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Blogging background checking and security issues

3.16.2005

Free Background Checks

Criminal records are publicly accessible, but that doesn’t mean you can do a free background check. For starters, you’re going to have to know where the person has lived in the past. If you’re trying to check your own criminal history this isn’t a problem, but if you’re checking on a new neighbor, a babysitter, etc., then you probably don’t have easy access to this information. You’ll have to have the cooperation of the person if you want to dig up the dirt on them.

So let’s say you know where this person has lived. Public records in county and municipal courthouses are accessible to the public, but that doesn’t mean they’re easy to get to. If the person has lived in another state, you’ll probably have to go to that state and the county in which they lived in order to search the court records. The travel costs will probably be far higher than it would cost to hire a company or private investigator to do the records search.

Companies that provide quick and easy background checks do so by either purchasing or compiling themselves criminal records from courthouses across the country. Yes, there are people who go into a courthouse, type in the letter “A” and start writing away. Talk about a recipe for insanity. They then sell access to this database of criminal records for a fee. However, companies won’t give you access to this information unless you are doing the search for a legitimate reason, related, for example, to employment or a rental application. Do look for secrets in your boyfriend’s past your best bet is to hire a private investigator.

So what do you do if you don’t have money to hire anyone? Well, you’re reading an article on how to do a free background check so this is probably your situation. Here are the steps:

1. Find out where your person has lived, at least in recent years.

2. Say they lived in Cincinnati, OH. Go to Googleand search for “Hamilton County OH Clerk of Courts” to locate the Hamilton County (where Cincinnati is located) Courthouse. This happens to one of relatively few county courts that post their criminal records on their website. It’s a database and as such is updated periodically and is only as accurate as the person data-entering the information, but it’s far better than nothing. If they lived in another county, check to see if that county’s courthouse has a website with records online. If the county does post records online, you’ll probably be able to search for criminal records, civil records and the database of registered sexual offenders in the area.

3. If there are no records available online, try calling the county courthouse directly. Tell the person who answers that you’re trying to see if there are any criminal records on file for someone, and if you’re fortunate the clerk will search while you’re on the phone. It helps if you tell the clerk that you have a good reason for doing the search (for example, you’re thinking about hiring this person to watch your children but you suspect he has a criminal history).

4. If no records can be released over the phone and there is no online access, both of which are often the case, your only recourse is to hoof it over to the courthouse yourself and search the records manually. This is how most courthouses still operate, and is the method that returns the most accurate results. If you’re an employer hiring a company to do a background check for you, this is what you want them to be doing.

So, you can do a low cost or free background check locally if you’re willing to do a little legwork, but for a thorough, comprehensive background check your best option is to hire a reputable company or private investigator. As is usually the case, you get what you pay for.

7 Comments:

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