The Do's and Don'ts of Running a Background Check

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The Do's and Don'ts of Running a Background Check

Are you looking for a long-lost school friend or family member? You may need to employ a babysitter or a contractor. Alternatively, you may have a new neighbor who appears to be acting strangely.

You may be considering running a background check to learn more about them.

Before you do, though, there are some rules. Only some people mentioned in the opening paragraph can be legally searched for via background check software.

Here is a list of the do's and don'ts of running a background check.

The Do's

When attempting to get more information on the following people, feel confident you can use background search software for that purpose.


You could, and really should, do a background search on yourself just to see what information is out there. Many people don't realize that many of their online transactions end up in people search databases.

Any property or motor vehicles you've bought and sold, public and court records are public domain, so anyway can (and do) access them.

Long-lost Friends, Relatives, Lovers

If you're naturally curious about what's become of someone who was once in your life, and the person hasn't made it clear that you can't contact them, you're welcome to do a background check on them.

Even if you've never met them, for example, a birth parent, if you were adopted, you can search for them this way.

Potential Roommates and New Neighbors

Finding the right person to share a house or apartment with isn't an easy task. The type of person they are, their behavior, and their character are all considerations. Performing a background search can highlight any flags in their past to help you make an informed decision.

If someone new has just moved in nearby, you're also welcome to do a background search on them to be sure they're the proper fit for your building or community.

Before Meeting an Online Date

Online dating is now considered the way to meet your new partner. Finding someone online that you connect with and then agreeing to meet in real life isn't without its hazards. Unfortunately, many people use these platforms for catfishing or stealing money.

If you're planning to meet in real life (IRL), it's imperative that you do a background search on the person to be sure what they say is true. You're well within your rights to do this.

Potential Online Buyers and Sellers

Provided this isn't an attempt to determine creditworthiness (see below), running a background check on an online merchant or customer is legitimate and worth doing. It's even more essential if you plan to meet them in person.

The Don'ts

There are some people you cannot perform background checks on for legitimate reasons.

Anyone Covered by the FCRA

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) covers anyone you choose to employ. This includes but isn't limited to, domestic help, including babysitters, job applicants if you're a recruiter, and tenants if you're a landlord. You're also not allowed to do a background check to determine a person's creditworthiness, including insurance assessments.

These people are all protected by the FCRA, and any search on them must be conducted via its channels.

Respect For Privacy

If a person has asked you, legally or otherwise, not to contact them, you cannot do a background check on them. This activity is seen as an attempt to contact and is breaching the law.

For Criminal Activities

Anyone considering stalking, spying, or seeking information for identity theft is banned from using background search software for these activities.

Be Aware Of the Rules

There is a time and place for performing a background check on a person. In most instances, it's perfectly fine and something to consider seriously. Be careful about crossing the line, though, and using the apps where you can't.

Anyone that you're considering employing, for whatever reason, is off-limits. The same goes if you want to check a person's creditworthiness. The same rules apply if you've been asked not to contact the person.

Almost everyone else is fair game. Long-lost friends and relatives, potential roommates or neighbors, online dating, and sellers or buyers all fall under the 'can' category.

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