What do we know about other people? Every day, your neighbors and coworkers operate likely without concerning themselves over your impression of them, but we all do silently judge each other, however incidentally. In these days of social media dominance, it’s a rare individual who doesn’t share their lives all over Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. This makes for another venue for the collective Internet to gossip over.
But beyond mere personal introspection, being aware of your public profile helps you navigate day-to-day life. It’s useful for finding out what credit perks you’re eligible for, or whether a potential employer will find you to be a trustworthy hire. There’s also the matter of security, since without a background check it’s difficult to know whether your identity has been stolen. The FTC reports that 1 in 5 Americans have a mistake in their credit report, so even cleaning up random errors can save you a lot of hassle down the road.
Different Tiers Of Background Checks
There’s a limit to what information can be found by whom, and for what reason they are asking. Law enforcement professionals and government defense workers have the highest rank of clearance. Banks and credit agencies get the next highest level of information. Employers and landlords are limited by various metrics, such as a statute of limitations or other time frames, or scope of what they can search for. At the lowest level, common citizens seeking a private background check for dating purposes will also find the least information, mostly available to the general public from sites like CRB Direct.
You can manually check your own background and be shown mid-level access, the kind of thing anybody would get in a report. The purpose is to simulate what any other random person could find about you, and to rectify errors if you find them. Technically speaking, this won’t uncover any information you could do manually, if you’re willing to query all 50 US states, all three credit agencies, every hall of records in a city where you went to school, got married, bought a house, etc. It’s just easier to make it a one-stop search, like through Checkpeople, to collate all the data into one handy report.
What Can Be Found?
The full spectrum of background checks are:
- Criminal records
- Credit check
- Sex offender registry
- Driving record
- Social media
Some high-level employers might also lump in personal references, drug screenings, and so on. Law enforcement and government checks will include a scan of the terrorist watchlist. However, even the highest level background screening will have some information suppressed, such as juvenile offenses, or expunged court records where a judge ruled the defendant deserved a clear record.
The Internet at large is also a variable wild card in background checks. Googling your full name or most common online handle first may reveal some surprising hits to sites you never visited. This is because websites copy bits of each other, reprinting comments, archiving past posts, and otherwise quoting from sources. You never know when an old comment you left on some blog in the 2000s ends up floating around the web as a wisp of folklore with a life of its own.
Because of the unreliability of web content, most employers, landlords, and others know better than to put too much stock in Internet background hits by itself. A criminal narcotics record + openly discussing drugs on Instagram is a red flag, but somebody mentioning your name and a drug reference was probably just being a troll.
What To Do About The Results?
After getting your background check, it’s possible that you’ll find something of concern. Plain old mistakes are the most common complaint. Cases of stolen identity can make your background look like a train wreck. And then there are legitimate marks you forgot about. It happens to everybody.
For minor stuff, there’s no need to be concerned. Infractions and misdemeanors make no difference in all but the most scrutinized employment positions. Traffic tickets won’t concern anything outside of a driving context. Minor debts like a previous balance left over from a tenancy when you thought the security deposit cleared it are usually overlooked.
For major red marks on your record that don’t belong there, you’ll need to contact the agency responsible for reporting it and clearing it up. For stolen identities, work with your bank and credit agencies to recover while you change the passwords on everything. Know your rights and exercise them – in some cases, legal counsel might be necessary.