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How Easy is It to do a Background Check?

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It’s not difficult to do a background check; you can do it on practically anyone. If you have a person’s name, you can check if they have a criminal record, investigate their personal history, and get details about their driving record. There are even quite a few reliable and free background check sites you can use. There is no shortage of providers of this service on the market today.

However, being aware of the legal implications of doing a background check on someone without their consent is crucial.

Whether you want to get more information about a new neighbor or are hiring a new employee to grow your team, you will want to know how to do a background check. This guide has the details.

Doing a professional background check

The reason you have to check someone is the most important aspect. Are you doing a background check in a professional setting? You might want to delve into the background of a prospective employee or vet a potential tenant. In both cases, you intend to use background information to make an important decision about a person.

You need to obtain the person’s consent before you proceed. Otherwise, you are violating the law and disrespecting a potential tenant or employee’s legally protected rights.

Doing a personal background check

Doing a background check for personal reasons is completely different from performing one in a professional setting. Basically, you have the right to more information about someone you know personally. You might want to learn more about them out of curiosity, or you’re concerned about your safety. 

Here are a few potential screening scenarios for personal reasons.


Let’s say you’re looking for a nanny or a babysitter to take care of your children after school or a caregiver for your elderly parents. You don’t know anyone who’ll do it, so you have to hire someone you don’t know. In this scenario, no one can blame you for wanting to run a background check to look for potential red flags. You want to be sure your family is in good hands, and screening them can offer some peace of mind.

Vetting a potential date

You might have met a promising man or woman on a dating site and are considering meeting them in real life. Of course, you want to know more about them. You need to be sure they can be trusted. In this situation, you might run a background check on your potential partner to be sure they are who they say they are.


You might want to know more about a new neighbor who’s acting suspiciously, or there are other things that bother you, like lots of visitors at odd hours. You’re starting to think the neighbor might be involved in some sort of criminal activity. It can be advisable to run a background screening on your neighbor to see what you can find out about them. A background check can be used to learn more about that person.

Doing a check on yourself

You’re getting ready for a job interview and suspect your potential employer will run a background check on you. You want to know what they’ll find. You can self-check as a precaution. Job seekers are using self-background checks more and more often to make sure they don’t face unpleasant surprises during the pre-employment screening. A self-check is a personal background check.

Obtaining consent: a gray area

You don’t need someone’s consent to run a name-based background check for personal reasons. If you meet someone on a dating app, you don’t have to tell them before you check if they have a criminal history. Compliance with background check laws like the FCRA is irrelevant.

However, permission is needed if there is any element of an employment relationship. This is a gray area. For example, is a nanny a “personal” or a “professional” acquaintance? While hiring a person for a full-time job at a company is far more formal than hiring a babysitter to watch your kids, you are still technically that person’s “employer.” In this case, it’s always best to obtain consent before conducting any background screening. This applies to any professional you contract to provide a service for you or a member of your household, including real estate agents, investment brokers, and housekeepers.

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Christopher Stern
Christopher Stern is a Washington-based reporter. Chris spent many years covering tech policy as a business reporter for renowned publications. He has extensive experience covering Congress, the Federal Communications Commission, and the Federal Trade Commissions. He is a graduate of Middlebury College. Email:[email protected]

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