Dave Jordan reveals why free background checks are simply a tool to get more of your money. You might even end up spending less if you decide to pay for a background check rather than be scammed by a free service.
I have been spent over 3,000 hours embedded in the online background check industry and have learned all about the devious methods used by online companies to lure in unsuspecting people, and “free background checks” are a major culprit.
The resources needed to assemble a comprehensive background check are enormous, and a company that would offer only free background checks would be bankrupt in no time. They have to make their money somewhere, and usually it’s in the fine print that’s printed in light gray or so small it’s hard to read. Either way, they usually don’t make it obvious you’re signing yourself up for some kind of monthly membership or will be paying more than you think.
The major search engines are not free; even though their services are offered as such. There is always some way in which their costs are recouped. For example the most used search engine in the world is also one of the biggest companies in the world…with the widest profit margins. Think about that for a minute. Free background checks are just a more direct way of actually taking your money.
The Logic Behind Free Background Checks…
Comprehending the jump from free to paid isn’t such a big leap as it used to be. Most folks are used to the fact that “free” means there is some small catch somewhere. The real difference in this case is that you are not even receiving a trial or sample. For example; we have all run across those “free vehicle history” offers and been tempted to take them up on it. After all a CarFax report does cost $29 or so. We all know that, yet we do whatever it takes to try and get it for nothing.
Some would call it deceptive advertising, but things are more complicated than that. You see, they never offer you the report for free, but only a free search to see if there are any vehicle history matches. Notice that when you fill in all the required fields and receive a big old exclamation mark that 37 records were found, that’s all you get.
The same applies to free background checks. You will be offered a free records search, but that’s it. There might be some detail such as a partially complete address, or phone number with just the area code; just enough to lead you on. After that you will be hit with an offer to buy a full report that includes everything you could ever want to know about the person you are searching, for an exclusive price only good for the next 24 hours.
The ball is in your court after that. Give me your credit card number, click on a few checkboxes and you can have all the information you want. If these types of shade practices have you in fits of rage, you’re not the only one. The internet is full of fraud complaints from people that were duped into memberships, or hit with credit card charges that can take months to straighten out.
Essentially, free background checks are a like the deeply discouraged bait and switch ploy in sales. They can even be compared to a loss leader in the retail market, except that the online charlatans don’t lose anything in the process. Plus, you are left with extreme frustration as the result of all your trouble.
However, some online services have gotten very good at making folks believe the goods are right around the next corner. A fairly recent online background check service that is being advertised all over TV, the Internet and even publications, is a great example of this. One aspect to keep in mind is that these companies spend more money trying to get you to believe their claims than they do on developing a customer service program.
To wrap this part up…the long and short is that companies who present free background checks are to a greater extent more interested in pumping up their profits than in giving you any useful records that may pertain to your subject. Always be mindful that assembling a background check infrastructure that actually delivers useful and accurate results requires massive resources, including time and money. This is another topic altogether…but I will give you a quick overview.
Records Infrastructure Overview…
Criminal records and to a smaller degree civil records, are stored in hierarchal layers in the United States. These include the federal, state, and county levels. Criminal background checks on the federal level are usually not accessible to anyone other than law enforcement. There are some special exceptions including education and state employment.
The individual states report all felonies to the federal branch, and public access to state records themselves varies from state to state. Some allow access to everything, including traffic violations. Others allow only personal access accompanied by a full set of fingerprints.
The building blocks of the United States records system is the county courthouse. Most records at the county level are publicly accessible with the exception of sealed or expunged documentation. County court records might comprise all manner of information from court hearing scripts to birth records. There are over 3,100 court houses and no centralized system for collecting and indexing criminal records.
The FBI maintains their own system, but that is also dependent on the courthouses submitting data as convictions are carried out on a daily basis. Any individual who would like to conduct their own background check on someone else would have to visit each county courthouse where that individual has lived, after obtaining an address history.
The Nasty Part of Free Background Checks…
Companies that offer background checks for sail aren’t necessarily the ones who collect and compile all the criminal and civil court records. Often they have no connection, because records collection is another type of business usually conducted by data-mining companies. Background check companies purchase data from the vendors and act as the middle man, much like a car dealership.
