how to do a background check on someone

Sometimes, it’s important to know how to do a background check on someone without them knowing. Whether a person wants to check the criminal history of a new coach, a youth pastor at a church, or a potential nanny, conducting a background check can provide peace of mind that the person is trustworthy.

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Finding public records on someone isn’t impossible, and when done for personal (not professional) reasons, it doesn’t require permission. But before using background check services to search for criminal convictions, job history, driving reports or credit information, users should know that there are many different types of background checks that can be performed, and there are some things to understand to avoid legal violations.1

All official background checks, such as those used for employment, residency, adoption or firearms purchases, require the consent of the person being searched. However, most of the information gathered in a background check report is all part of the public record. So, when conducted for personal reasons, anyone can learn how to do a background check on someone without them knowing and gain access to the same criminal history data, when done correctly.

How To Find Personal Records: Follow These Steps

In most cases, it is very simple for an individual to gather background information on someone without getting consent. To be on the safe side, everyone should know the necessary steps required to delve a little deeper into someone’s past, especially if the person is close to any loved ones.

Identity (ID) Verification Background Check

Identity verification is part of life, but when learning how to do a background check on someone without them knowing, it can be tricky. During an official background check, the process is much easier because the person has likely provided a government issued identification card (driver’s license, green card, visa, etc.) and employers and other institutions can simply perform a social security number verification check, or access official databases to verify the ID is correct.

However, when doing a personal background check, there are a few steps involved:

Step 1. Find the person’s full name (including middle name) and address.

There are a number of public record databases that can be searched to find a person’s middle name, date of birth, and address. Reverse lookup options for online background check reports can help, but it’s usually more accurate to search the partial name within the county where they live, using the comptroller’s office or county clerk’s office rather than using a free online background agency to find someone’s middle name. A free background check company isn’t always the most reliable for accuracy of the results.

For example, search Los Angeles County Clerk and choose the “.gov” link:

In this case, follow the link to the Clerk’s office website and choose “real estate” or ‘marriage’ records:

Complete the records request as outlined.

This method only works if the person being searched is a property owner or married, but there are other resources available that don’t depend on specific ownership or activity.

Step 2. Check social media accounts.

Probably one of the fastest ways to verify someone’s identity is to check online. People post all sorts of personal information to public social media profiles, and searching the name in any search engine will likely provide a number of potentials.

Step 3. Explore social media profiles and gather additional information.

The benefit of using online resources is that the background ID check can ensure that the person being checked is the same individual, hopefully with pictures and other confirmation.

Once the identity, address, date of birth and more is found and verified, criminal records can be checked and other background checks can be performed.

Criminal History Background Check Process

The FBI provides nationwide criminal history checks using the Criminal Justice Information System, but the request requires fingerprints. That doesn’t mean that a person’s criminal history can’t be checked without them knowing, it just means that the process will take more time.

Typically, the best place to find criminal records is at the local level, either the state police database or the state Court Clerk’s office. Both options provide access to criminal records, which are considered public unless the conviction has been expunged or sealed.

Follow these steps to know how to do a background check on someone without them knowing:

Step 1. Visit the state’s law enforcement and court clerk’s website.

Sometimes, both sites aren’t needed to complete the criminal records search, but it can be a good idea to use both, since the state court clerk may not have the latest arrest information, which a local law enforcement agency (like the county or city) likely will.

For example, search “Illinois State Police” and choose the official website link. Although all states will be different, Illinois offers “quick links” for criminal history searches, including sex offender registries:

Follow the link for criminal history services, and open the PDF “Background Check Guide.”

In this case, the process requires fingerprints, so instead, go back to the browser and search the Illinois Court Clerk.

A quick look through the site shows that to find criminal history and court documents by name in Illinois, searchers need to use the county court clerk option.

Step 2. Use County police and Court Clerk options.

For example, search Cook County Clerk of Courts:

Bingo. Now, simply enter name information and see results.

If this doesn’t yield results, also check the law enforcement site for Cook County (usually county’s are run by the sheriff’s office, while cities are run by police departments).

Once on the site, the following online services are available to search, using name information:

  • Incarceration records (current)
  • Animal Abuse registry
  • Sex Offender registry
  • Submit Records requests
  • Check Subpoenas

As a final option for finding criminal records, users can pay a service to conduct a background check on someone else, but steer clear of ‘free’ offers, which generally don’t offer the latest records and data.

