Why You’d Want to Run a Background Check on Yourself

Updated on September 6, 2021 | by James Stone

Background checks are part of our modern reality.  They’re legal, they’re easy to get, and they keep people honest.  Whether it’s before a job interview, renting an apartment, or applying for a travel visa, these checks are often conducted by companies and landlords before they contact you.  So, if everyone else is checking your background, shouldn’t you?  There are a number of reasons why you’d want to run a background check on yourself.

Reasons to Conduct Your Own Background Check

Avoid any Surprises

By nature, background checks compile personal information.  The information gathered can be used to decide whether you are eligible for things like employment or housing.  Knowing what information shows up on a background check allows you to be prepared for any questions that come up.

This is especially important if you have a criminal past or a bad credit history.  Not all of your information will necessarily show up on a background check.  It’s best to know what information is available.

You Can Correct Errors 

The systems that run background checks aren’t perfect.  They’re designed by humans, and humans make mistakes.  Even the information entered into public databases can sometimes have errors.  Running a background check on yourself will provide an opportunity to ensure the information is accurate and pertinent to you.

Save Time and Money

At some point, you may be asked to provide documents or records.  Gathering all of your information can be time-consuming, and replacing them is expensive.  A background check gathers all your financial and legal documents in one place and helps you avoid the hassle of tracking down things individually.  Many times, a background check can substitute as a replacement for actual documents.

Portable Records

Since a background check is conducted digitally, it provides you with a digital record file.  This is much easier to keep with you than mountains of paperwork.  Anytime you need to provide access to personal information, you can simply give access to your digital copy.

Most background checks will provide a minimum of credit history, address history, driving records, education, employment records, and criminal background check.

How to Run Your Own Background Check

Conducting a personal background check is a relatively simple task.  There are several excellent websites, like checkpeople.com, that you can use to get started.  The site can provide very detailed background checks, but it’s important to realize the information provided is limited to what is contained in public records.  Any information that isn’t publicly available will not show up on your background check.  In most cases, this is good news.

Check People offers your first background check for free, so if you’re only running one on yourself, you might be able to get away without paying a subscription fee.  Subsequent checks will require a subscription.

What Background Check Sites Can’t be used for

Background check websites are not considered consumer reporting agencies, and there are laws in place that don’t allow them to be used for this purpose.  Consumer reporting agencies are used to run credit reports, check social security numbers, and divulge sensitive financial information.  While some credit history information shows up with a background check, the information provided isn’t guaranteed to be complete.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act prohibits employers, landlords, and companies from using background check information to make decisions regarding housing and employment.  Most of the time, they are run to give a basic overview of a person’s history.  If something is found on a background check, a further investigation would be required to use the information.

What Information is Provided in a Background Check?

Background checks reveal lots of personal information.  The information supplied by background check websites includes:

  • Criminal and arrest records
  • Outstanding warrants for arrest
  • Court proceedings
  • Social media accounts
  • Traffic violations
  • Education and employment history
  • Ownership of property, houses, and vehicles
  • Email address, residential address, and phone number
  • Sex offender registry status

While some of this information seems private, keep in mind that if it shows up on a background check, it’s available in the public record for anyone to access at any time.

What to Look for in Your Results

If you’re going through an employment or housing screening, there are a few things you should look for when you run your background check.

If there are any criminal records or sex offender registry results that show up, rule out anything serious.  Especially if the records are inaccurate, education and employment history are another category of results to keep track of.

If you have several social media accounts attached to your name, check them out.  While it’s possible that some are outdated and inactive, a potential landlord or employer won’t know this.  If you find any accounts containing offensive language or inflammatory content, clean them up.  It’s also best to be aware of any past, less than desirable posts, so you can explain to them if needed.

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