s name, like a new neighbor, you can even enter your address and see if there are sex offenders living within three miles.

Work History on LinkedIn

Since LinkedIn is primarily for professional networking and development, you can use the information people include on their profiles to do free background checks of their professional and academic history. The catch is, of course, the person needs to have a profile and the information isn’t necessarily correct. In fact, according to a HireRight report, 85 percent of job applicants lie on their resumes. And since LinkedIn is essentially a public resume of professional and academic experience, including interests and hobbies, there’s good reason to view someone’s profile with skepticism. 

While a person’s LinkedIn profile isn’t going to tell you about their criminal or civil records, it certainly provides a great deal of information about their background. You can make your own assessment about what is or isn’t a red-flag, such as gaps in work history or information that doesn’t match with what they told you. For example, if you check on someone you met on a dating app, you can confirm where they went to school and where they work before committing to meet them.

Finding people for free on LinkedIn requires you create your own profile, and it works best if you fill out your profile completely. In the My Network tab, the site recommends others' profiles based on your own profile – schools you've attended, industries you've worked in, companies you've worked for, mutual connections and interests. But you can also search for a specific person in the search bar, using the filter tool to narrow the results to as few people as possible.

What's Included in a Background Check Report?

All the information included in the background reports sold by these services is public information. You could, if you had the time and patience, find the information on your own. This is the value background check services provide – they do the legwork for you by using web-scraping software to mine public data or by purchasing information in bulk from companies, like Facebook and Twitter, who require users to agree to terms allowing the company to sell their information. Once the services have the public information, they collate it into a report for easy reading. 

But what kind of information can you expect to find in a background check report?

Well, it depends on the individual and how much of a digital footprint they’ve left on the web, but here is a list of public information these services mine for:

Personal Information

  • Full name and aliases
  • Birthday
  • Address history
  • Phone numbers

Social Connections

  • Marriage and divorce records
  • Known and assumed relatives
  • Business and social connections
  • Neighbors
  • Social media profiles
  • Blogs
  • Photos

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 the 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 Are the Different Kinds of Background Checks?

When people hear “background check,” they usually think about the kind an employer or landlord runs before making a decision. The background check services we reviewed are different from those used to make rental, lending or hiring decisions. The Fair Credit Reporting Act, explained in further detail below, actually makes it illegal to use reports from the background check services we reviewed for any decisions related to potential employees, renters or borrowers. In fact, it would be illegal to use these background check reports to decide on which babysitter to hire.

What people typically think of as background checks are performed by specialty consumer reporting agencies. Much like your credit report, federal law entitles you to access this information once a year. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recommends looking at your report before applying for a lease or insurance. Get a report if a job you’ve applied for asks for authorization so you can see if you’ve been a victim of identity theft. Looking at the report gives you the chance to spot errors and dispute them.

Unlike credit reports, which only have three major players, there’s a wide variety of consumer reporting agencies. The CFPB has a list of agencies here.

If you can afford it, it’s also a good idea to get a background check from one of the services we reviewed. You can check to ensure the information they report is accurate and may even be able to have your information removed from the service’s listings.

Background Checks & the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)

In Broken Records, a report on the problems with background checks, the National Consumer Law Center reported that Samuel M. Jackson was allegedly denied employment based on a felony conviction. However, according to the background check, the felony occurred when Jackson was just four years old. In truth, the report misattributed the crime because his name was similar to the actual felon's. Such inaccuracies, according the report, are widespread with background check services because of an “industry-wide lack of accountability” and incentive to “cut corners” in how they collect and attribute information.   

As background check services turn into subscription services, the temptation for businesses to use the information for employment screening is extremely high. After all, anyone willing to pay around $30 to $50 per month can anonymously view unlimited background reports for as many applicants as they want. And there is little accountability or policing of how you use the information since it's all considered public record.

The Fair Credit and Reporting Act disclaimers are posted on each of these service’s websites and state you cannot use the information to screen applicants for your business, but there is no process to ensure you follow the law or the accuracy of the background check information. And, as the NCLC’s report argues, this hurts your business, not just because it's illegal but because you could lose valuable applicants based on inaccurate information. Following background check procedures laid out in the FCRA helps protect your business. It requires you do the following:

  1. Get permission from the individual.
  2. Inform them you plan to use the information for screening purposes.
  3. Promise not to misuse the information.
  4. Provide a copy of the report to the individual.
  5. Allow the individual to dispute inaccuracies. 

Background Check Reports: Terms To Know & Look For

Arrest Record
An arrest record appears on a person’s background report when the person’s been apprehended by law enforcement on suspicion of criminal activity. It’s important to note, however, an arrest record is different from a criminal record. The former indicates only that the person was apprehended by law enforcement, but does not indicate guilt. An arrest record can show the person was held for questioning, taken into custody, held for investigation, or charged and tried.

