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The reasons someone may desire to conduct a “background check” on another person or on a private business of some kind are vast.  From qualifying for a professional license, to being vetted as a potential business partner, to research on potential litigation parties or witnesses, or judgment debtors.  Lots of reasons.  But what exactly does a Background Check entail?

That’s a good question.  Because all background checks are not the same.  And understanding exactly what needs to be researched in your particular situation is essential.

A background check is nothing more, nor anything less, then ascertaining information, and not just facts, about the subject of the research.  That can be minimal and a simple amount of information. Say, confirming her or his residence.  Or it may be very extensive research and include interviews with the subject’s family, friends and/or business associates.  And the types of research that can be, or even should be, conducted will vary depending upon whether or not the research is being conducted with the subject’s knowledge and consent or not.

The Internet in replete with websites purporting to conduct “full” or “complete” Background Checks.  Poppycock.

As a general rule, in the circumstances our clients are interested in, a background check is tailored to provide the depth and breadth of the information sought.  That may include information generally provided by data aggregators, such as Lexis/Nexis, showing data gleaned primarily from public sources and includes information such as:

  • Subject’s name and aliases
  • current and prior residential and other addresses
  • places of business and business affiliations
  • voter registration
  • professional licenses
  • motor vehicle licenses and registrations

But keep in mind, much of the information found through these data aggregators is erroneous.  You must make an effort to confirm or clarify information reported by these services.  But in any case, clearly these reports are not the complete picture.  You may need to want to confirm someone’s education (is that PhD real?), past business relationships, disciplinary history if he or she is a professional of any kind.  You’ll often need to do more than just gone online.  Google can’t do everything.

Is your guy a criminal?

Whenever the request is made for a “criminal search” the request should be understood to mean “criminal conviction records” search.  Only law enforcement agencies can garner information about any person’s past history of any ostensible criminal activities, the so-called ‘rap sheet.’   The general public is restrained by the laws of the different states.  Some states allow an online statewide criminal records search and some states absolutely forbid the public to run a search on anyone in that state.  And remember, when it comes to searching for a person’s criminal records, the question is:  What states do we search?  Simply because you live in one state, maybe having lived in another, doesn’t mean you could not have committed a crime in yet another state.  So be very weary of any service firm that purports to provide anything even resembling a comprehensive, or national criminal records check.

And lastly, when the background check needs to be more in depth, the research may involve interviews with the subject’s family members, friends, neighbors or work associates.  If so, you need to be careful about the nature of the questions asked and the entire manner in which these interviews are conducted.

For help on your particular case, please call or contact us with any questions.