Last Updated: October 4, 2021
Are you looking to connect with a long-lost relative? Or perhaps you’re going on a date with someone you met online, and you want to make sure they’re not catfishing you?
In both and many other scenarios, you’ll need to run a background check.
And you’ve heard that you can get all the information you need without opening your wallet.
But is there a totally free background check?
Let’s find out.
What Is a Background Check?
A background check is a process you can use to verify whether an individual is who they claim to be. You can learn their identity, education, work history, criminal history, and almost anything else that interests you.
Companies usually run background checks when hiring new employees. That’s how they keep their workplace and employees safe, avoid negative publicity, and increase recruitment quality.
But as you can already imagine, this process isn’t reserved only for companies. Anyone can run a background check.
So, how do you do it?
Well, there’s an option to examine public record databases yourself, or you can turn to a website that will run a screening for you.
If you’re looking for a more cost-friendly method, doing all the detective work without anyone’s help can work. Just bear in mind that gathering information this way can be time-consuming.
To save time and energy, you can always turn to a website offering background check services for a fee. Although it means you have to spend money, you’ll get your reports almost instantly. Not to mention that the information they provide is way more accurate.
There also exist sites offering background checks without any fees involved.
But are those sites any good?We did all the research for you.
Is There a Totally Free Background Check?
So, is there a totally free background check?
The short answer is yes.
But it’s more complicated than that.
Let’s imagine you want to find out more about your neighbor. They might be new and not really willing to talk, which you might find suspicious. It’s always good to know who you live next to, so you turn to a site for help.
Most of the time, a free background check should do the trick. Sites can conduct an address lookup and provide all the information you need.
But it isn’t always enough.
Sometimes, you’ll look for a piece of information these websites simply don’t provide. This is because they only provide information all internet users can access.
For the same reason, they’re almost never used by companies for screening potential employees. Businesses that rely on this type of record risk negligent hiring claims and choosing someone who can disturb the entire organization.
Background check companies that offer free reports often try to lure people to their sites by throwing around terms such as “100% free” and “no fees involved”.
Sometimes, they load their service description with unclear and confusing terms to make it sound more valuable. Yet, they only provide information that is available in free public records.
To access other data, you have to pay a fee.
How To Find Public Records Without Paying?
As mentioned above, if you want to find out more about someone for free, you can do so by looking at public records. They aren’t considered confidential and can be accessed by anyone.
Still, have in mind that they don’t always contain everything you might want to learn.
For instance, in California, when a couple fills out a marriage license application, they get to choose whether they want their marriage to be public or confidential. Same goes for birth and death certificates and documented transactions with government agencies.
Put simply, you may look at public records but the amount of information you can collect that way is somewhat limited.
So, how to find public records without paying?
The answer isn’t as simple as you might think. It all depends on what sort of info you’re looking for.
For example, finding basic information about an individual isn’t tough. Most states have some sort of online database.
Also, there are more and more places online where you can input someone’s name and address, and gain access to their personal information via public records.
Even some paid background check service sites offer basic people searches without payment. Truth be told, you can conduct a free public record check yourself.
Free sites often promise more than just information available publicly but they fail to deliver. Their goal is to get consumers to their website, knowing they’ll have to sign up for paid services if they want to get more.
Whether you opt to do all the work yourself or you turn to one of these companies, what you’ll find are records kept at the state, local, and county level.
If you want to access federal information, you can do so at PACER.gov. While signing up on the website is free, they still charge a fee if you want to view court documentation. The fee is 10c per page. Using the site isn’t hard, as long as you follow the guide on sign up.
Luckily, there’s a hard cap of $3,00 for documents with multiple pages. So, you won’t have to spend $50 to look at a 500-page court document.
But how do you look up someone’s criminal record for free?
Public records. Sounds simple, but you’ll have to do some serious digging. Individual criminal records encompass everything except the records held by the FBI.
The biggest problem with the nationwide criminal database is that no one knows how often the government updates it. It’s a flaw that’s hard to ignore.
Arrest records are generally available in public records, except those that concern an active or ongoing investigation. Some states, however, restrict the data you can obtain through an arrest record. This is especially the case with reports about individuals without any previous charges, as well as those who were acquitted or had their records expunged.
When a person commits a sex-related crime, they are registered as a sex offender. All states maintain a sex offender registry you can access online.
