Best background check services in 2019: Personal and business

background check services
Image credit: Shutterstock
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Background check services enable you to find long-lost friends and relatives and to see if people or indeed potential employees are who they claim to be. So, for example, you can discover if Mr or Mrs Right has a family they aren’t telling you about, or if an interview candidate is wanted in 20 states.

While most background check services cover the essentials of address and family details (they’re not the same as credit checks: for those, you’ll need to go through the appropriate agency), others can tell you about educational histories and even social media accounts – and prices can vary significantly.

In this guide we'll tell you about the best background check services and websites for every kind of query.

And if you're a business owner specifically wanting to check out prospective staff members before recruiting them, then you can jump straight to our later section on:

Intelius background checks

Image credit: Intelius

(Image credit: Intelius)

1. Intelius

All the essentials plus education

Includes education
Useful visualisations
Subscription and single-report options
Relatively expensive
Reports aren’t downloadable

Intelius’s background checks are more exhaustive than many. In addition to the usual addresses, criminal history and financial information, it also includes educational history – useful data if you’re trying to find someone you’ve lost touch with.

We also like the way Intelius shows connections as a graph, making it easy to see how things are related. At around $50 per report it’s at the more expensive end of the market, but there’s also a monthly subscription option for regular use. And with the quality on show from Intelius, it should be worth the expense.

US Search background checks

Image credit: US Search

(Image credit: US Search)

Simple, comprehensive and relatively affordable

Affordable reporting
Good search options
Up-to-date data
No-frills website
Marriage data not always available

In addition to background checks, US Search enables you to travel back in time: the site looks and feels like Yahoo circa 1998. But the lack of web design budget appears to mean that US Search has been able to invest more in thorough search options and excellent price points.

A basic address and relatives report is less than $3, while adding a one-state criminal check takes the fee to around $15. A full report, which includes social media and marriage records (the latter in 11 states) is more like $40.

It may not be pretty, but it’s certainly pretty good value for money.

BeenVerified background checks

Image credit: BeenVerified

(Image credit: BeenVerified)

3. BeenVerified

Good, affordable and accurate

Superb for work history
Affordable subscriptions
Accurate data
Some data costs extra
Background checks require subscription

BeenVerified covers the usual essentials, but we found it particularly good at uncovering employment history. It doesn’t include property or business assets – that’s an optional extra – and there’s no option for individual reporting. But for a package that does all the basics right, BeenVerified is a fine choice.

You can choose between a recurring 1-month subscription pay a bigger lump for three months. The results are solid and the subscription fees aren’t too expensive - just what we like from a background check service.

PeopleFinders

Image credit: PeopleFinders

(Image credit: PeopleFinders)

4. PeopleFinders

Good value when it’s available

Affordable, comprehensive reporting
Uncovers data some rivals don’t
Easy to use
No social media data
Availability issues

PeopleFinders is a very good service. We found its service comprehensive and uncovered some data its rivals didn’t. For example, PeopleFinders told us about a company owned by one of our targets that other sites didn’t report.

It’s not so good on internet stuff, though, as it lacks social media data. At around $25 per month it’s one of the most affordable options, too, if you need to use it over a longer period of time.

Instant checkmate background checks

Image credit: Instant Checkmate

(Image credit: InstantCheckmate)

5. Instant Checkmate

An affordable all-rounder

Good value for money
Accurate and timely data
Great search tools
Downloading costs 
No single-report option
Inconsistent phone data

We’re not sure where the Instant bit of the name comes from: performing a single search took us ten minutes of incredibly slow progress bars and warnings of “surprising details” and “graphic content”, which seemed a bit unnecessary.

The slow progress bars are horribly reminiscent of ticket resale sites, but unlike that industry the Instant Checkmate prices aren’t horrifying: it’s less than $40 for a month and more like $80 for three months. There’s no single report option and there’s an extra charge for downloadable reports.

Image credit: Rawpixel / Pexels

Image credit: Rawpixel / Pexels

(Image credit: Image Credit: Rawpixel / Pexels)

Best employee background check services

Employee background checks are an increasingly normal part of the hiring process. While it used to be the case that only references were required to confirm a person's identity and good-standing, nowadays an employer will commonly also want to be aware of any records of criminal behavior, financial irregularities, or even history of drug use. This is all on top of mandatory Form I-9 immigration and eligibility checks.

However, getting the right information isn't always as easy as it sounds. Everything is dependent on background checking companies having access to the necessary data, and ensuring it is correct. Additionally, while it may be easier to get records from one state, it can become more of a challenge for providers to collate data from across the country, and even from abroad, where required.

This is why choosing the right company for making employee background checks is essential, because if the provider cannot produce the records required with the accuracy needed, this can result in risks to both the employer and employees. With that in mind, we've picked out the best employee background check companies for you right here.

