What Does a Background Check Consist of?

Ivailo Ivanov
close Ivailo Ivanov

Updated · May 11, 2023

Ivailo Ivanov
Content Writer | Joined October 2021

If I was asked to describe myself using just a few words, I’d go with digital marketing expert, ex... | See full bio


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There’s a big chance that, at some point, you thought about doing a background check on someone. It’s the safest way to find out who you’re dealing with, whether we’re talking about leasing, dating, or doing business.

People search sites and background check sites are a great avenue for finding someone's address or even their dating profile and you only have limited information at hand. You can use these sites to find someone's social media accounts if you have a phone number, or verify their identity using an image

But have you ever stopped for a second and wondered - what does a background check consist of? After all, there’s no point in wasting time on it if you have no clue what kind of information the report will yield.

In this post, we’ll clarify what shows up in a background check and how far back the reports go.

But let’s take it one step at a time.

What Is a Background Check?

A background check is a process you can use to gain better insight into who an individual really is. It’s the best way to learn more about someone’s education, criminal history, and more.

You’ve probably already come across the term a lot in news media, movies, and TV shows.

Whether you want to find out more about someone you’re doing business with or someone you’ve met on a dating site, a standard background check gives you peace of mind.

What Does a Background Check Consist of?

When you hear the words “background check,” probably the first thing that comes to your mind is checking a person’s criminal record. And while they’re often included in the process, there’s more information that comes in these reports.

Before we go on, we first have to say that not all background checks are the same. As you’ll see later, there are different types you can run. What shows up on a background check depends on which one you opt for. In some cases, you can even remove things from the background check. 

Let’s talk about what they can reveal.

True Identity

The majority of background checks start the same way - with identity verification. No matter what you already know, the report will include their personal information such as name and address.

Learning someone’s true identity can be helpful in a variety of situations. When meeting someone you’ve met online, it’s a good idea to check their identity just to make sure they’re not catfishing you. With the amount of people falling victim to identity theft, it can be a great idea to verify someone's identity before trusting them. 

That’s why true identity is our first answer to the question “What does a background check show?”

Past Addresses

The address history is a timeline of all locations a person has lived in recent history. Usually, the way it works is that the report shows all addresses they’ve received mail at. Whether they were renting or staying at their parents or college, you should be able to see it after conducting a background check.

This information can be extremely valuable when screening tenants if your local laws allow it. Although it’s difficult to say whether someone will be a good renter based on this data, it can still come in handy.

Criminal Records

When wondering what shows up on a background check, most people want to know whether or not it includes criminal records.

Background checks can reveal felony and misdemeanor convictions, as well as any pending cases. Any history of incarceration as an adult also shows up in the report.

This is valuable information in various situations such as when applying for a job or buying firearms.

Even if a person has been freed of their charges, they may still show up in background checks. Only when they expunge it from their records will they no longer appear in screenings.

International Crimes and Felonies

One of the most common reasons why people conduct background checks is to see if an individual has a criminal record.

In many situations, simply checking whether they’ve been arrested or charged with something in the US isn’t enough. That’s why some background checks are designed to reveal international crimes and felonies.

SSN Verification

Another answer to the question “what does a background check consist of?” is SSN verification.

The SSN verification reveals the name and address associated with the social security number.

Sex Offender Registry

In the US, all states have to maintain a sex offender registry. These reports are public information and they show up in criminal background checks.

To look up the sex offender list in the country, you don’t have to run a background check. The registry can be accessed by anyone on the Web.

Just bear in mind that it doesn’t include minor charges. Conducting a more thorough check is usually a better idea.

Driving Records

Each state in the US has its own rules and regulations regarding background checks and driving records.

Background checks may include records for DUIs, traffic violations, speeding tickets, charge date, and location.

Different Types of Background Checks


What does a background check show? 

There isn’t one correct answer. Although there are pieces of information almost all background checks provide, you won’t always get the same report.

This is because there are different types you can choose from. All of them are designed for specific occasions, and you can always find a type that suits your needs.

Here are some of the most common types of background checks:

  • Employment Background Check
  • Criminal Record Background Check
  • Universal Background Check
  • Motor Vehicle Records Check
  • OIG Background Check
  • Professional Licenses Background Check
  • International Background Check
  • Personal Background Check
  • Credit Background Check

What shows up on a background check depends on the type you select.

For example, if you’re running an employee background check, you won’t get information like traffic violations and license revocation. They come in a motor vehicle records check.

How Far Does a Background Check Go?

