Become Your Own P.I.


How to run a background check

By Julie Myhre of for

Finding the right babysitter, renter or housekeeper can be a stressful experience. How do you know if they are reliable or safe? What is the best process for screening your candidates? While nothing can replace meeting and interviewing candidates for yourself, performing a background check is a good way to supplement the information you already have.


Despite common beliefs, companies aren’t the only ones running background checks on people they might want to employ. Anyone can run a background check from the comfort of their own home. Whether you’re thinking of hiring a nanny, choosing a roommate, or just looking for someone reliable to clean your house, a background check can help screen potential candidates.

Background check expert Michelle LaRowe, editor in chief of and executive director of Morningside Nannies, said it’s important to run a background check on individuals coming in contact with you or your family. “Background checks are one of the many screening tools available to parents to gather information about the individual they are considering hiring to care for their child,” she said.


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What information does a background check reveal?

Background checks can reveal everything from a person’s date of birth to their criminal history, depending on the service and option you choose. Basic identity or people searches usually only reveal general information about a person — such as a person’s date of birth, address, phone number, relatives, home value and income — while advanced searches reveal more in-depth information about a person — such as national/federal criminal record, bankruptcies, liens, previously owned properties, marriages/divorces and partial Social Security numbers.

How do you perform a background check?

There are a lot of different services to choose from when running a background check on someone. Most background check services range in price from $1 to $50, depending on the depth of the background service provided. One of the best ways to make sure you're getting accurate information on a background check is to get it from two different companies and compare the results.

LaRowe mentioned that one of the most important things when purchasing a background check is to understand what the service is offering you. "Parents have many options for running a background check," she said. "The most important thing they must remember is to inquire what they're purchasing."


If you're unsure where to start or what service to use, try Intelius. It’s reasonably priced service that is easy to use and provides accurate results. Another solid option is Integra Sca, which includes federal and state criminal searches in the check.

What information is required to perform a background?
When performing a background check, the more information you have about a person, the more accurate the results. The minimum information typically required includes full name and current or former state of residence. Age is also helpful with connecting you to the correct person's information - however it isn't required by most services.

"It is important to remember that the results of the background check are only as good as the information provided," LaRowe said.


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Where does the information on a background check come from?


Personal information included in background checks comes from a variety of places. However, most of the information comes from public records including, but not limited to: court records, marketing databases, voter registration records, real estate transactions, and sex offender registries.

LaRowe said if a person has multiple names, each name must be checked to obtain the most accurate information. “When considering background, verifying employment, education and credentials and checking references is also important,” she said.


What information should you look out for?

There is no real standard on what people should watch out for in a background check. LaRowe recommends that parents should look for more than a clean slate when they perform a background check. “Since nannies are role models, most parents insist that the nanny be free from criminal past and have a good driving record,” she said.


There is always a chance that there could be a mistake on a background check, so you should think of a background check as fact-checking tool that gives you an insight into someone’s past instead of an assurance that the person you’ll be hiring or living with is a good person. “It’s important to remember that background checks aren’t a guarantee that a crime hasn’t been or won’t be committed,” she said. “They’re simply a search for records associated with an individual.”

Who is worth performing a background check on?


Any stranger who comes in direct contact with you, your family, or your home is worth running a background check on. This includes babysitters, nannies, caretakers for elderly parents, potential roommates, house cleaners and anyone else that might come in direct contact with you. “The better question is who is not worth doing a background check on,” LaRowe said.

Have you ever performed a background check on someone?


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This article was originally published at . Reprinted with permission from the author.