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Free background checks: using public records

Free background checks: using public recordsIf you're willing to put in the time and effort, free background checks can be conducted by checking public records. What each state considers to be a public record differs of course but in most cases you should at least be able to verify basic information without having to resort to a professional agency for assistance.

Start with the most obvious records first: telephone numbers and addresses. Check the local phone book of the individual to verify their phone number and address. If there is no listing try a quick call to operator assistance instead. Alternatively, try a criss cross directory - a telephone directory where numbers are listed in numerical and address order so you can check the number, its location and the people who live at that address. Most public libraries have a criss cross (or reverse telephone directory) directory and online directories such as whowhere.com and bigfoot.com can supply the same information.


Another simple way to do a personal background check is to do an Internet search. Simply type the name of the person in inverted commas into a search engine and see what the results are. Be careful however, as anyone with a common name can be easily confused with others by the same name. You can also use free online people searches but if the candidate has never had an Internet account or has never made any purchases online this may not reveal any information; or the information may be out of date, so it’s best not to rely on them for hard facts.

In any case, try calling the last known address, phone number, or work place of the individual and ask for them. If you're told they're not, be sure to ask if they can be contacted elsewhere or if they have a cell phone number you can use.

When attempting to get free background checks on people, make sure to check which documents are considered public records in your state.

State departments hold detailed information on almost every citizen and if you can gain access to this information your background check will be much more thorough. Although some states have yet to computerize their records, many public records are now online. To be sure, it’s usually best to call the relevant government office and ask them for the easiest way to access their records.

In some states the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) considers its records public. In this case they can run a name search for you and give you the information for the individual you are looking for. This should include, name, address, age, driving record and vehicle registrations. As these records are updated every four years they are usually a good source of recent and accurate information.

In some states you can also background check people by checking their birth certificates and marriage licenses for a small fee. The Department of Vital Records can reveal this information if these are public records in your state. You can also check voter registration records, membership of professional bodies, college education, corporate affiliations and a limited number of criminal records by quick phone calls to state departments, governing bodies, college registrars or the secretary of your state.

By knowing the rules in your state and which documents are deemed public records you can easily conduct your own background check on people for free. All it takes is a little research and some perseverance.