The best background check services make it simple and easy to search public records for information on people, for personal or business purposes.
Background check uses can vary from trying to connect with a long-lost relative (in which case you may also want to check out one of the best people search finder services and engines) or just find out who called you.
Alternatively, businesses can use background check services to vet potential new employees. This is by far the most common type of use, which is why many of the background check services on the market are geared more toward commercial use.
Because there’s no central, verified database that holds information on people, the type of things you’re likely to uncover can vary from person to person. If you’re lucky, you may be able to delve into real estate and business portfolios.
We've compared more than 20 background check services across various points, from the types of checks they perform, the time they take to complete, and the ease of use and dispute rate. As ever, we take pricing into consideration to check which offer the best value for money, and we’ve also taken the time to consider potential industry-specific features.
We've also featured the best identity theft protection.
The best background check services of 2023 in full:
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The sorts of checks that Intelius can conduct are fairly thorough, which is one of the reasons for its healthy score in our tests. As well as the typical sorts of data, like addresses, criminal history, and financial information, Intelius is also able to delve deeper into education history.
The company markets itself under several promises, including being somewhat of a people search tool, as well as uncovering criminal records and other background check information. It also has a pair of reverse search functions for addresses and phone numbers, if you need to clarify who called you, for example.
We found it quick to work and the intuitive interface was especially helpful. Billing practices can be a bit convoluted and it’s likely that you’ll need to sign up for a long-term membership to access things, which makes it a fairly costly proposition. If you’re a regular user, the quality of the data it can produce makes it worth the expense, but as a casual user you may want to look elsewhere.
Read our full Intelius review. (opens in new tab)
Instant Checkmate is primarily a people search finder with some criminal record searching and reverse phone number checking built in, but overall, we found that the data it can produce is extensive. According to the company, it has completed around 1.5 billion searches in total.
Getting your hands on the data in the first place may put you off, though, because users are presented with several prompts, warnings, and other pop-ups, and results aren’t instantaneous.
While it only checks public records, so it doesn’t do anything that its competition couldn’t do, it manages to compile data about properties, vehicles, addresses, family members, marriages, and bankruptcies in its reports, among other legal and criminal information. If you can overlook the disappointing user experience, it could be worth your time.
Read our full Instant Checkmate review (opens in new tab).
Like many other background check tools, TruthFinder can pull data from a number of public databases, but it can also delve a little deeper into certain private databases, giving you access to even more information.
Besides this, you can run its self-monitoring tool to find out what other people may be able to learn about you, like potential employers. You can even claim a particular record as your own, which allows you to correct inaccuracies or hide it from other TruthFinder users.
Overall, it’s an impressive platform with a wealth of knowledge, and while it’s not cheap, you can run unlimited background checks as part of your monthly plan.
Read our full TruthFinder review (opens in new tab).
When you use US Search, you’ll be limiting yourself to people in the US (obviously), however you can pull up all manner of detail and find people by name, phone number, email address, or home address.
Unlike other background checks, there’s no paywall stopping you from accessing some of the data, so you’ll only pay if you want to open up the full and more detailed report.
When the time comes for you to part with your cash, you can pay for a single report or pay a monthly bill that entitles you to unlimited reports. Overall, US Search promises to be a good tool for reconnecting with long-lost friends and relatives, and is the ideal place to start your search if nothing else, given that certain parts of it are free.
Read our full US Search review (opens in new tab).
As seems to be the case for most background check services, PeopleFinders traces its roots back to being a people-finding tool, unsurprisingly given its name. It works on the basis of reverse searching with the data you have.
In the very likely event that you get multiple results, some data like the person’s age and potential relatives are free to see, to help you narrow down the search before you commit to paying. Then, you can pay for a report, or an enhanced report with criminal information, or you can choose to subscribe and access unlimited reports.
We found its service comprehensive and it uncovered some data that 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, and the website can't be accessed outside of the US.
Read our full PeopleFinders review (opens in new tab).
BeenVerified offers up a number of different ways that you can search for a person beyond their name and address information, to their social media handle and even vehicle identification number (VIN), making it an incredibly versatile and powerful tool.
Reports include contact details, property records, criminal records, and social media information. However, you won’t get more detailed information about weapons licenses, traffic violations, and other records that some other people search finders offer. That said, you will be able to make use of its unclaimed property search function.
BeenVerified covers the usual background check essentials, but you won’t be able to buy a one-off report. Rather, you have to sign up for a monthly subscription that offers unlimited reports. You can choose between a recurring one-month subscription, or pay for three months upfront.