One would think that information being provided by free background checks would as complete and up-to-date as that of another service. However, be rest assured that any data you actually receive for free or almost free is like getting a car for free, or almost free. Problem is, outdated and unreliable background check records are harder to spot than a rusted car. This is true because criminal activities never cease, old records are expunged or files closed for good.
3,100 separate court houses are pumping out new information every day and just imagine the resources needed to stay on top of that. Only a company committed to serving for the long haul can survive because of the necessary infrastructure and customer service that are required.
Another thing; the unscrupulous companies providing free background checks have numerous ways of bringing in the greenbacks should you decide to take them up and pay for the often useless information. Once the transaction is complete, they have your credit card number, personal details such as street address, phone number, email, etc. and even the opportunity to sign up for your “extras”. The internet is literally plastered with thousands of complaints from folks who have been unwittingly signed up for monthly memberships, with no way to stop them except to cancel their credit card.
Tactics Used by Free Background Check Companies…
One rather sneaky tactic being used by just about every single online background check company out there is the free trial. These are usually 7 days, but can be as short as 2 days. After the trial period is up, you are charged a monthly fee, which is usually about $19.95. A magic number that doesn’t seem especially high, but adds up very quickly.
A very popular, or rather very heavily advertised “background check” company that I used to be a sales rep for sells unlimited 3 year memberships for $29.95. This is a great deal, but all you can really do are name, address, and phone searches. It also includes social security number validations which really don’t mean anything. To get a real background check you have to shell out $29.95 per month and even that price the service is at best, un-detailed and miles behind the big players.
The fact of the matter is that most people only need to do a couple of background checks and will never need the unlimited memberships being offered by many sites. They will often attempt to convince you to try an unlimited membership by inflating the expected usage, and therefore price, to very unreasonable levels that only rarely, if ever, are seen by consumers.
Basically what you need to know is that free background checks (also many inferior paid services), can turn into a time sapping, money sucking nightmare. Even at the best of times, when anything beyond what you could have located in the phone book comes up, it will likely be out of date or wildly inaccurate.
Paid Background Checks…
Should you decide the free route is not for you, the services below are the most cutting edge available.
I have found that these services are well matched, and no one service can claim the top spot. Having said that…these 4 background check companies are still light years ahead of the rest of the pack.
For one person USSearch will work better than BackgroundChecks.com, and for the next person Intelius will have more comprehensive information than USSearch. I always start with USSearch. If they don’t have the information I need, Intelius is the next choice. BackgroundChecks.com follows 3rd.
I use eFindOutTheTruth to run a background check when the others don’t turn anything up. They are not an instant service like the others, which means you may have to wait a day or two for the report.
- www.USSearch.com is the most well known, and respected, provider of criminal records search, background checks, people search, phone number search and myriad other services. They have been indexing and providing comprehensive solutions since 1994. 7 million visitors pass through their website every month. Their reputation in the online community is excellent. For example the BBB gives them an “A+”. If a choice had to be made between the top 2 services available today, USSearch or Intelius, USSearch would be the winner due to their customer support and extensive, positive track record. Use USSearch if you need current and thorough records. We talked them into letting us offer you a 25% site-wide discount.
- www.Intelius.com was founded in 2003, and is a behemoth provider of criminal records search, phone and address search and more. They compete neck and neck with US Search in terms of quality and quantity of information. Together, Intelius and USSearch offer access to over 30 billion records. Nobody else even comes close to competing with these two services. However, Intelius has a tarnished public image due to some of their practices. But, almost all of the negative feedback on Intelius has to do with billing. This has stemmed from a $10 rebate they offer. If you opt for the rebate, part of the terms are a monthly membership, so read carefully. Use Intelius if you need current and comprehensive records.
- www.findoutthetruth.com was started in 2001, is run by two private detectives, and claims the title of “background check superstore”. They are the only recommended company to offer international background checks. Their myriad services will provide you with everything from criminal records search to email search and driving records. They offer not only background checks, but many security gadgets from door and window alarms to pepper spray and handcuffs. Their reputation in the online community is also excellent despite a few small hiccups from a few years ago.
Over 3,000 hours of frustrating research have shown me that prices of the best background check services are basically the same as the scammers. The true difference is the level of detail of the information you receive.
All the best,
Categories: General Background Check Tips