People come to Jail Data for a variety of reasons. We are a reliable source of information about prisoner, jails, and inmates from all over the United States. We also are known for our criminal history and arrest record searches, which people can use to find out more information about the people in their lives and even to find out what their public record histories say about them. Using these services provided by our partners, our customers have been able to take steps to make their lives better and more secure and have gotten notice of errors in their public criminal history backgrounds. However, what many of our users do not realize is that our background checks feature is not limited to criminal histories and arrest records. We offer full-service background check information that goes beyond a basic criminal background check and helps people find out about those around them.
What kind of information can you find out when you check someone’s background record? It depends on what type of footprint the person has left. A person who has never had a cell phone or utility listed in his or her own name, never been married, has no children, has never been on a lease, has not been involved in a lawsuit, has no criminal history, does not have a driver’s license, does not participate in social media and is not a property owner might have a very limited public record that only reflects basic information one might find on a birth certificate. Other people have extensive public records that detail a substantial portion of their lives. Most of us fall somewhere between those extremes, with background checks providing a significant amount of insight into our personal lives.
The first thing a basic online background check reveals is where a person lives. Background checks can generally provide current address information on a person, unless that person has taken steps to avoid having his or her address publicized. Even if a person is not on a lease and does not have any utility bills in his or her name, a background check may still reveal address information. People use their addresses in a variety of different contexts, and something as simple as car registration puts an address into the public record. For someone who has taken steps to avoid having a current address publicly available through a background check, knowing the people listed as relatives and cohabitants in the person’s history can help you locate current addresses for those people, which can be a first step in finding a person who is difficult to locate. This can be incredibly useful for people searching for those who are intentionally missing, like some deadbeat parents, but also for people who have inadvertently stepped off of the grid.
Another thing that background checks reveal is known aliases. When we hear the word “alias” we begin to conjure up scenarios where someone is taking steps to intentionally hide his or her history. However, think of your own history as an adult. Do you have a nickname or use a shortened version of your name? Do you consistently use initials when using your legal name? Have you had a name change because of marriage or divorce? If any of these conditions apply, then you probably have aliases in your background. Most of the time, the presence of aliases, on their own, does not raise any red flags in a background check. However, the use of multiple different aliases or aliases that do not have a logical relationship to the person’s name might be enough to raise some questions.
Background checks can also help you locate the relatives or cohabitants of the people being searched. Honestly, this aspect can seem a little stalker-ish to people who have not considered why that information could be useful. Did that woman you met on-line tell you she had no kids, but one of your mutual acquaintances swears she does? A background check can help you identify whether she has children. Does your new Mr. Right say he is single, but act like he is hiding something? Finding out whether or not he lives with any other adult might be helpful before you let yourself fall in love.
In fact, one of the most common reasons that people check background records is to find out if someone is being honest about their current situation. Sometimes people say things that just do not seem to add up. Other times, you have just been burned once too often and want to protect yourself. By running a background check, you can find marriage records, divorce records, birth certificates, death certificates, lawsuits, legal judgments, and criminal histories. How you can use a background check is governed by law; if you need a background check for any type of employment purposes or to make any type of credit or lending decision about a person, then you have to comply with federal guidelines about the type of service you can use. However, if you are checking out a person for a personal relationship, you can use a background service that compiles publicly available information that you could find yourself if you wanted to devote the time and energy to searching for it.
While leads to our next topic, which is how to check your background record. Running a background check on yourself can range from simple to complex, depending on how simple or complex your life has been. There are a wide variety of services that offer free background check services, and, if you do not have any concerns about negative information that might appear on your check, routinely using these services can help reassure you that nothing negative has appeared in your background. You have your personal information, so you put in your name, date of birth, and city of residence into almost any online background search tool and wait for your results. However, keep in mind that any modern background check could include a routine search of Google or social media, so that you are, in a sense, contributing to your publicly searchable background every time you expand your on-line presence.
In addition, you want to be aware of any results that could look negative if someone does background research into you. Sometimes these results will be problems in your own history, but they can also be the result of simple mistake. For example, is there someone with your date of birth and a similar name when you run a background search? If so, knowing his or her history could help keep you from being blindsided if asked about someone else’s bad acts.
Of course, when many people discuss background checks, they are really thinking specifically of criminal background checks. At Jail Data, we have a love/hate relationship with criminal background checks. On the one hand, we are in favor of open information and love being able to give our customers affordable and reliable access to compiled public records that could take them literally weeks to find on their own. On the other hand, we are aware of the limitations of publicly available information, especially publicly available criminal background information. First, we want to make sure that people understand that the lack of a criminal record cannot be taken for the lack of criminal activity. Many people engage in criminal activity and are never caught, some people who are caught are never arrested, most people who are arrested are never charged, and many who are charged are not convicted. The rates vary according to crime, but it is fair to say that only a small fraction of criminals are ever caught and punished for their crimes. Therefore, the absence of a criminal history in no way guarantees that a person is safe or will not engage in criminal behavior. Likewise, there are errors in some criminal histories, which means that it is possible that someone can have a criminal history without any underlying criminal behavior. Whether a person was in the wrong place at the wrong time, the victim of mistaken identity or identity theft, or was arrested for behavior that was later deemed not to be illegal, it is possible for people to have a criminal history without being criminals.
While those limitations certainly apply, they do not mean that background checks are useless. They simply mean that background checks should be used cautiously. For example, they are a great starting point for your own questions and conversations with the people in your life. They are also a great way for you to find out what other people see if they run a background check on you. Is there something troubling or inaccurate in your background check? Better for you to find it and know about it than to be blindsided when someone else comes to you with questions or concerns about it.
So, how do you run a free criminal background check? Well, the more information you have about your subject, the better. You can run a criminal background check with as little information as a person’s name. However, the United States has close to 320 million people; you will be amazed at how many duplicates there are of even seemingly unique names! Adding identifying information helps you narrow down your search. Date of birth, location, and prior addresses can help you flesh out your online background check and make sure you are researching the right person.
What complicates the process is how the government stores criminal background information. When you watch television programs, they make it seem like all law enforcement agencies have access to arrest records from around the country. Because people know that government agencies that keep records have to make those records available to the public, they think that running a criminal background check in one of the government’s federal databases will turn over results from every jurisdiction. However, in reality the federal government does not have that type of database. Instead, the federal government, most state governments, and many local government agencies maintain their own databases. Most of them have made those databases, or at least the public information contained in them, available on-line, allowing you to check arrest records for the applicable jurisdiction. However, you will have to search multiple jurisdictions to complete a criminal background check for an individual, even if that individual has only lived in a single location. For individuals who have lived in multiple jurisdictions, the process can be overwhelming and costly, because there might be a fee associated with running those checks in each jurisdiction. Jail Data’s background check service includes comprehensive criminal background checks of every jurisdiction associated with a person and passes on the savings of aggregate purchasing, so that you can feel confident that you have received the complete publicly available criminal history associated with that person without breaking the bank.