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Our security expert Greg Leimone, the North America Security Manager for a large agriculture company, provides insight into background check services and evaluates their reliability.
As a private investigator, I’ve been trained to do background checks (go here to learn how background checks work). I spend a large amount of my time researching. Not only by searching through public records, but also utilizing open source intelligence, social media and accessing fee-based databases that my company subscribes to (many of which I’ve reviewed below).
Of course, people often ask us how to do a background check online themselves. One might think that we would feel threatened by this, but it doesn’t take much business from us. So, let’s spend some time exploring what you get when you use online background check companies.
There has been an ever-increasing movement by companies to purchase public records and make them available online. What is ironic is that so much of this information is not only public record, but it is also free.
With exception to a few copy fees that courts sometimes charge, any of these records and all this information can be accessed by anyone willing to go to the clerk of court or other government office and sort through the records.
But in our electronic “get it now” generation, that seems too much like work. People no more want to sift through microfiche than want to talk on the phone, especially when texting and Facebook “stalking” is so easy.
Well, this where the proverbial “rubber meets the road,” and we separate the men from the boys. Just like any online service, some criminal background check companies provide mediocre or sub-par data but do so very successfully because of a great user interface, flashy (no pun intended) website, outstanding SEO and an aggressive online advertising strategy.
But like any business, if their service/product isn’t as good as their competition, then it won’t take long for them to gain a negative reputation and suffer irreparably.
The best criminal background check companies provide some information for free and are transparent about pricing on data that you are expected to pay for.
Below are our reviews of each site with a focus on the user interface, data provided and overall experience and service offering.
While we normally pick our top 3 companies, this category offers some unique challenges in that it varies so much based on the information being sought. So, instead, we have simply reported the pros and cons and then put them in inverse alphabetical order.
But remember, it would be best to try a few free services for your search first to see what you feel most comfortable with since results often vary by the type of search and your comfort level with the site’s functionality.
Another powerhouse in the business, US Search is well advertised and has a strong ranking in the search engine results.
This brand uses the Intelius’ database and backend, for specifics on that check out the Intelius review below.
Their site is very user-friendly and the GUI is clean and well-balanced. Like Intelius, minimal information is provided at no cost.
You will get a few basics such as city/state where the person has resided, maybe an employer and that is it. It doesn’t even provide a truncated phone number or email. Their pricing is different in that you can pay a one-time fee for the reports, or receive that search at a discount if you also sign up for their monthly membership plan ($19.95/month).
I do like the fact that they show you the full range of report options and pricing, so you can see and compare all on one page.
- People Search Report: $2.45
- 1-State Criminal Check: $14.95
- Full Background Report: $39.95
- OmniSearch (unlimited searches): $19.95/month after the 2-day free trial
TruthFinder is a relatively new online background check service, founded in 2015. This company offers dark web search.
While researching, we found more complaints than praises for the company. TruthFinder wouldn’t be our first pick. In fact, we would recommend doing a quick Google search before paying for a report from TruthFinder.
TruthFinder doesn’t state exact prices on its website. Instead, it “estimates” them in a way, see below.
- 1 month unlimited: $27.78/month
- 3 month unlimited: $23.02/month
- View all options
Spokeo has a slightly different model than the others and isn’t technically a background check service. We included it because it is a great online source for people searches and is one of the few that almost every private investigator uses (at least as a starting point).
What I really like about this site is that you are given a good bit of information before they stop and ask for money. This site also focuses on the positives of people searching rather than the dark side. Perhaps because of this, there is some unnecessary (but interesting) information such as looking at search results from famous people.
However, the primary search functions are clear and concise. Prices appear reasonable and more importantly you actually can see those without giving up your email address or it taking up your time with a long search.
- Monthly: $13.95 a month (discounts on 3 and 6 month memberships)
- Additional $2.95 each to search court and historical records
This is BeenVerified’s database dressed up in a nicer suit. Read the BeenVerified review below above to get under the hood of this provider.
This background search company made an effort to have a cleanly designed interface, but they failed miserably by covering the margins with affiliate ads. Their site is a redirect to other background search sites for the actual information.
In other words, after searching on a subject, you can order reports from companies such as Beenverified.com, Instantcheckmate.com and more. My other issue with them is there is nearly no free information to confirm you have the right subject.
Like all of these, without some more clear data, you could spend money and then realize you have the wrong person. The full search takes a bit of time, but at least you get to see the pricing options before ordering it.