An arrest record can reveal a lot about the person:

  • Suspected age
  • Age at time of arrest
  • Whether suspected crime was misdemeanor or felony
  • Fines
  • Pending litigation

A bankruptcy is a legal procedure where an individual or business seeks legal protection against the debts they have incurred. People file bankruptcy when their debt is so high they are incapable of paying it according to their creditors' terms. A bankruptcy is a serious mark on a person’s background report, but it’s not necessarily a red flag, as a high percentage of bankruptcies filed by individuals are the result of medical bills.

chapter 7 bankruptcy is the most common among individuals, though businesses can file it as well. People file for this when their debt is unmanageable. It requires the court to make an evaluation of the debtor’s possessions and assets. The process starts by liquidating non-exempt property to repay as much of the debts as possible: second homes, secondary vehicles, stocks, bonds, available cash, valuable heirlooms and any other high-value possessions. If there is still unpaid debt, the person’s exempt property is liquidated to repay debt: household items, clothing, tools of a trade, personal vehicles.

chapter 11 bankruptcy is filed when the individual or business wants to reorganize debt. This is most common with businesses, as it allows them to repay debts (under the supervision of a court) in such a way to allow the business to continue operating. It requires the business to develop a profitability plan, show cost cutting measures and show how they are increasing revenue. If an individual files a chapter 11, they are most likely an owner of a small business.

chapter 13 bankruptcy is filed when an individual’s income is too high to qualify for chapter 7. This type of bankruptcy allows the individual to retain their assets and property while repaying the debt under a court’s supervision. The advantage of this kind of bankruptcy is it allows the individual to have the repayment terms determined by the court rather than the creditors.

Embezzlement is a type of white-collar felony theft in which the person used company funds for personal purposes without approval. Typically, the crime is an employee in accounting or finance with access to financial accounts, and the crime occurs over a long period of time.

Embezzlement is a crime with different motivations than other crimes, according to a Hiscox Study on embezzlement. Perpetrators are often trusted, long-time employees who came into tough times, such as a sick family member. It typically starts out with small amounts, but as they go uncaught, the amount of damage an embezzler can do to a company is dramatic. According to the study, the average loss a business absorbs over the lifespan of an embezzlement is $807,443.

Background reports can include whether the person you’re searching was convicted of embezzlement, sometimes including the amount they are charged with embezzling.

While there are many kinds of crimes that can show up on a person’s criminal background check, felonies are the most serious crimes. There are different degrees to a felony, with first degree being the most serious. These crimes typically include murder, aggravated or grand theft, rape and other violent crimes. To be charged with a felony, prosecutors have to get indictment from a grand jury. For it to show up on a background check report, the person either admitted guilt or was found guilty by a jury and required to serve prison time.

Felonies stay on a person’s record permanently, unless they go through the difficult process of getting it expunged.

A lien is a legal procedure creditors use to claim ownership of a debtor’s property if the terms of a debt are not fulfilled. Typically, liens are placed on a a person’s home or property by a credit card company, hospital or the IRS. Liens ensure that if you can’t pay the debt, the lien holder can reclaim the debt by taking ownership of your property.

While there are many types of liens, each lien is either consensual or non-consensual. A consensual lien is determined through a contract agreement between the lien holder and the lienee. For example, a mortgage is a consensual lien between you and a bank. If you fail to pay the lien, the bank takes ownership of your home. An involuntary lien is one where the lien was created by law and not a contract. These include attorney, demolition, judgement, HOA, maritime, mechanics’, tax and weed (yard maintenance) liens.

Unlike a felony, a misdemeanor is a less serious crime, like certain traffic offenses and minor drug offenses. Some misdemeanors require the person to serve jail sentences in a local city or county jail, and most sentences are short. However, misdemeanor sentences can run consecutively, allowing for some to serve many years in jail.

It can vary from state to state, but misdemeanors typically stay on a person’s record for between 3-5 years.

Do's & Don’ts of Using Background Search Services

Just because background check services collect information through legal methods, either by scrubbing public records or by purchasing the info from companies like Facebook, it’s worth emphasizing the do's and don’ts of using them ethically.


Protect your children. It's a good idea to use these services to verify the backgrounds of adults your children interact with. They don’t provide full criminal background checks, but you can also check the free NSOPW database to see if the adult is a registered sex offender.   

Protect yourself and your identity. By evaluating your own background check, you can ensure the information is accurate and that your identity hasn’t been stolen. Also, you can verify the identities of people you’ve met online, such as potential business partners or dates, to protect yourself from scams. 

Verify phone numbers. If you’re getting calls from an unknown number, you can check the number’s ID and determine whether it’s worth answering.


Stalk anyone, ever. It should go without saying, but using background check services makes it far too easy for people step over the line. Remember, even if you’re trying to reconnect with an old friend or ex-lover, many people don’t want to be contacted and don't realize their contact information is out there. As such, you should never use the information to do the following:

  • Make unwanted calls or emails
  • Show up at their home or work address
  • Send unsolicited letters, flowers, emails and gifts
  • Cause harm by spreading rumors about their divorce, work or criminal past on the internet

All of these are stalking behaviors as outlined by the Department of Justice. Always be respectful of other people's boundaries.