Here’s a more detailed guide on how to do a background check.
How Much Does a Background Check Cost
As we’ve already said, sites that allow you to run a background check for free aren’t always the right tool to use when you need to find out more about someone.
For more in-depth reports, you have to turn to websites that offer better services. As you might expect, they offer paid background check services.
Therefore, if you’re looking for more detailed reports, you have to be ready to spend some money.
But how much does a background check cost?
To start, we first have to mention, once again, that not all background checks are equal.
That’s why you’ll see some offering background check services for $10 while others do it for $500.
The old “you get what you pay for” adage applies in most cases.
The different payment plans, however, are confusing.
Most sites offer one-off reports and monthly subscriptions, but we also came across sites with 24-hour and quarterly plans. Some even charge per state you run a crime check in.
We also came across many sites that charge depending on the amount of information you want in your report (type and scope).
The Most Popular Background Check Websites
With a wide array of websites at your disposal, identifying the ones you should use can be challenging.
Each comes with its own features, and it’s up to you to find the one that best suits your needs.
Below, we’ll list some of the most popular sites available at the moment.
Bear in mind that these sites aren’t consumer reporting agencies, and you should only use them for personal research. When screening employees and tenants, you should rely on websites regulated by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).
If you’re still wondering how much does a background check cost, you’ll have a chance to see some examples below.
With over 20 billion public records in its reservoir, Intelius is one of the biggest information brokers in the US.
Due to the in-depth reports and identity protection feature, the website has gained wide popularity.
As you can probably imagine, you can’t get a free online background check at Intelius. If you want them to generate a report, you’ll have to spend some money. Intelius charges $0.95 for a basic people search report and $19.95 for a monthly subscription with an unlimited number of searches.
US Search is another go-to website for anyone looking to verify some background information or locate someone.
The website includes an entire set of useful features, like reverse phone number lookup and social network search.
Even though US Search is not a place where you can run background checks for free, it offers competitive pricing.
For a modest a la carte price of $2.45, you can get a standard one-off people search report. To perform an unlimited number of basic searches, you need to get a monthly subscription, which is available for $19.95.
Instant Checkmate is known for its exceptional interface and some features other sites don’t offer.
For example, there’s an option to look up inmates across the U.S. If you believe someone you know is in jail, you try to find them using nothing but their name and last known location.
If you’re looking for cheap background check services, you’ll love their 5-day trial deal available for only $1.00. In case you’re ready to spend more, you can get unlimited reports for $34.78.
Our next pick, TurthFinder has a dark web monitoring feature and it alerts you as soon as your personal information turns up in the shadiest parts of the internet. You’ll also appreciate the family tree builder that lets you create a graphic of your family’s lineage.
Although TruthFinder offers no free memberships and trials, pay-off is guaranteed due to how detailed the reports are. You can get a 1-month reverse phone number lookup membership for $4.99 or a full 1-month membership for $27.78.
However, TruthFinder does offer free basic people searches. You can find:
- Possible associates
SpyFly offers the closest thing to a free criminal record check you can find. Users can get bits of a single report without paying. If you, however, want to access the entire document, you have to sign up for an account.
The website pulls its information directly from state, federal, and municipal public databases. It lets you search with just a name, phone number, or email address.
A low trial fee gives you access to their databases for seven days. If you choose to keep your membership, the fee is a little less than $30,00 per month.
So, is there a totally free background check?
Are free people check sites the best solution when you want to find out more about someone? Definitely not.
Paid background checks can yield more information, making your report more relevant. Plus, you don’t have to worry about anything missing from the report as the databases are updated regularly.
But in case you want to do a quick check and confirm someone’s identity, a free background check may be enough.
You can access criminal records from the nationwide criminal database without paying a fee. It’s, however, questionable how often this database gets updated. If you want more accurate results, you might want to turn to a website that offers paid services.
For more information on how much does a background check cost, check our article above.
Yes. They, however, often only use it as a way to draw users to their website. Then they try to manipulate them into signing up for a paid membership. Free public record checks only yield the same information you can find without anyone’s help.
Is there a totally free background check? Yes, but these sites don’t always offer the best service. Some sites that offer paid background check services have free deals you might be interested in. TruthFinder is the best – it offers basic people searches for free and without any catch.