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How to Conduct Personal Background Checks

By Jasmine Ong

You want to conduct a personal background check on a colleague, maybe even a prospective mate, but you're not quite sure how to go about it? Before you spend a fortune on private investigators, you might want to try a little gumshoeing of your own.

The net is teeming with search engines and public records just waiting to be explored. You might have to do a little digging (or perhaps a lot), but there's a great chance that the information you're after is just floating around cyberspace at no cost.

Be careful which sites you choose to rely on for help. Some of them will charge you fees for information you can get elsewhere for free. Some will even charge you for wrong or useless information. If you've got the time and the patience, it's often best to do the searching personally. That way you can easily ignore irrelevant data and hone in on pertinent ones.

Also be wary of more unscrupulous sites that will sweet talk you into downloading software, often for a fee. Not all such offers are harmful so it would be wise to exercise due caution before you download anything. Some programs come bundled with hidden spyware; instead of helping you streamline your search, they will end up divulging more about you and your system than you care to disclose.

One of the most logical steps to take when conducting a background check is to search for vital records. Births, marriages and deaths are all matters of public record. As more and more governments make the move towards electronic records storage and management, these vital statistics are more likely to be available online.

Driver's license information and social security numbers will also help you narrow down your search. Genealogy sites also have the potential of pointing you towards the right direction. Faced with the very real possibility of namesakes or other common statistics, knowing the names of relatives can help point your investigation towards the correct path.

Failing an independent and free search, you can always turn to paid locator services. For varying fees, the job can be done for you within a matter of minutes up to a matter of days. All results are then transmitted straight to your email box.

Searching online may not always yield the desired results. Not every outcome will be comprehensive and thorough. As a general rule, the more details you know about a person, the easier it will be to weed out namesakes and avoid dead ends. But even then, it is important to remember that information gathered online should not be automatically considered gospel truth in all cases. Because data is culled from different public records and data providers, the resulting records are guaranteed to be current and accurate only insofar as those sources are updated and correctly encoded. Verify figures before calling them facts. When in doubt, confirm their veracity through secondary sources.

With newer and better technology, people can steal or manufacture identities as quickly as they change their chat aliases. As such, personal background checks are fast becoming a prudent and necessary fact of life. After all, it is better to err on the side of paranoia than to be truly sorry in the long run.

About The Author
Jasmine Ong is a staff writer for - a leading independent internet authority on home and digital security.

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