Be Careful of “Free” Background Checks
With the increasing recognition of the importance of background checks, it’s more important than ever to be cautious of Internet ads offering to do “free” background checks. Just for fun, I ran a background check on myself to see exactly what turned up. All I had to do was enter my name, city, and state – nothing else.
What I got for free was a nationwide list of people sort of named “Paul W. Barada.” In all, seven names reasonably close to my actual name popped up. Only one of the seven listed “Paul W. Barada.” Of course, it listed my age as 42, which I wish had been true. It also listed some names of family members – my wife, one daughter-in-law, and two of my sons, and my name, again. If I wanted to receive a “full report,” however, one option was “signing up” for the service for $10 per month.
To do any sort of real background check would ordinarily require at least two identifiers, preferably three: the person’s full name, date of birth, and, if possible, a Social Security number. The first two identifiers are essential to doing any type of reliable background check. This “free” site only asks for a name. And the results that came back listed Paul D. Barada twice with different ages, Paul J. Barada listed once, my son’s name twice, and a Paula W. Barada. The relatives listed were the same for all seven listings, one with another incorrect middle initial! My daughter-in-law won’t be happy about that.
They do have a “Terms and Conditions” section, listed in tiny type, which says, in part, “You shall not use any of our information as a factor in (1) establishing an individual’s eligibility for personal credit or insurance or assessing risks associated with existing consumer credit obligations, (2) evaluating an individual for employment, promotion, reassignment or retention (including employment of household workers such as babysitters, cleaning personnel, nannies, contractors, and other individuals), or (3) any other personal business transaction with another individual (including, but not limited to, leasing an apartment).” I’m not sure how they can enforce that, but there’s also a disclaimer about the company not being a consumer reporting agency as defined by the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
Aside from a list of names similar to the one entered, if I had wanted any other background information, there would have been a fee attached to it. I would merely urge you to remember the old saying, “When you get something for nothing, that’s what you get – nothing!” And there are dozens of sites on the Internet that have several similar “free” offers. If the one I checked is typical, the last thing I would ever consider doing would be to rely on any of the information they provide for much of anything