Free Background ChecksThere are a lot of reasons you might want to perform a background check - in fact, millions of background checks are performed every year in the US. These background checks come from potential employers, neighbors, friends, romantic interests and more.
Are they really free?
Unfortunately these background checks are rarely (if ever) actually really free. When many sites advertise "free background checks," what they are really referring to is usually the initial check to make sure that whoever you want information on is included in the database - the actual report usually costs anywhere between $20-150 (depending on the quality and quantity of information returned).
Most of this information is available through public sources, but the data is indexed and aggregated by private, for-profit companies. If you suspect that somebody has a criminal record and you know which county they would have been charged in you can probably call the court and find out what they were charged (and subsequently convicted) of.
The trick is knowing what counties to look in - the only way to know for sure if somebody has a criminal record is to do a full background check (which still may not return some misdemeanors).
How much is a background check worth?
When deciding whether to pay for a report or not it is important to figure out what a background check is really worth to you. If you are just curious about your neighbors, for instance, but they don't pose a real risk to you or your family, a background check might be overkill.
If you are considering a relationship with somebody that you suspect may have a criminal record, $40 or so may make perfect sense. Also, if you are considering hiring an employee for a small business a background check can be a very savvy investment.
Should I pull my own background check?
Maybe it sounds weird, but you should consider pulling your own background check. This will give you the opportunity to see yourself the way any potential employer, spouse or neighbor would see you if they purchase a background report on you. Of course if you have never been charged with a crime this shouldn't be a concern, but if you have it can also be a worthwhile investment.
If you do have charges showing up on a background check you should look into expunging your record - depending on the type of convictions you have and the state they took place in this may be a possibility. Again, this is situation where you may have to pay some money but in the long-run you will easily earn it back (in terms of higher wages).