What is a background check?

There is no official definition of the term “background check,” but most people understand it to be an investigation of a person’s background. The type of information included in a background check depends on the type of background check that is being performed. Because there are no industry standards regarding the labeling of types of background checks, these different types might go by different names according to their companies.

What is included in basic background checks?

Basic background checks use publicly available information that is easy to access to provide very generic information about people. In fact, you can often complete this type of background check on your own, simply by using an internet search engine to find information on an individual. However, while these basic background checks may reveal some information, they are often not deep enough to address the questions and concerns that cause a person to run a background check in the first place.


A more in-depth background check goes beyond basic identifying information. It may examine a person’s criminal history, looking beyond criminal convictions to determine if a person has previously been accused of criminal behavior. It may look at a person’s civil legal history, to examine marriages, divorces, child support orders, and other legal judgments. And sometimes these background checks may include information on birth certificates, marriage licenses, divorces, and death certificates.

What is included in a BeenVerified background check?

The core of BeenVerified background checks are public records searches. It might help you verify a person is who he or she claims to be, and that the given details about a person’s life match up with the details he or she is providing you. Furthermore, because most people leave a public record footprint, a BeenVerified background check will often reveal a person’s current address and phone number, prior addresses, email addresses, and possibly other people or family members who may have lived with the person. Recently, we’ve included social media records in our background checks. You may also find information about a person’s criminal history in a BeenVerified background check.

What other types of background checks are there?

Credit checks are another type of popular background check. They detail whether a person has defaulted on credit obligations, and include information like foreclosures, bankruptcies, divorces, slow-pays, and no-pays. While credit-checks are usually done by potential lenders before extending credit to an individual, they are also used by employers and insurance companies. Given that there have been numerous data breaches recently, it is important for individuals to regularly run credit checks on their own information, in order to detect identity theft. A criminal background check focuses on examining a person’s criminal history. It looks for a history of any criminal convictions. If any other type of background check reveals aliases, a complete background check will not only focus on the main identity, but also on any assumed identities. Some criminal background checks will only reveal convictions, while others will detail any crimes that have been charged. Some background checks may even reveal if a person was investigated for a crime, even if no charges were ever filed. However, there are limitations on criminal background checks. For example, unless performed by law enforcement agencies for law enforcement purposes, most criminal background checks will not display any juvenile criminal history.


Fingerprint checks are another level of background check. First, they help verify that a person is who he or she claims to be. If the fingerprints are run and match another identity, there is clearly a problem. In addition, they are often checked against state and federal databases to ensure that the individual in question is not identified by fingerprint as a suspect in any crimes. Fingerprint tests are relatively expensive, so they are not a routine part of most background examinations. However, if a job requires you to work with children or other vulnerable populations, if you would be in a position of trust, or if you are completing a home-study for an adoption or to become a foster parent, a fingerprint check will probably be part of your background check.


Really thorough background checks, such as the kind some government agencies perform in order to determine security clearance for workers, may even go beyond a person’s official record and investigate that person’s friends and acquaintances. Private individuals may occasionally seek this type of background investigation about another person. That would usually occur in the context of some type of dispute where background became critical, such as a custody battle or other legal dispute.

How long does a background check take?

A background check can take a matter of seconds or a substantially longer period of time, depending on how in-depth the background check is and how much of a visible footprint the person being checked has. A basic background test can generally be completed within a few minutes. With BeenVerified, you can run our basic background checks in a few seconds.

What is FCRA compliance?

The Fair Credit Reporting Act 15 U.S.C.S. § 1681 et seq., (FCRA) is a federal law that governs how some types of background information can be used. It also dictates what types of background agencies can be used for certain information. For example, while landlords and employers can use background check information when making employment or tenancy decisions, if you intend to do so, you need to ensure that you are using an FCRA compliant background check agency. Please see our Do’s & Dont's for permitted and prohibited uses.

How to get a background check?

You can get a background check in a number of different ways, including using a number of online background check services, such as BeenVerified. If the reason for your background check is covered under the FCRA, then you must use a FCRA compliant source. In addition, if you are required to get a background check as a condition of employment or volunteering, you will want to check with the organization or employer to ensure that you are following their procedures and using one of their approved resources.

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