There are many things that influence what kind of a report you’ll get when running a background check. And this doesn’t only include the information it will reveal, but also how far back will it go.

No matter why you’re looking someone up, you should be aware of how many years back the report goes. Without that information, you can’t fully trust the report you get.


 How far back do background checks go?

The answer isn’t as simple as it may seem. 

Nationally, there are no limits to how many years can your background check go back. Therefore, if a person has a 20-year-old verdict, it may still show up when you run a quick check on them. At the same time, depending on the local laws, it may be entirely missing from the report.

For instance, background check companies in some states can include information that’s up to 10 years old.

Certain states do, however, have some sort of limitations. 

For example, here are all states with the seven-year limit:

  • California
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New York
  • Texas
  • Washington

Sill, some exceptions to the seven-year limit do exist. For instance, the California 7-years background check limit works differently in some situations. The employers in this state can run screening on someone and collect information that goes back for up to 10 years if the position has a salary higher than $125,000.

As you can already imagine, the cap isn’t the same in all states. For example, the 7-years limit isn’t imposed in Colorado and Texas for salaries that are over $75,000. In Kansas, Maryland, and other states in the list above, it doesn’t apply for salaries over $25,000.

More rigorous states have guilty, non-guilty, and felony verdicts come up in background checks no matter how old they are.

So, we answered the big question - What does a background check consist of?

Now it’s time to talk about some of the most popular background check websites around.


TruthFinder offers one of the most unique services you can find.

Besides the standard options, it comes with a family tree builder. You can create a visual representation of your family’s lineage. The tool also offers dark web monitoring - it warns you when your personal information appears in darknets.

TruthFinder’s full one-month membership is available at $27.78.


Intelius is your go-to website for conducting basic background checks. Its database of over 20 billion public records is exactly what you need for a good report.

With the largest database in the industry, the website generates the most substantial reports.

At Intelius, you can get a basic people search report for $0.95, or you can get a monthly subscription for $19.95.

The next website - US Search, is best known for its functionality and clear interface. As soon as you choose to look someone up, you get a full explanation of what appears on a background check on their website. For example, if you search by address, you’ll get that individual's name, age, and phone number.

There’s also the reverse phone number lookup feature that lets you locate any phone out there.

A one-off people search report is available at $2.45, while a monthly subscription is available at $19.95.

Instant Checkmate

Another background check website you should check out is Instant Checkmate.

One of its cool features - it lets you check inmates across the US. So, if you want to check if someone you know is currently serving a sentence, you can easily look it up.

Instant Checkmate has one of the lowest introductory prices out there. You can get a five-day trial for just $1.00.


Last but not least, we have PeopleFinders. It is among the oldest websites in the industry.

It offers different types of background checks and can scour public records in just a few minutes. With its database of 43 billion reports, you can expect the results PeopleFinders provides to be as accurate as possible.

A 3-day trial standard pan costs only $0.95 while for a monthly subscription, you’ll have to spend a fee of $24.95.

Wrap Up

What does a background check consist of? Everything, basically. It depends heavily on what type of background check we’re talking about.

There’s an entire set of background information you can gather on a person, but in order to get the data you’re looking for, you also have to opt for the right type.

It’s all about running a check that suits your needs for your current situation.

To also answer how far back do background checks go - it, again, depends. Some states have limits. It can date 10 years back, it can even show you info from 20 years ago.

Luckily, top websites such as US Search, Intelius, and other sites listed in this post offer provide detailed information about the types of reports they offer. So, no matter your needs, you can find the necessary info.

Just keep digging, Sherlock!


What can be revealed in a background check?

A background check can include information such as true identity, previous addresses, employment history, and more. What comes up on a background check, however, depends on what type of screening you choose to run. We discussed all common types in the article above.

How do you fail a background check?

If you’ve applied for a job and the company runs a background check on you, you can fail it. This happens if you lied in your resume or your criminal history suggests you could put the company and other employees in danger.

Will a background check show all my jobs?

Background checks can reveal information about previous jobs. Companies usually have to check with employers, however, if they want to verify any important details of your resume.

Does a background check include a credit check?

It can include a credit check if the company has your written approval. If you choose not to provide it, they have the right to decline your application. If you wanna know what does a background check consist of besides that, we have all the information above.


Ivailo Ivanov

Ivailo Ivanov

If I was asked to describe myself using just a few words, I’d go with digital marketing expert, ex-cook, tech nerd, and dog lover. I’m fascinated by video and board games, art and nature. I love to travel and I’m always ready to go on the next adventure to discover the hidden beauty of our world.

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