Credit Background Checks

Credit background checks can help employers reduce the risk of fraudulent individuals being hired by an organization. Especially for roles where a person will be in charge of confidential or sensitive information from clients, a detailed vetting strategy is required.

However, this cannot be done without a person’s consent, because it requires sensitive personal information, such as social security numbers and more.

  1. Individuals and businesses alike must obtain permission and consent from the individual being investigated.
  2. Employers can use the Society for Human Resource Management to gather forms necessary to perform  background checks and credit reports.
  3. Using accounts, access either Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion to legally obtain another person’s credit report (i.e. employment history, credit, tenancies, and debts).

Background Check for MVR Reports

A Motor Vehicles Report (MVR) is also considered public record, and can be requested by anyone, in most states, but there is not national database available.

Keep in mind that always checking the laws pertaining to personal information searches is a good idea, to avoid liability. Moreover, it is illegal to use public records to commit crimes, like stalking, harassment, and other violations.

The MVR report check shows the person’s driving history, license, past license statuses, vehicular crimes, traffic citations, unpaid summons and other information.

Step 1. Search “[State Name] MVR Search” in any browser.

The result will return an official state site, somewhere near the top, and this is usually the Secretary of State’s (SoS) office, Department of Motor Vehicles, or other “.gov” domain.

For example, the result for Illinois MVR reports, provides a link to the SoS’s office, driving abstract, with instructions for requesting the record.

Step 2. Follow the steps outlined for requesting another person’s MVR report.

Note: In many cases the request will require the Driver’s License number. Without the license number, many state’s won’t deliver the result, but there are some that will.

Step 3. Pay the stated fee and wait for the processing of the report.

This type of background check can be particularly useful when checking the safety record of a person who might be driving loved ones around.

Remember, none of these processes should not be used for professional reasons without consent. In other words, when performing a nanny background check, make sure to obtain written authorization before running any criminal history or driving record searches.

Professional License And Education Background Checks

While the process for obtaining official education records does require consent, there are many ways to verify professional licenses and education without formally requesting them.

LinkedIn (if the account has been verified) can be a great resource to use for initial background checks.

To get further confirmation, visit the school’s (or Schools listed) alumni list or admissions and records office and search for the person’s name.

Some things to find out if possible:

  • Name of the Degree or License
  • Years Attended
  • Date of Graduation
  • Accreditation Numbers

Fingerprint Background Checks

Fingerprint background checks require consent because the process to submit fingerprints to the FBI is very detailed and specific.

How To Steps:

  1. Submit a request online to the FBI via their online portal.
  2. Go to “Obtaining Your Identity History Summary” to submit the request, and follow the checklist exactly.
  3. Visit a USPS fingerprinting location to submit fingerprints electronically or visit a local law enforcement center (or pre-approved channeller) to obtain qualified fingerprint submissions.

Because of the process involved, FBI criminal data cannot be accessed without the person knowing.

E-verify Background Checks

The e-verify electronic background check provides information about a person’s legal ability to work in the United States. It can be performed without consent, without the information found on the IRS I-9 form.

How To Steps: Consent NOT Required

  1. Navigate to the E-verify website.
  2. Choose the Self-Check option.
  3. Enter the information using the quiz and questions provided.

Note: A Social security number is required in step 3.

Sex Offender Registry Check

The National Sex Offender Registry and subsequent state-based sex offender registries can be checked very quickly and easily, using a person’s name, and sometimes, address.

Step 1. Navigate online to the National Sex Offender’s Registry website.

This national database is free to use for anyone.

Step 2. Search the database using name or location information.

The options allow users to check a specific name or to search for sex offenders in their area. This feature can be particularly helpful for searching new locations for residency, school safety, and more. In addition to the national database, each state has it’s own offender’s registry.

Step 3. Search “[State Name] Sex offender registry, using a online search engine.

These search options make this one of the fastest background checks anyone can perform on another person without their consent.

Some states also have the option to enter a specific address (unlike the national site which only searches by radius). This is an advantage if the address is known.

Make sure to verify any offenders who appear in the results page, using their mugshot, which is included on the national site and many state registries. When conducting a background check, this search can also provide additional information about incarceration and probation status, depending on when the crime occurred.

