Many websites now offer free background checks. At no cost at all, they promise to check public records, criminal records, court records, and so on. Two popular websites which offer free checks are freebackgroundchecks.org and background checks.org.
On these two websites, anyone can conduct a background check on another person in a matter of minutes (or even seconds – depending on their typing speed). All they need to do is enter the person’s details (e.g. name, age, location), press a button and the background check will be carried out instantly.
There is no doubt that the motivations of these websites are noble – they want to provide an easy and hustle-free option for conducting background checks. This is why most of them don’t even require an individual to sign up or login in order to conduct background checks.
However, for someone who is looking to use background checks to make critical decisions, using these free options isn’t the best idea. Okay, using them per se may not be bad. Using the information they provide as the sole basis for making critical decisions is what isn’t advisable. You will want to use a NAPBS accredited background check company like Crimcheck.
There are many reasons for this:
1. Limited Sources of Information
Most free background checks source for information from a few public records. Specifically, they only search through records which are digitally accessible. Non- digital records aren’t searched through. This is because accessing non-digital records take time and effort. Since no one is paid to give in the time and effort, thorough searches do not take place. Therefore the information returned by free checks is not always exhaustive.
2. Automated Searches (No human examination)
In most cases, free background searches are automated. An algorithm searches through a number of databases and returns a report. No human being examines the report before it is passed on to the person who authorized the search. This is why some background checks are carried out in a matter of seconds.
The problem with computer algorithms is that they are unable to identify subtleties like two people having similar names. As such, they can easily return criminal records belonging to someone else with a similar name.
3. No Verification / Vetting
Free background checks are never vetted. This is because vetting requires searching multiple sources of information, and comparing them. It also often requires conducting investigative work. All this takes time and money. When background checks are conducted for free, it is almost certain that no efforts are made to vet the information. After all, even certain paid background checks do not vet their information.
4. No Focus on Accuracy
With free background checks, there is no focus on accuracy. Most of them return results with a disclaimer about their accuracy. The disclaimer typically waives the website from liability if the information returned is inaccurate. This doesn’t mean that all information returned will be inaccurate. However, it means that whoever orders the background check assumes the risk of it being inaccurate.
5. No Accountability
Sometimes, things go wrong with background checks. For instance, the results returned can be disputed by an applicant. In such cases, whoever conducted the background check needs to be held accountable. For background checks which are paid for, the client has grounds to hold the background check company accountable. In most cases, companies offer to verify any disputed results for free. Such accountability isn’t available for free background checks. When they backfire, the client is basically on their own.
6. No Guarantee of Expertise
Producing accurate background checks requires a certain level of expertise. This is because some people are adept at masking undesirable information from their backgrounds. It takes a level of expertise to sniff out such people. Expertise is also needed to carry out vetting, and ensure legal compliance.
There is no guarantee that such expertise is available for free checks. This is because such expertise comes at a premium. For paid for checks, a client can demand to see the credentials and professional affiliations of those who will conduct the checks. It would be considered impudent to make such demands for free checks.
7. No Guarantee of Legal Compliance
Conducting background checks can be a legal minefield. The slightest error can lead to a costly lawsuit. Background check companies know this. As such, complying with relevant legislation is at the top of their priority. Most even offer compliance tips to their clients.
With free background checks, there is no guarantee of compliance. Take two popular free websites, backgroundchecks.org and freebackgroundchecks.org. In both websites, anyone can conduct a background check on another person by simply entering their details (i.e. name, phone number, age, location, etc). There is no need to show evidence that a person authorized a background check.
This is actually legally murky. The reason for this is that laws like the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) forbid conducting a background check on someone without obtaining a written authorization from them. The implication of this is that whoever uses the free websites to conduct background checks (without obtaining authorization from the individuals) can easily get sued. This is something which a background checks company would remind a client.
The bottom line is that using free background checks isn’t a great idea. It may seem to offer advantages like cost-effectiveness and quick turnaround time. However, these seeming advantages are easily offset by its various downsides – the biggest being that there is no guarantee that the report returned by free background checks are accurate, complete or reliable. Granted, the same can be said of paid background checks. But then, with paid checks, there are certain measures which a client can undertake at the onset to increases the likelihood that the information returned is reliable enough to form a basis for making critical decisions.
Therefore, anyone looking for reliable background check information should steer away from free background checks. They should instead find a reputable background checks company and pay them to conduct background checks. Such a company will increase their chances of getting background checks reports which are reliable, exhaustive and legally compliant. These are the kind of reports on which critical decisions can be made.
Whoever uses the information sourced from free background checks as the sole basis for making critical decisions is setting themselves up for legal problems. With many employers being sued or paying millions of dollars to settle background check lawsuits, anyone who takes such risks is being foolhardy.
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Author: Brett McIntyre