Image Credit: Universal Background

(Image credit: Image Credit: Universal Background)

1. Universal Background Screening

Fully accredited background checks

Wide variety of checks available
County, state, and federal checks
NAPBS accredited

Universal Background Screening provides comprehensive employment checks at the county, state, and federal levels, using a combination of government and industry-specific databases. Key checks available include criminal records, employment history, as well as education, and professional accreditation records. Drug testing records, income, and Form I-9 compliance can also be verified.

Inquiries can be made directly through a client portal on the company website, and results are usually provided within two days for criminal checks, or up to three days for other forms of verification. However, there's also the option for ATS and HRIS integration within your HR department, where supported. A wide number of industry checks are available.

Universal Background Screening is an accredited member of National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS). Checks are fully compliant with state and federal legislation, as well as follow industry best practices for the protection of employers and clients.

Fees vary according to the background checks actually required, so will you need to contact Universal Background Screening for a quote according to your needs.

Image Credit: People Trail

(Image credit: Image Credit: People Trail)

2. People Trail

Background checks with human guidance

Wide range of industries
Accredited & compliant
Human guidance

People Trail is an NAPBS accredited provider of compliant background checks for employers, covering the areas of criminal records, identity verification, credit records, drug screening, credentials and education. 

The criminal records check can include felonies and misdemeanors and even traffic offenses as required, at the county, state, and federal level as needed. Civil court case records can also be included in any search of court databases.

The company is able to provide checks to the specific requirements of different industries, not least construction, education, finance, government, healthcare, and retail. Background checks provided can be as targeted or as comprehensive as required, and People Trail emphasizes that they provide human guidance to ensure the right areas for information are checked.

Pricing will vary according to the range and depth of any background checks made, so you will need to contact People Trail for a quote.

Image Credit: GoodHire

(Image credit: Image Credit: GoodHire)

3. GoodHire

Data-powered background checks

Search records directly
Mobile-friendly platform
Low dispute rate

GoodHire is another major provider of employee background checks, covering standard areas such as criminal convictions, credit checks, drug screening, and identity verification. The company covers a wide range of industries with specific background check needs, not least construction, healthcare, retail, and technology companies.

Where GoodHire differs from other providers is that it stores a lot of data for popular searches, and can provide this through a mobile-friendly platform for customers to carry out their own background checks. While some, not least a search of criminal or civil convictions, may still take a couple of days, for other more centralized data such as identify verification turnaround can be instant. Even better, compliance filters result in a dispute rate advertised as low of less than 0.03%.

Additionally, GoodHire are more upfront with their pricing plans so it makes it easier to budget for costs. While there may be set-up fees and third-party fees for accessing their databases, GoodHire provide three different priced plan levels. The Basic level provides an SSN Trace and search of national criminal and sex offender records, and costs $29.99 for each search. For a fee of $54.99 the Standard plan also adds country criminal court and watchlist searches, and for the $79.99 Premium plan there's also the option to search education and employment databases.

Image Credit: EBI Inc

(Image credit: Image Credit: EBI Inc)

4. EBI Inc

The global background check service

NAPBS accredited
ATS, HRIS, HCM integrations
Global search options

Employment Background Investigations Inc. (EBI) is another large provider of employment background checks, covering the key areas of criminal record checks, Form I-9 verification, drug testing, occupational health, as well as basic identity checks. The company also provides smart integration for use of its data using ATS, HRIS or HCM software, and an API for your own custom integration.

As with other providers, it covers a range of key industry which have compliance demands, not least transportation, education, healthcare, hospitality, and retail. They can also provide tailored solutions for small business, enterprise screening, as well as extended workforce screening to cover contractors and other third-party labor.

The customer portal allows customers to select which checks to actually perform, guided by EBI staff, and while most searches will be at the county, state, or national level, there are also options to perform global checks, where databases and information accuracy allows.

EBI also provides a number of online resources, such as online webinars and free ebook guides.

As with most other companies, EBI charge according to the range and depth of services required rather than a flat-fee.

Image Credit: Sterling Talent Solutions

(Image credit: Image Credit: Sterling Talent Solutions)

5. Sterling Talent Solutions

Background checks for large firms and SMBs

Big brand screening
NAPBS accredited
Small business packages

Sterling, also known as Sterling Talent Solutions, is another major provider of employee background checks, covering main areas of criminal and civil court checks, identity verification, drug and health screening, as well as workforce monitoring. They also offer to provide global checks, as well as social media searches, to ensure you hire employees you can trust. The company is NAPBS accredited and a member of the ASA.

The company works with a wide range of industries, not least construction, utilities, financial services, healthcare, hospitality, manufacturing, retail, and transportation. Sterling also offers specific services for small and medium sized businesses.

Although the company provides screening for major brands and agencies, Sterling also provides a number of packaged solutions for small businesses in order to make background checking services more accessible and affordable. These small business packages have flat-fee pricing, and cost between $29.99 and $79.99 a time, according to the depth and breadth of search required.

However, for most clients a more custom approach to employee background checks will be required and therefore will need to contact Sterling directly for a quote.