- 1 month unlimited: $19.95 first month / $29.95 per month thereafter
- 3 months unlimited: $12.95 first month / $29.95 per month thereafter
- 6 months unlimited: $9.95 first month / $29.95 per month thereafter
- Single report: $29.95
- View all options
Site design on NetDetective is so archaic that you worry about its legitimacy as a major player. In 2017, you want a website that doesn’t look like a “mom and pop” operation and this one reeks of it.
That said, its navigation is pretty straight forward and the simplistic design allows the user to move around without too much confusion. There is very little information on the services provided or education on criminal background checks.
- Unlimited searches: $29.99/year (no other plans found on website)
A leader in the online background check industry, Intelius has a very robust system with more search options than many of their competitors. Their interface is straight forward with dialog boxes front and center for easy navigation to a search result.
Tabs across the top provide the user with a quick switch to a criteria specific query, and they offer more explanations of each search than Spokeo and other sites. The greatest thing about this site is they have developed a mobile app version for both Android and Apple products.
My chief complaint about this site, as I re-examined it further, is that I feel like the pricing is unnecessarily convoluted. It is clear what you are getting, but the myriad of options make it difficult for the user to know if they are receiving the best deal.
Although we don’t have a top 3, Intelius is among the best background check sites.
- Premier Plus membership required: $29.95/month after a 7-day free trial
- This gives you unlimited search and one background report per month.
- If you want additional searches, the following fees apply:
- People Search: $0.95
- People Plus: $6.95
- Background: $39.95
- Nationwide Criminal Check: $29.95
IntegraScan’s design is more utilitarian than the others; less “flashy” but functional and informative. The dialog box returns to a page with your pricing options and requests additional information (such as a DOB) for the search. You then add to the cart, pay and get the results.
Your options include a statewide criminal check, national or the full report. I will say that the complete report, albeit pricey, does seem to search many data points that I am not confident the others would review in the query. That said, it is hard to know what is available on a subject because this site offers nothing for free.
You don’t even know if you have the right person until you have paid up. All this said, it resembles more of the data points that we are accustomed to receiving with our private investigator only sites. None of the insignificant frilly data….”just the facts, ma’am.”
- Statewide background check: $18.95
- Nationwide background check: $28.95
- Detailed background check: $49.95
- View all options
Instant Checkmate is one of the most informative websites. It has a number of top menu options that some of the others do not. For example, there is a “Features” page, which tells the user more about their data points and pricing. However, a key advantage that I mentioned in the previous article is no longer available.
There is no way of looking at the pricing until you go through the very long process of running a search and then report. For me, this is a deal breaker, but maybe that is my lack of patience.
I can understand their desire to protect their pricing schedule, but I believe many users are not willing to expose their name, email and other information to 3rd party services without getting a price or the information they want out of the search in the first place.
- 5-Day Trial: $1
- Monthly membership: $22.86/month
- 3-month membership: $14.86/month
- 6-month membership: $9.86/month
- Premium Reports: $19.99/each
- One-time PDF fee: $1.99
- Contact Instant Checkmake for all options
BeenVerified is another of my favorite websites in terms of overall design. Like PeopleSmart, there is more information on the home page regarding testimonials, validation by news media outlets, guidelines for running searches and more. The site loaded quickly, but the search time took forever.
One would think that this means it is pulling massive amounts of data, but the results are unknown until you pay the piper. But, again I have to provide my name and email address just to see what the report will cost me. This is a big turn-off in my opinion
BeenVerified also has a hilarious commercial with Antoine Dodson, who you may remember from the infamous Bed Intruder viral video. Finding the best background check services is a serious endeavor. This lightens the task a bit.
- Monthly: $26.89
- 3 Month Unlimited: $17.48/month
Choose Your Background Check Tool Wisely
Without question, there are advantages and disadvantages to using all of these sites. Our role is to provide unbiased online background check reviews that allow the reader to discern what site will serve their needs best. Sure, it may seem like I am hard on these sites in my reviews, but in my world we have to carefully analyze data.
Clearly, we could delve deeper into our opinions on them, but because each search can yield different results, it is more important for us to provide the overview of interface, functionality and comparisons on price, data points and other attributes.
We then let our readers provide feedback for a more comprehensive analysis of their experience and the data they get in return. You can learn more about how background checks work here.
Which background check service provider are you leaning towards?
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