Read our full BeenVerified review (opens in new tab).
Best employee background check services
While it’s fairly uncommon for individuals to want to conduct background checks on others beyond the realms of basic people finding, it’s increasingly normal for employers to use such tools to find out more about potential candidates as part of the screening process. Criminal behavior, financial irregularities, or even history of drug use are all things that these tools could uncover while we sit patiently waiting to find out whether we’ve got the interview.
That said, getting the data isn’t necessarily easy as it relies on the companies having access to the necessary data and ensuring it’s relevant, correct, and up-to-date. This is made even harder when crossing state borders, not to mention international borders.
Choosing the right company to conduct your background checks, then, is essential. You’ll want to make sure that they operate in the correct regions and that they have access to the sorts of data you want. With that in mind, we’ve picked out the best employee background check companies for you right here.
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GoodHire covers areas such as criminal convictions, credit checks, drug screening, and identity verification. It’s also a handy tool for a range of industries with specific data catering to construction, healthcare, retail, and technology.
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. The interface is quite easy to understand too.
The advertised dispute rate of 0.03% is pretty astonishing, but it takes time for it to get results (sometimes even a couple of days) which could end up costing your company in lost time.
Read our full GoodHire review (opens in new tab).
Employment Background Investigations Inc. (now part of Sterling) 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 industries 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.
Larger organizations will be pleased to know that EBI can also conduct checks on a global scale, where databases and information accuracy allow. Beyond this, the online resources like webinars and guides make it a good all-rounder.
Read our full EBI Inc review.
One of the largest providers of employee background checks, Sterling covers the main areas of criminal and civil court checks, identity verification, drug and health screening, and workforce monitoring. Like EBI above, Sterling can also conduct searches on a global scale where certain criteria are met. It’s a NAPBS-accredited company and a member of the ASA.
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 varying amounts according to the depth and breadth of search required.
However for most clients, a more custom approach to employee background checks will be required leading to a personalized quote from Sterling.
Read our full Sterling review (opens in new tab).
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 or three days depending on the information required. 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 NAPBS which gives it authenticity, and checks are 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.
Read our full Universal Background Screening review (opens in new tab).
Yet another NAPBS-accredited provider of compliant background checks for employers, Peopletrail covers 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 levels. 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 Peopletrail emphasizes that they provide human guidance to ensure the right areas for information are checked. As ever, pricing varies depending on the sort of result you’re after.
Read our full People Trail review (opens in new tab).
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Best background check services FAQ
What is a background check service?
A background check service helps uncover information about a person’s past, like their education, work experience, and criminal history. With accurate information about a candidate, an employer can filter authentic applications from fraudulent ones. On the personal level, individuals can use the detailed information to narrow down potential long-lost relatives or friends.
The best thing about these sorts of checks is that they are simple and easy to do, and there's no public record of who was searching or who was searched, so there is no harm at all in using such services.
The main negative about these background check services is that they do tend to be limited, and if you want more than just names, addresses, and telephone numbers you may find it hard. Businesses looking to verify potential employees will need a more dedicated employee background check service.
How to choose the best background check services for you?
When selecting the best background check service, you'll want to start with defining your needs and the type of background checks you have to perform. Some types of background checks include driving records, criminal records, work history, and credit reports.
But if you only need to verify simpler information, like the candidate's degree or social media history, then you could opt to do it internally or through a basic background check service.
You'll then want to evaluate how long the service's checks take to complete. More complex checks may take longer to complete, but to ensure your hiring process isn't delayed, opting for a service that won't take more than a few days is best.
Lastly, look out for the service's ease of use and value for money.
Should I pay for a background check?
If you’re using it for the most basic purposes, for example finding out who that missed call was from, and you don’t intend to do anything with that information, then absolutely not. If you’re researching your family history and you want to reach out to somebody, then you may want to consider paying for an extended service, but check that the free offerings don’t bring up what you want first.
Employers will almost certainly have to pay for the service, especially if they want detailed information about criminal charges and so on. Again, if only basic information is required then you may want to handle things internally or use a free service before forking out.
How we test the best background check services
We've tested the best background check services across numerous aspects, like the type of background checks they perform, how long they take to complete checks, and the simplicity of their user interface.
We evaluated whether the services could provide checks for the specific requirements of industries like education, healthcare, retail, and more. We also considered how easy the platforms are to access and how user-friendly their interfaces are, and whether there’s any human guidance and support features.
Finally, checking for information on pricing and hidden fees rounded up our analysis.
Read how we test, rate, and review products on TechRadar (opens in new tab).