How to Do a Free Background Check Online - Observer

How to Do a Free Background Check Online - Observer

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You’re a small business owner vetting new employees. You’re going on a Tinder date and want to avoid being catfished. You’re getting a new roommate, and you want to check they aren’t a homicidal maniac before moving in.

There are many reasons to run a background check on someone.
You might even choose to run one on yourself before going to a job interview so that you can tie up any loose ends or drunken photos floating around on the internet. It’s always good to know what others can find out about you with a few clicks.
So how do you get a free online background check?

Here we look at how to get a free background check online, as well as explore cheap paid-for background checks that go into more detail. Let’s get to it!

Can You Conduct an Actual Free Background Check?

You can indeed access background check services for free, but it’s going to be a pain in the ass, time-consuming, and a little inaccurate. It usually requires going through public records and court records state-by-state or doing some intense Google searches.
If you know a lot of background information about the person you’re checking on, then accessing their records is easier.

However, if you have limited background information to go off, then you’re going to struggle. Since public records are organized at the state/county/city level, you’ll need to know the exact places they’ve lived and/or been arrested if you rely on public and court records.
In this article, we’re going to discuss the free background check methods available. But if you want to save time and hassle, background check services like TruthFinder require much less information to get accurate results quickly.

Following the Law, if You’re an Employer, Landlord, or Insurer

How to Do a Free Background Check Online - ObserverHow to Do a Free Background Check Online - Observer

If you’re performing a background check on someone as an employer, landlord, or for credit, medical, or insurance reasons, then you must comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
It’s the law.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act states that you must use an official Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA) to run a credit check on your potential employee/tenant etc. A Consumer Reporting Agency maintains legal standards for data protection and dispute resolution.

Make sure you’re following the law when trying to get hold of someone’s credit report!

100% Free Background Check Methods


First things first, turn to Google. 
While googling the person’s name isn’t always going to turn up results, it’s still worth a try. The more common the person’s name, the more difficult it will be to get any meaningful results from Google.

If your potential employees are called “John Smith” and “Sally Jones,” you’re probably not going to find them.
Nonetheless, you can try these methods:
How to Do a Free Background Check Online - ObserverHow to Do a Free Background Check Online - Observer

  1. Search the person’s name + the name of their city/state.
  2. Search their name on Google Images to see if you can find a photo of them you recognize.
  3. Check the Google News tab to see if they’ve been mentioned in the news.
  4. Check the Google videos tab just in case.

Sticking someone’s name into a search engine is the simplest background check online. But search engines aren’t likely to return the results you’re looking for unless you get really lucky or you’ve got someone with an obscure name.

Social Media

Next, start checking social networks. If search engines have failed you, social networking sites might help you search more specifically. Type the person’s first and last name into various social network sites to see if there are any faces you recognize.
Social network sites to try include:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • LinkedIn
  • TikTok
  • Pinterest
  • SnapChat

Lots of people put their city, full name, and even their date of birth on their social media profiles, especially on sites like Facebook. These searches can make it easier to narrow down on people with matching names in the correct location and age range.
Still, many people lie on social media, have strict privacy settings, or simply don’t use them… so these searches are limited.

Sites like PeekYou

There are some websites like PeekYou that show you a free overview of a person’s online activity by typing in their first name, last name, and location.

While this is technically a free background check, these searches don’t go any deeper than basic social media activity and online presence. You won’t find arrest records or criminal history etc.
If you want something that digs deeper than simple online activity, sites like TruthFinder and Intelius can bring up criminal history, phone numbers, address history, driving records, and other personal information for a small amount.

County Clerk of Court Records

How to Do a Free Background Check Online - ObserverHow to Do a Free Background Check Online - Observer

If you have a good idea of where your person lives or has lived in the past, you can check up their public record information online.
Open up Google and search: “[State] + county clerk of court records.”
Once you’ve found the correct official government website, you should be able to search for publicly available information about the person. Though it will usually be limited, and you won’t get a very detailed report.
Also, remember that if the person has moved between different states and cities, you’ll need to do this for each and every place that they’ve lived. This information is public record, but they only keep records for things that happened in their specific city/county/state.