Can You Run a Background Check On Someone Without Them Knowing?

The answer to whether someone can run a background check on another person without them knowing is yes. But the level of information available using manual methods can be time consuming and if a nationwide check is required, can end up costing a good amount of money in individual records request fees.

This deters many individuals from performing the check themselves. However, there are a number of reputable background check agencies that will search national databases, check for arrests and criminal records, and find personal information for a lump sum. These sorts of checks usually cost from $20-$50 each, but researching the company first can help prevent wasted time and money.

Regarding a background check, the necessity of consent depends on the types of background checks and the methods used.2 However, for the most part, all background checks conducted by employers or organizations require user consent. In fact, any check performed for official (or professional) reasons requires approval from the person being checked.

The following provides a quick break down:

  • Credit history – YES: If an employer wants to check a credit history report, they will need to have consent before they can see previous credit scores, financial issues, or fraudulent claims. Submitting a free credit report can be a good way to complete the process and perform a background check on yourself first.
  • Third-party agency – YES: Written consent from the future or current employee is also required if the employer is going to hire a third-party agency to investigate a person’s background.
  • Additional information – YES: Written consent is required for an employer to gain future information not included in other typical background searches, such as details on previous military service.
  • Signed Authorization – YES: In most states, employers are not allowed to conduct a background check on an individual without the potential employee signing an authorization form. If an employer conducts a background check without consent, this is breaking federal law.
  • No Previous History – YES: If an employer wants to execute a background check on a current employee who has given the employer no reason or cause for concern in the workplace, the employer will have to obtain consent before doing the check.
  • Adverse Action – YES: Employers must notify potential employees their background check information can negatively or positively influence their job application status for the open position.3 Employers must notify potential employees about the influence their background has on their employment status and acknowledge the influence.
  • Periodic Checks – YES: Employers must inform their current employees about the potential for periodic background checks and obtain consent before doing so.
  • MVR Records – YES: Individuals can get their driving records from the DMV, but other parties, such as organizations and businesses, must have consent from the person before conducting an MVR report.4

In some instances, employers and organizations can conduct a specific type of background check on a future employee or current employee without their consent, such as a pre-employment check, but this is rare, and depends on specific state law.

Although the majority of checks require consent, certified organizations, government institutions, or private individuals may have more leeway when it comes to consent for all types of background checks.

Personal Background Checks On Another Person

Doing a personal background check on another person does not break any laws, as long as the check is being used for personal reasons, and the information won’t be utilized to harass or harm someone else. In some instances, it can be helpful to learn how to do a background check on someone without them knowing.5 Just a few reasons include:

  • Checking out the history of a child’s coach, teacher or youth minister
  • Investigating someone who acts weird around a loved one
  • Discovering more about a child’s boyfriend or girlfriend

What About Credit Checks?

Regarding the credit check, the Fair Credit Reporting Act regulates the limit of credit checks and limits who is legally authorized to check credit histories.6

However, certain situations do not require permission for credit checks, such as instances related to a grand jury subpoena, child support determination, insurance transaction, or some credit transactions. However, these special conditions don’t apply to a private inquiry on another person and are typically carried out by law enforcement agencies or the courts.

Can You Tell If Someone Is Doing an Information Check On You?

There is no way to tell whether or not someone is performing a personal background check on another.

But, finding out what a person can – and cannot – find out without permission is the best way to be prepared. To do so, conduct a personal background check on yourself.

Know Your Rights about Illegal Background Checks

If an organization conducts a background check on someone without their permission, this is illegal. If this occurs, the person being checked should consider consulting an attorney who specializes in criminal background checks and employment checks.

Individuals also have the right to challenge incorrect information or criminal history data that should have been removed from the public record.

Lastly, organizations that conduct a background check that is then used to terminate employment or reject an application are legally required to tell the individual and provide a summary of rights.

Will Someone Know If You Look Up Their Address And Arrest History?

In most instances, criminal court records are publicly accessible – meaning anyone can look up a person’s name and view their record and the person checked is not notified.7 However, sealed records and record holders keep certain records confidential from the general public.

In either case, the person being checked will not know that their information has been searched.

How To Run A Background Check On Someone Free…Like Run A Background Report On My Boyfriend?

