Background Checks: Before You Freak Out, Read This

Background Checks: Before You Freak Out, Read This
Take a breath before jumping to conclusions. Photo credit - Casey Fleser

Background Checks: Before You Freak Out, Read This

Justin Lavelle
October 21, 2014

So, you ran a background check on someone and found something that has you alarmed.  Your suspicions have been confirmed, your intuition has proven correct….or has it?

Before you panic, confront or cut ties without someone, take a deep breath and be sure to consider the whole picture.  While it is important to protect yourself, it is also important to realize that a background check provides the skeleton of someone’s life, a skeleton you still need to flesh out.

One obvious area where people get really concerned is in the possible associates section of a background check.  While current or ex-spouses will show up in the possible associates area, they are hardly the only people who may show up there.  Former roommates, parents, siblings, even cousins or close friends may show up as known associates in someone’s background check.

The possible associates and possible family members section will depend heavily on how someone is linked to other people in the public record.  To assume that there must have been a legally recognized relationship, like a marriage, between someone and a possible associate on a background check is not only incorrect, but can also make you believe that someone has lied about his or her past, even if they have been completely honest.

Another area that tends to cause concern about a background check is if it reveals significant financial difficulties in the past, such as a bankruptcy or a foreclosure.  It is important to keep in mind that financial difficulties can emerge from many sources, including unforeseen medical expenses, a failed business or simply tough economic times that many otherwise responsible people could not cope with.  As a result, a relatively recent bankruptcy or foreclosure may not suggest that someone is irresponsible with money, but may be more of an indicator of underlying negative economic conditions or other factors beyond the person’s control.  If a financial red flag has you concerned about a person in your life, consider how the person behaves with money in your presence before making a knee-jerk reaction.

Finally, it can be easy to freak out if someone has a criminal record, but a criminal history is not going to provide more context about an underlying incident.  Depending on what type of history has been revealed, you may want to gather more information before making a decision.  It is important to keep in mind that the black and white of a police record or sentencing report can often be at odds of the real life color of an incident.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that, while a background check can be an extremely useful tool to discover more information about an individual, it is only one of the tools you should use before making a major decision.

Disclaimer: The above is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.