State Prison Records

If you’re suspicious that someone has a criminal background, then you can perform a very basic criminal background check by checking the state prison records for places they’ve lived. 
Open up Google and search: “[State] + corrections inmate”
Now find the official state prison website you’re looking for in the results. Once you’ve found the official portal, enter the person’s first name, last name, and city. This allows you to see criminal records and basic criminal background information, but some states charge a fee for this, and there are sometimes discrepancies too.
Also, you need to do this for EVERY STATE that the person has lived in or visited, checking criminal records from each and every one.
If you want to check criminal records from all 50 states without being charged extra fees, services like Intelius and Instant Checkmate can perform US-wide criminal record checks for a small fee. Many also come with a cheap trial!

Annual Credit Report (For Yourself)

If you want to check your own credit score before applying for a loan, financing, or lease, then you’re able to do so once per year for free.
Make sure your credit card spending isn’t landing you in hot water!
The three credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – are all required by law to give you a free credit check and report on yourself once per year.
If you need to check more often than that, then you’re going to have to pay for the privilege. Be sensible with your credit card!

Best Background Checks Services With A Cheap Trial

Okay, so free background check services are hard to come by. Free background checks require you to search through multiple states and counties, and cities to find public records of the person you’re looking for. Even then, it can be hard to know that you’ve got the right person.
Basically, free online background checks aren’t very good.
However, these background check service providers charge a small amount. Plus, many come with a cheap trial, so you can search and find all the criminal records and public records you need without it taking all day. We’d recommend you give one of the best online background check services a try!

1. TruthFinder – Best Overall Background Check Service

How to Do a Free Background Check Online - ObserverHow to Do a Free Background Check Online - Observer
Price: $27.78 per month (unlimited background checks)
Probably the most popular background check service online, TruthFinder allows you to perform unlimited background checks once you’ve signed up for their monthly membership. Their membership costs $27.78 per month, though you can run unlimited background checks on people once you have the membership.
There are many search parameters on truth finder, so it’s easier to search for people that you have limited background info on. Generally speaking, this background check service is very accurate and can easily return personal information such as:

  • Phone numbers
  • Email addresses
  • Social media details
  • Property ownership information
  • Educational background
  • Criminal records
  • Job history
  • Potential associates, friends & family members
  • Recent contact info

TruthFinder is available on mobile as well as PC, so you can run background checks on the go if necessary! The service clearly explains how all the information presented to you can be used legally, so if you’re a landlord or employer running background checks, you’ll know what’s in line with the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
On the downside, TruthFinder does require that you have a membership in order to run background checks, and you’ll have to pay an extra $2 if you want to download a PDF of any individual report. There’s also a weird emphasis on horoscopes, and they blow some things way out of proportion. Still, it’s just about the best background check service online.

Does TruthFinder Offer a Free Trial?

No, Truthfinder does not offer a trial period. However, membership only costs $27.78 per month, with discounts if you buy several months’ membership at once. Plus, once you have an account, you can run unlimited background checks on people.

Is TruthFinder Legit?

Yes, TruthFinder is legit. The information on this background check service tends to be accurate, and the service even tells you what you can and cannot do with the information legally. This helps landlords and employers to use this data in line with the FCRA.