There are a number of ways for how to do a background check on someone without them knowing, like a boyfriend. Follow the steps outlined above and also try the following methods:

Research Online

There are dozens of websites, search engines, and databases that can provide personal information on someone, especially if that person has more than one social media profile.

By searching a person’s name, search engine results will also provide news stories, and other instances, which can indicate previous incidents with the law, and more.

Public Records

Public records searches are also a good option, since it’s likely the basic information (name, date of birth, address, etc.) about the boyfriend or girlfriend is known.

Public records include criminal reports, arrest records, outstanding warrants, pending charges, dismissed or dropped charges, tax liens, police reports, convictions, and court records. These can all be searched manually, state by state, or a professional service can be used to check them all at once.

All official background checks require consent to avoid any legal issues and lawsuits, except in very rare cases when conducted by law enforcement and other governmental entities. However, individuals can learn how to do a background check on someone without them knowing and avoid any repercussions by using the public records options available or a reputable background check service.


Whether you are hiring a new employee to flesh out your team or simply want to know more about the person who just moved in next door, you may wonder how to do a background check. 

In professional and personal contexts alike, looking into criminal history, past employment, and other elements of a person’s past can offer peace of mind and deeper understanding. However, if you plan to conduct a background screening on someone, it’s important to know the legal implications of that decision, among other potential complicating factors. In this post, we will explore how to conduct background checks in a smart, legally compliant way.

Can You Run a Background Check on Another Person?

The first question is the most obvious one: Can you go searching into someone else’s past?

In the simplest terms, the answer is yes; you can run a background check on anyone. If you have a person’s name, it is possible to look into their history, check their criminal record, find details about their driving record, and more. However, an important caveat here is that there could be legal implications to running a background check on someone without their consent. 

<strong>How to Do Background Checks in a Professional Setting</strong>

The most important question to ask yourself before running a background check concerns the purpose behind the check. Are you conducting a background check in a professional setting? Perhaps you are screening a job candidate you want to hire for your business. Alternatively, maybe you are a landlord who wants to vet potential tenants before you approve or deny their applications.

In either of these situations, you plan to use a person’s background check information to make important decisions about them and their future. Numerous laws dictate what you can and can’t do in this setting. Crucially, you must obtain the consent of the person you are vetting before you move forward with the background check. Otherwise, you are failing to comply with the law. You are also disrespecting the legally-protected rights of a prospective employee or tenant.&nbsp;

Breaches of compliance on this level can lead to legal action. For instance, employers must comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) when conducting background checks for employment purposes. The FCRA has several detailed steps and policies that employers must follow. These requirements concern everything from the consent form to the process an employer should use to notify a candidate about an adverse hiring decision.

Ultimately, you<span>&nbsp;</span><em>can</em><span>&nbsp;</span>run a background check on anyone in a professional setting. In fact, employers, landlords, and other decision-makers are obliged to screen candidates to protect themselves legally. If an employer hires a candidate with a violent history and that person ends up hurting a coworker or customer, the employer can be held liable and sued for negligent hiring. Not running a background check usually poses a more significant legal risk for an employer than running one.&nbsp;

However, employers can also face legal blowback if they don’t follow proper protocol to ensure FCRA compliant process. Said another way, you are only allowed to run background checks in a professional setting if you have gone through the proper channels to disclose your intentions and obtain authorization.&nbsp;

The FCRA, along with other background check-related legislation, can be complex and difficult to understand at first. The good news is that learning the ropes is possible, especially with the guidance of a legal professional. Most employers use background checks to screen all new hires, and the majority never run into any legal issues related to their checks. That’s because these employers are extremely careful about following the FCRA to the letter, as failing to do so can be an extremely costly mistake. Your business can learn the rules and guidelines too, and establish smart policies that protect you from negligence without risking lapses in compliance.

