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Are Free Background Checks Really Free?

Often I receive calls that are asking if we provide free background checks.  My curious response may well be “what business you are in?”  Let’s say the reply is the "toy store business".  When asked if they provide their inventory of toys for free the predicable laughing response is an emphatic "NO!"   As the conversation continues I wonder what makes them think that I can provide free background checks and keep my doors open. Then the rational begins about how their business is different and the various justifications that we can provide a free background check service, as it appears other screening companies do on the Internet.

The truth is that all businesses must generate a profit to continue operating.  There aren’t any professional background screening companies that offer a genuine “free” Background Check that has any significant value. Just how would they stay in business? Common sense indicates that there’s much more to this story.

The critical fact that one must understand is that most of the services that offer “free” criminal background checks online do not really provide what they promise. They are just trying to lure people to their website to sign up for additional paid services. They will only provide vague basic details free of charge and then charge for the needed complete in-depth information. 

Let’s say you want to carry out a background check – we’ll leave the possible reasons out for now. You log onto the internet and use your favorite search engine and you find a whole host of sites, all offering to gather the total amount of information you need, free of charge. So off you go.

But don’t be surprised if you don’t receive what you’re expecting. Here’s why:

You’re looking, say, for John Doe, and you guess he’s approximately 35 years old. You enter this information into your free background check and you might well receive a mountain of information. You’ll find out where many people called John Doe used to live. You’ll get all the information about every John Doe who has paid taxes, used public utilities, or done anything else that there is a public record available for. If you are really fortunate, you might find out something about your particular John Doe. But what you won’t get is an exact address, or a telephone number. Even if you strike gold and the search locates the John Doe you want to know about, don’t be surprised if the response you receive goes along the lines of: ‘We have lots of information about John Doe – which we will pass on to you if you pay us for it.’ This is a common enough means of luring people into using allegedly “free” background checks.

Typically companies carrying out these “free” checks don’t update their database information as often as they should, some of whom have daily updates. You very well could find yourself being given outdated information about John Doe, or missing out on his latest entries.

This is a planned marketing format; however it’s deceptive and suggests that such sites are not trustworthy. Most of them provide automatic responses, offer no telephone contact and quite possibly never even conduct a record search.

If you decide on using an online service, select a reputable paid service that accurately explains what they provide; acts professionally and performs what they promise.

In the long-run you’re better off working with a reasonably priced alternative instead of searching for the elusive “free” criminal background check. There are many competitive service providers on the Internet that provide detailed background screening. In fact, many private investigators or private detectives use these same services then charge their clients an enormous fee for the same information! In reality there’s never a “free” lunch and there certainly aren’t any “free” background checks either.


 Here’s a professional Background Check Sample Report for you to see.

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  1. Sharif Soofi 18 Jul

    Good article, thanks for sharing. I do sometimes get the question of "Free" background checks. Also I get people thinking background checks are turned around instantaneously. What I always point out to folks is that there's no real such thing as a national "Instant" criminal check. Also no such thing of it being free!
  2. Steve J 18 Jul

    You are absolutely right. But the funny thing is that people still fall for it.
  3. Bo Sepehr 27 Jul

    You're quite welcome Sharif :)
  4. Ramesh Ganeshan 27 Jul

    Good Stuff Bo! Keeping things on the same track...Free Checks have become the order of the day in several emerging econimies.

    Several firms have spoilt the flavor of EBC here, by giving away free checks to prospective clients. So eager are they to pick up clients that they have crashed the price in the market such that it has become almost infeasible to work seamlessly. totally subscribe to your POV in your article...Free background checks are soooo similar to the try-before-you-buy attitude that exists in supermarkets. Several startups in EBC have shutdown here as a result.

    With the ever-rising pressure to recruit the right talent, HRs across industries are not willing to wait for the actual timelines of completion. This has given rise to several fly-by-night vendors who, knowing the fact that there isn't any governance in EBC in the emerging economies, produce reports on-the-fly. The veracity of these reports though completely questionnable, is accepted by the HRs who 'NEED' to complete their numbers in time.

    A sidetrack: I have often found that smaller firms in emerging countries often show greater diligence in procuring results, coupled with fervor to elicit favorable responses from clients. By this however I, do not wish take away any credit from any of the 'bigger' firms engaged in EBC, merely highlight the levels of enthusiasm and stronger will to please and eventually retain their clients.
  5. Bo Sepehr 27 Jul

    Ramesh, Thank you for your feedback. I believe employment background checks are essential tools for employers to determine they are hiring the right person. No position is too big or too small to not warrant a thorough background investigation. Not doing the due diligence before hiring someone can only lead to trouble. So even though time is always of the essense, it should not hinder the HR manager from conducting a thorough criminal background check investigation rather than a Mickey Mouse Free Background Check!!

    To elaborate further, let's consider a US Government website where you spend the time looking up criminal data on your applicants. Yes..you can search for criminal records. A perfect example is the commonwealth of Pennsylvania. They have a site where you can search district justice records and court of common pleas dockets for no price. Well, how do you know if the person lived in PA and not in CA or NJ for most of their life? How do you know if the person doesn’t have a different last name or maybe the date of birth may be off by a day or two? These are just a couple of the nuances that criminal data has and not using a vendor that can provide a multi-state report with capabilities of searching on aliases ultimately puts your company in a predicament.

    It is wise and well worth the time and money to work with a reliable vendor like HireSafe that is capable of giving you the information you need to make a sound and intelligent hiring decision on a prospective employee.
  6. Ramesh Ganeshan 27 Jul

    Absolutely on this one with you Bo. :-)
  7. Jeannie Baker 27 Jul

    It is my experience that you get what you pay for. Check out ACUTRAQ for background screening.
  8. Gordon Basichis 27 Jul

    Anyone who insists on conducting free background checks deserves both the results and the experience.
  9. Greg Basham 27 Jul

    Great article. You get what you pay for.

    It is never free.

    It is ironic that companies will not blink an eye while paying the fee for executive recruiting while getting independent background checking leads to a huge negotiation and an expectation that this should be a rock bottom cost.

    Like they say, if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.
  10. Mark Denton 29 Aug

    Nice job on the article Bo, and so true!
  11. Bo Sepehr 29 Aug

    Thank you Mark ;)
  12. AnnWhite 25 Jan

    I have recently been checking for some background information and found a very useful and informative website www.everify.com
  13. Matthias 29 Mar

    It's true that many states list criminal records online, and a background check (not free, as we saw from this article) may not necessarily add to it, if you add some prior research online on Google about the person you consider hiring.

    e-reputation manager
  14. Michel Roy 20 Jul

    Thanks Bo Sepehr for share us good and helpful article. I think free background not effective. If you want Get Unlimited Access to Over 1 Billion Records
  15. Antoine Leaman 23 Nov

    I see those ads online all the time, and it's important that people realize it's not serious... and in recent years, with so much data available online, there's some sort of merger between reputation management and "traditional" background checks. If you know how to search, a criminal charge will be visible online, somewhere.

    Kind regards,

    Antoine Leaman
    CCO @ <a href="http://www.delafee.com">Gold gifts</a>
  16. Recordsbase review 03 Jan

    Sepehr you are correct background check is extremely essential for employers. Every owner of the company wants all employees with clean background.
  17. Mickey Mixon 17 Sep

    This is so important for business individuals to have background check.
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