2. Intelius – Best Background Check Site for Businesses (5-Day Trial)

How to Do a Free Background Check Online - ObserverHow to Do a Free Background Check Online - Observer
Price: $22.86 per month (unlimited searches)
Trial: $1.99 trial for five days
Intelius is a people search website that allows you to gather data from public records and private companies to paint a picture of the person you’re checking on. You put in their name and location; then you’ll be asked a few follow-up questions to try and narrow down the search.
As with TruthFinder, you need to sign up for a membership to see the full results. For $22.86 per month, you can enjoy unlimited background checks, which is nice. Established in 2003, Intelius is a trusted name when it comes to background check services, gathering data including:

  • Dating profiles
  • Email addresses
  • Contact information
  • Possible relatives
  • Mugshots
  • Felonies
  • Misdemeanors
  • Tax liens
  • Traffic tickets
  • Civil records
  • Criminal records

From employment data to publicly available information, Intelius lets you paint an accurate picture of the person you’re running a background check on without searching through dozens of government websites for hours. Information is sourced from the FBI, court records, lawsuit filings, real estate deeds, social networks, and various other sources.
On the downside, you need to pay a membership, and Intelius is NOT a CRA – so landlords and employers cannot legally use this information to make decisions about potential employees or tenants. The website can also be a little clickbaity, describing information as “POTENTIALLY GRAPHIC” to make you want to click more.

Does Intelius Offer a Free Trial?

How to Do a Free Background Check Online - ObserverHow to Do a Free Background Check Online - Observer

Yes, currently, there is a 5-day trial available for £1.99, after which you will need to sign up as an Intelius member to continue using their service. The membership starts at $22.86 per month, with discounts if you buy several months’ membership at once. Once you’re an Intelius member, you can perform unlimited background checks on people in the US.

Is Intelius Legit?

Yes, Intelius is legit, allowing users to search for information about arrest records, county records, employment history, online presence, and much more. Although Intelius background check searches are usually accurate, the service is not a certified CRA, so landlords and employers cannot use Intelius to vet potential employees or tenants.

3. Instant Checkmate – Best Value for Money (5-Day Trial)

How to Do a Free Background Check Online - ObserverHow to Do a Free Background Check Online - Observer
Price: $34.78 per month
Trial: $1 trial for five days
Like the best background check services, Instant Checkmate uses state records, county records, employment history, and many other public and criminal records to put together a picture of the person you’re searching for. There are multiple ways to search for your person, and the site explains how you can use the information legally.
This background check site has a nice interface and layout. However, many people have complained about the slow loading times, bad customer service, and the inability to purchase an individual report. Still, it has many upsides to consider.

Does Instant Checkmate Offer a Free Trial? 

How to Do a Free Background Check Online - ObserverHow to Do a Free Background Check Online - Observer
If you’re looking to run a free background check (well… nearly free), you should take advantage of the cheap trial offer from Instant Checkmate. Once you’re asked to pay for the service, simply leave your checkout for a few minutes, and soon enough, you’ll be offered a $1 (yes, one dollar) trial for five days.
You don’t often get background checks for $1!
After the $1 trial for five days, there are a few options for using Instant Checkmate. Here’s how they break down:

  • Monthly report membership – $34.78 per month
  • Quarterly report membership – $27.82 per month
  • Phone lookup membership – $4.99 per month
  • Trial offer – $1 for five days

It’s rare to get such a cheap trial offer for background check services, so this site could be a great way to see what kind of information you can get your hands on without paying for a monthly membership right away.

Is Instant Checkmate Legit?

Yes, Instant Checkmate is legit. The site will use various public information and private sources to find employment history, addresses, telephone numbers, online activity, arrest records, and various other criteria. 
However, employers and landlords cannot use this service to vet potential employees and tenants, as Instant Checkmate is not an official CRA.

What Is the Best Free Background Check Site?

If you’re looking for a strictly free background check site, then you’re best doing some Googling or using a basic site such as PeekYou. However, free background check sites only have access to very limited information, so your results will probably be mediocre.
Instead of free background check sites, why not try cheap services that offer a lot more data? Services such as TruthFinder allow you to run unlimited background checks for as little as $22.86 per month. While sites like Intelius and Instant Checkmate come with a cheap 5-day trial, allowing you to run as many background checks as you’d like.
Whichever background check site you decide to use, I hope you find the right fit for your needs and use all the information you obtain legally and responsibly. Good luck! How to Do a Free Background Check Online
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