<strong>How to Do Background Checks in a Personal Setting</strong>

Vetting prospective employees has become one of the most popular applications for background checks. Not all background checks occur in the employment setting, though, or even in a professional setting. If you wish to<span>&nbsp;</span>run a background check on someone for personal reasons, it’s entirely different from screening a potential tenant or job applicant.&nbsp;

Here are a few potential background check scenarios that fall more on the personal side of the spectrum:
<ul type=”disc”>
<li><strong>Personal relationships:</strong><span>&nbsp;</span>Perhaps you met someone online or via a dating app, and you want to know more about them. You are considering starting a personal relationship with this person, but want to make you can trust the person first. In this scenario, you might run a background check on your would-be significant other to make sure they are who they say they are.</li>
<li><strong>Babysitting:</strong><span>&nbsp;</span>You are looking for a babysitter who can care for your children after school or in the evenings. No one you know personally can take on the responsibility, which means you need to hire someone you don’t know. You might run a background check in this situation to look for potential red flags. You want to have peace of mind that your children are in good hands, and a background check can give it to you.</li>
<li><strong>Curiosity:</strong><span>&nbsp;</span>You recently moved into a new neighborhood and have noticed some suspicious people hanging around the neighbor’s house. You think the neighbor might be involved in some sort of criminal operation, but you aren’t sure how to find out for sure. In this situation, you might be interested in running a background check on your neighbor to see what you can learn about them and their history.</li>
<li><strong>Self-checks:</strong><span>&nbsp;</span>You are preparing for a job interview and want to know precisely what an employer will see when they run a criminal search on you. As a precaution, you run a<span>&nbsp;</span>background check on yourself&nbsp;to make sure your record looks the way it should.</li>
The rules around these types of background checks are less understood and typically less enforced than the rules around<span>&nbsp;</span>professional setting background checks. When an employer runs a background check on you, they know they need to obtain your consent to avoid problems with compliance. If you asked the average person whether applicant consent was necessary for an employment screening, they would say yes. Answers would probably vary more if you asked someone about background checks for babysitters or significant others. Do you need consent if you want to run one of these checks?

The answer is complicated. Criminal history information (and most other information that background checks find) is public record. You can sometimes find this information just by doing a Google search of a person’s name. If you don’t need to consent to Google someone or look them up on social media, do you need consent to order a more formal check through a background check service?

If you want to run a name-based background check on a significant other, a neighbor, or someone else for purposes relevant exclusively to a personal relationship, you can do so without consent. If there is any element of an employer-employee relationship at play, you need written permission from the person you are vetting.&nbsp;

Hiring a babysitter to watch your kids might be a less formal process than hiring someone for a full-time job at your business. However, you are still technically serving as the “employer” for the person you choose to hire for this role. As such, it’s always wisest to get consent. The same rule applies to anyone you hire to provide a service for you and your family — from housekeepers to investment brokers to realtors. It is always better to be safe than sorry for FCRA compliance.

<strong>People Also Ask:</strong>
<li><strong>How do you get a background check as a private citizen?&nbsp;</strong>Most of the checks we offer at Blinkx are geared toward employers or other entities operating in professional capacities. However, we also provide a background check service<span>&nbsp;</span>through a partnership with PeopleFinders<span>&nbsp;</span>that private citizens can use to gather information about neighbors, significant others, friends, or other personal acquaintances.&nbsp;</li>
<li><strong>How long does a law enforcement background check take?&nbsp;</strong>Many criminal background checks involve going directly to a law enforcement source—be it a county court or a state police repository. These searches typically take several days, though the wait time can vary depending on the law enforcement agency or jurisdiction.</li>
<li><strong>How to do an anonymous background check for criminal records?&nbsp;</strong>A personal background check, such as the PeopleFinders one described above, can be done “anonymously” in that the subject of the background check won’t be notified. If you are vetting someone in a professional capacity, it is illegal to do so without informing the person about the background check.</li>
<li><strong>How to Get a Self-Background Check?&nbsp;</strong>We offer<span>&nbsp;</span>a dedicated service<span>&nbsp;</span>to help customers run criminal history searches on themselves.&nbsp;</li>
<li><strong>How do I do an employment background check?&nbsp;</strong>Employment background checks require compliance with a variety of laws. In addition to the FCRA and guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), employers must be aware of any local or state laws that may apply. For instance, many jurisdictions now have “ban the box” laws, which prohibit questions about criminal history on the job application and often delay the background check until later in the hiring process. Make sure you know any relevant laws and ordinances before conducting an employment background check.</li>
<li><strong>What kind of credit check do employers run?&nbsp;</strong>Employers use various background checks to vet candidates, including criminal history searches, verifications for past employment and education, reference checks, and more.</li>
<li><strong>Can employers go back on your criminal background forever?&nbsp;</strong>Most states have laws limiting the criminal background check lookback period to the past seven years.</li>

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