Use the information for hiring, lending or renting decisions. Using this information to hire someone, even if you’re a small, one-person business, is illegal. The same goes for lending money or renting property. For those purposes, you have to get written consent from the individual and use a different kind of background check.

Do Felonies Show Up After 7 Years? 

A felony conviction is not like a debt collection issue on a credit report. It’s a permanent mark on your record and appears on your record even after you die. And for good reason - felonies are considered the most serious criminal offenses a person can commit within society - murder, arson, fraud, armed robbery, sexual assault, etc. If you’ve been convicted of a felony, it means you either pleaded guilty to an egregious offense or you were found guilty through the justice system.   

However, according to Criminal Watch Dog, you can get a felony removed from a background check, but only if you apply for the record to be expunged. Even a pardoned crime isn’t removed from your criminal record, despite what people often think. Rather, a pardoned crime is just noted as having been forgiven by a person in executive power, like the Governor or President.

Requirements for expungement vary by state. For example, Utah’s expungement laws require you to pay all fines, fees, restitutions and interest related to the crime, but there is a long list of offenses that cannot be expunged, such as violent felonies, first degree felonies and sex offenses. The state also has a complicated list of other reasons for denying expungement, most of which involve felony and misdemeanor convictions showing a pattern of criminal activity. 

How to Tell if You’re Being Catfished?

A great reason to use a background check service is to confirm the identity of someone you’ve met online. As social media and online dating services have grown in popularity, so has catfishing – the act of creating a fictional persona online to lure people into an online relationship.

There are many types of catfishers and a variety of reasons why catfishers are compelled to deceive people, but it’s becoming more common and more sophisticated. If you’re concerned that you’re being catfished, a background check can easily uncover the lie or confirm the person’s identity. That said, here are some red flags to look for:

Profile Red Flags

  • Photos that are too good: If the person’s photos look like they were taken by a professional or if the person seems too attractive to be interested in you, do a reverse image search on Google. They are probably using someone else’s photos.
  • Profile has no photos, few photos, or very poor quality photos: The person is hiding something. Why?
  • Very few Facebook friends: If their Facebook profile has few friends and very little interaction with anyone, this is a major red flag.

Communication Red Flags

  • Life story is too good: If it sounds too good, it probably is.  
  • Inconsistent details: Question anything that doesn’t seem to add up.   
  • Moves too quickly: Catfishers want you to get emotionally invested as soon as possible, so they express serious feelings very quickly.
  • Shares traumatic life stories: Catfishers prey on sympathy, especially before asking for money.
  • Says what you want to hear: There’s good reason to be skeptical if they say what you want to hear.
  • Asks for money or personal information: Don’t fall for it.  

Red-Flag Excuses

  • Doesn’t answer phone or provide phone number: This is common, especially when posing as the opposite gender.
  • Video chat never works: They aren’t the person in the photos, so they’ll say their Skype doesn’t work.  
  • Never in town: This is a convenient excuse to prolong meeting face to face.
  • Sets a meet-up but abruptly cancels: A common tactic for prolonging the online relationship by giving into pressure to meet, but canceling right before.

(Sources: eHarmony, Huffington Post, Digital Trends,

Avoiding Common Holiday Scams

According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, people are more likely to be generous during the holiday season. And unfortunately, many people try to take advantage of this charitable spirit. As such, BeenVerified’s Chloe Seaman lists the most common holiday scams and how you can avoid them.

Charity Scams
These scams vary widely in scope and method. They can be fake organizations or private individuals setting up GoFundMe accounts. The best way to avoid these kinds of scams is to make sure you thoroughly research any organization or individual you feel compelled to give to. Always make sure to give money through a secure website and to receive a receipt for your contribution.

Signs of charity scam:

  • Uses time sensitivity to pressure you into making a donation before you can research
  • Requests wired money
  • Doesn’t use a secure website
  • Thanks you for a donation you didn’t make
  • Claims to be a victim

Online Dating Scams
Romance scams skyrocket during the holiday season as scammers prey on lonely people. You can avoid these scams by running a background check report on anyone you meet online and by never providing financial help to the individual.

Santa Letter Scams
This scam shows up in your email offering handwritten, personalized letters from Santa to your kids. It includes a link to a website where you can buy the letters. However, rather than buying a handwritten letter from Santa, you’re handing over your credit card information. You can avoid this scam simply by not clicking any links in an email.

Secret Sister Scam
This Facebook scam works by asking you to buy a $10 Christmas gift for your “secret sister” on the promise you’ll receive 36 gifts in return. However, it requires you to invite six Facebook friends to qualify, which is likely how you got invited to participate. It works similar to a pyramid scheme, only nobody gets any gifts and you’ve provided the scammers with all the financial and personal data they need for identity theft.

Contributing Writer: Jeph Preece, Senior Domain Editor