Can Anyone Do a Background Check on You? The Troubling Truth
We live in an era of unprecedented lack of privacy. CCTVs (Closed Circut TV systems are monitored surveillance) and other public monitoring systems are everywhere. You have to give your identification for everything, even simple train tickets. It makes you wonder exactly how much personal information someone can get. I decided to dig a little deeper and see what I could turn up on the subject. The results are unsettling to say the least.
Can anyone do a background check on you? First, the bad news. Anyone, anywhere can do a background check on you at any time with minimal information. The extent of what they can find depends on how motivated and knowledgeable they are. Money buys even more information and if they are law enforcement, there’s not much you can hide.
What Can Someone Find Out
The quantity of information available through different venues is staggering. Literally, anything that has ever been recorded about you is probably still available. If you had a picture in a newspaper as a child, that image is probably backed up online. Even when it’s not a sufficiently motivated person can dig through newspaper archives.
Your birth certificate is a matter of public record. Any paperwork you file at a government office might be public information, with a few exceptions like your taxes and social security number. If you own real estate there’s a file for that. Likewise and marriages or divorces are recorded.
There are times when you volunteer the information. Whether you think about it or not, everything you put out on a public profile is there for the perusing. If you review a restaurant on yelp you just told people what city you’re in and gave information about your eating habits. It’s tough to think you could be your own worst enemy where privacy is concerned.
Dating Profiles and Photos
One third of marriages these days begin with an online meeting. That means a whole lot of people have dating profiles. The private information on those profiles isn’t really very private. Anyone with a subscription can potentially see what you like in the sack if you put it out there. Beyond that, any pictures you share online are searchable. You can find out plenty about a person with not much more than a pic to start from.
Most people know about the sex offender registry. For safety reasons that registry is public information. If you have other court records they’re mostly online these days. Some places still require an old fashioned written request. Surprisingly, court cases you won or testified at are also kept unless the record is sealed. Even so, sealed records have a time limit and they can be accessed by law enforcement and the government in some cases. Sealed doesn’t mean destroyed.
You may not like it, but your driving record can be viewed. Typically this means you need to consent, but if you want that job with the nice driving stipend, your boss may require that info before you get a company car. Even speeding tickets can be searched.
If there’s anyone left who doesn’t know a landlord can check their rental history, they probably haven’t done much renting. Not every landlord checks, but they all have the right to do so. Obtaining rental history is a paid service but, it’s not difficult to access.
The post office sells your information. There is no opt out from their list, and lying to them is fraud. Companies with appropriate licenses can buy the information. It costs them around $190,000 a year for that privilege but the list owning companies can turn around and resell the info they bought. In addition, the post office can give out your address to anyone who has a previous address as a forwarding service. Basically if you’ve ever been on a lease or had your address on a public form like a drivers license, then your location is fair game.
When you sign up for those burner phones and they ask for your information, that is recorded. Any phone whether landline or cellular that has ever been in your name is recorded somewhere. In case that isn’t perfectly clear, your current phone number is for sale unless it’s in someone else’s name. If you don’t own the phone because it’s registered to someone else, you should know you also don’t have the right to decide whether that phone can be tracked. The owner can give consent without you because it’s their phone.
CRA or FCRA
Credit reports are another source of background information. Obviously anyone who may extend you credit may want to know whether you have a history of honest payments and a half decent credit score. Unfortunately there are ‘instant’ credit check companies that often provide wrong or outdated information. Honest and compliant credit reporting is a topic unto itself, and a hot button issue for some. Most importantly, credit is another way to check someone’s background.
Between credit reports, and court cases with judgements against you, it’s not too hard to put together a financial profile. If you’ve had a bankruptcy or a lien it is part of your available history.
Deep and Dark
Conceivably, you have never heard of the Dark Web or Deep Web searches. It’s becoming more common for people to be familiar with terms like these, but what does that have to do with the price of tea in China or your personal data? TOR users have long sought to avoid scrutiny and prevent their data from getting out. Sometimes it’s because they are selling drugs, or running guns, but just as often it’s simply that modern adults don’t like being tracked. Deep Web searches can turn up activity that isn’t available to regular search engines like Google and Bing.
Who Can Do A Background Check
Honestly, just about anyone can check you out. It’s not illegal, and there are plenty of times when it is a very smart move for them. No one wants to discover their new friend or beau is secretly just out of jail. There is no way to stop people from checking.
You typically have to be over 18 to consent to look at the data and not misuse it. Beyond that there’s no real limit.
Online Background Check Companies
The name says it all. Online background checkers make the big bucks by compiling all the public information in a single source, so you don’t have to spend weeks of your life searching. Instant gratification pays well.
Anyone offering you a job should want to know more about you first. Although they need permission for credit checks, most other information is public. Modern employers almost always look at facebook and other public profiles.
When deciding whether or not to lend you money, credit agencies usually run a background check. This is entirely normal. You should, in fact, be worried if creditors don’t check your history. Before giving you money or credit lines, this is common sense. Question any business that takes you on faith, they may be con artists.
A PI gets licensed and bonded. They are familiar with more than just checking backgrounds and have training in their field. Additionally, they have access to databases that regular citizens often do not.
Police and Sheriffs
Perhaps it’s a bit obvious, but police can run license plates and other background information checks on people. Information access helps them perform their duties and is not a service they sell to the public.
For the same obvious reasons, some members of the military can check your background as well. Not every soldier can readily run a check on someone at the military level, but there are specialists who do that job. To prevent terrorism and otherwise protect from threats both foreign and domestic, they need information which is not always in the public domain.
The government has agencies that do everything from tax collection to federal interstate crime investigation. It should come as no surprise, especially after the Snowden leaks, that they can get your data.
If you want to be off the grid and have your privacy, there’s pretty much just one road to that destination. You’d have to disappear into a barren part of the planet and become a hermit in a cave. Anything short of that extreme reaction is going to generate a searchable ‘paper trail,’ that leads to you. As we become more adept at indexing information it’s value goes up and protections become less. Background checks are sadly, just a part of life now.
How can I tell if someone ran a background check on me? If you were asked to sign paperwork to permit a background check, then it probably happened. Credit reports may show that you were searched. Your score goes down temporarily when a hard inquiry happens. Most background agencies also show clients who has searched for them. However, it’s not always possible to tell if you’ve been searched.
Can my landlord do a background check without my permission? Yes they can. A credit check requires permission, but a general background check is different. Background information is usually public information.
Can my employer do a background check after I’m already hired? You bet they can. You can be the subject of a public information background check anytime. Your employer doesn’t need special permission to do this unless they want protected information like credit standing. Things like criminal history and marriage certificates are public for a reason. It helps prevent people from lying about their past. This is important to employers just like everyone else. If you make them suspicious they may run a check.