Pros and cons of a free criminal background check
Although you may be able to find companies that advertise a free criminal background check service, the quality and search capacity of the service you receive may be severely limited. Few states have a full public record of criminal offenses and even fewer allow free searches.
A thorough criminal record check is quite a complex procedure and you can’t hope that a free criminal background check done online will give you a complete answer to your questions. Fees must be paid to search most criminal record databases and the actual searching is a time consuming task – no one is going to do it for free.
The depth of information available from a free criminal background check depends largely on which state you are searching in. Some states have computerized almost all of their court and criminal records and make them publicly available – in this case a free criminal background check could give fairly accurate results. However, most of these databases are not available off site – and therefore are not available online – so unless you can find a good Samaritan to do your legwork for free it’s unlikely a thorough check will be done.
In most states, however, only certain records have been computerized and only some of these are available online. Consequently, a free criminal background check only searches for information held in a very limited number of files and it’s easy to miss important records of crimes or felonies.
More problems with online record checks
The other major problem with criminal background checks is that searches are only completed using a name and address – this means that it is very easy to access false results for another individual of the same name. To get true results names must be cross referenced and checked against other information such as date of birth, social security number and driving records. A free criminal background check will not cover any of this cross checking and false results are common.
If you want to be sure about the honesty and integrity of the person you are checking you have to pay for a proper criminal background check to be done. In many states written applications must be made for information, in others you must visit the county court in person and in some states records are only kept of certain offenses. Knowing how and where to access information is very important.
Online criminal record checks should only be used to check that a criminal record does not exist. If a check reveals any information at all it needs to be followed up – and this means sending a court runner or researcher to the county court house to check the records in person.
If you’re concerned enough about an individual or a position of responsibility that they might take in your company and you think you need a criminal background check, pay for one.
It’s the only way of being sure about a candidate’s history.