Best Background Check in 2023: Top 3 Options for Accurate and Reliable Results
There are several reasons you might want to look into someone's background, and when you do, you'll want the best background check service you can find. After all, there's no sense in taking the time to run background checks on someone if the results are subpar.
If you are thinking about using a background check service, you're not alone. Background checks can provide a wealth of information about a person from surprisingly little data to start with. You'll need enough information to narrow things down, of course, and a name alone is rarely sufficient when there may be hundreds of people with the same name.
If you have a phone number or an address to go with the name, however, that is usually enough to run a thorough background check on an individual.
3 Best Background Check Services Reviewed
- Best Overall: TruthFinder
- Best for Social Media Results: Instant Checkmate
- Best Value for Money: Spokeo
1. Best Overall: TruthFinder
In terms of offering a comprehensive background check package, it's hard to beat TruthFinder. This service offers a large range of tools for looking into an individual's background, whether it be yourself or someone else. It also features tools for self-monitoring, so you can be made aware if your information has crept out onto the dark web.
TruthFinder pulls information from an impressively long list of sources, including the usual public records but also social media profiles, news stories and even blogs. The site also offers a number of additional smaller services, such as reverse phone lookup and people search.
This service has been operating since 2014 and boasts tens of thousands of background checks and many happy customers in the years since. TruthFinder is not a consumer reporting agency and cannot be used to affect decisions about giving credit.
TruthFinder is one of the more affordable background check sites if you are performing multiple searches. There is no option to purchase single searches, so you will need a membership to use the service. This isn’t ideal if you only want to run one or two searches, but if you do have plenty of searches to get through, you can get a small discount by purchasing two months at a time.
This service made our best background check service list by providing a comprehensive set of tools and a wide range of data sources from criminal records to social media profiles. We also like the fact that there are multiple payment options, including the reverse phone lookup membership and the discounted rate when paying for two months at a time. Unlimited background checks are available with their membership.
- Provides unlimited reports as part of membership
- Includes a self-monitoring service for personal security
- Deep web searches are included in the membership
- Android and iOS apps are available in addition to the website
- No option to purchase a single report without a membership
What Customers Love About TruthFinder
In general, customers love the comprehensive set of features offered by TruthFinder and the detailed reports they deliver. Having the ability to choose a more affordable subscription if you only need reverse phone lookup services is also a popular aspect of the service.
Another highlight for customers is the ability to perform unlimited searches as part of the subscription. TruthFinder draws data from over forty different types, including a range of online sources, providing a much more detailed look at the search subject than services that just rely on reporting agencies and public records could achieve.
There are separate memberships available for certain features, such as reverse phone lookup. Users should be aware that there is a small additional charge to download a background check report.
The data sources used by TruthFinder include educational information, criminal history and sex offender registers, location history, asset information, social profiles, and more.
If you choose to sign up for a membership, you will have access to one of the best background check sites available. Membership includes unlimited searches, making it ideal if you have a lot of searches to run.
2. Best for Social Media Results: Instant Checkmate
Instant Checkmate finds itself on our list of best background check services for many reasons, but one of the highlights is undoubtedly the detail that this service can pull from social media.
The service has been around since 2010 and offers a range of services, from people search to reverse phone lookup and more. Searches are anonymous, so no one needs to know that you have conducted a background search on them.
Searches carried out by Instant Checkmate are very fast — typically returning in only a few minutes — and contain information with a high level of accuracy. They also boast one of the more user-friendly websites and mobile apps in this space.
Instant Checkmate delivers information from a wide range of sources, but social media in particular shines when compared to many other services. The company conducts itself well to the point that it has been accredited A+ by the Better Business Bureau. While positive user reviews are always a good sign, it is reassuring to see official recognition of business practices.
We also like Instant Checkmate's customer support, which is available from 10 am to 7 pm Eastern Time (ET). Instant Checkmate also follows the Fair Credit Reporting Act, and cannot be used as a consumer reporting agency.
- App available for mobile devices
- Impressive levels of accuracy on the data provided in reports
- Provides very detailed reports on the search subject
- User-friendly interfaces across both the app and the website
- The service's pricing details are hidden from the user until they purchase
What Customers Love About Instant Checkmate
Customer reviews have shown that Instant Checkmate’s clean, user-friendly interface across both their app and their website is very popular. Their detailed background checks have also won a lot of praise for the amount of information included, as well as their accuracy. Many consider it to be one of the best background check services for social media information.
Like TruthFinder, Instant Checkmate provides its services through a subscription model, where users pay a monthly fee for access to the site's features.
Users who expect to use the service a lot can take advantage of their three-month plan, which is a little cheaper than paying month-to-month. This means you will need to purchase at least one month's membership to use the service, even if you only need to run a single check.
Instant Checkmate provides everything you would expect from a company like this, including property records and criminal record searches. It is also possible to perform a reverse lookup on phone numbers.
Other services include the ability to query sex offender databases, perform a nationwide inmate search, look up relatives and other related persons, and, of course, search social media profiles.
Learn more about Instant Checkmate
3. Best Value for Money: Spokeo
Spokeo is an excellent service that is notable for the fact that it offers some of those services free of charge. Granted, if you need a full detailed search, you will need to pay, but for simple things like a reverse phone lookup, Spokeo won't charge you.
The paid services are offered at a reasonable price compared to other background check services on the market. The company has the benefit of an impressive database of information — some 12 billion records — on top of publicly available information.
Spokeo started out as a social network aggregator, and those modern foundations show in the results they are able to deliver, including deep web searches and social media information.
At the highest level, one of the most important things for helping a background check service stand out is the information it keeps. Without a comprehensive database of records that no other company has access to, all background check sites would be limited to the same information. Spokeo’s impressive database is a big reason the service made it onto our list.
- Spokeo maintains a huge database of over 12 billion records
- User-friendly interface, regardless of whether you are using the app or website
- Reverse phone search functionality is free to use
- Allows people to opt out and have their information removed
- No unlimited searches, regardless of membership options
What Customers Love About Spokeo
The fact that Spokeo offers some of its services free of charge makes them quite popular with a lot of customers. They also provide an opt-out service, allowing you to have your information removed from their database.
Regarding the background checks themselves, the ability to download as many as you like PDF reports is a standout feature. Before downloading the report, customers get to enjoy the lightning-fast speed at which reports are generated.
The services available through Spokeo include the ability to look up someone by name, email, or phone number, search court records and criminal history, check sex offender registries and much more. Spokeo also offers an enhanced report service when you need as much information as possible about an individual.
Other services provided by Spokeo include work and wealth data reports, family history lookup, and marriage and divorce records. Spokeo also provides unlimited PDF downloads, a nice touch compared to some background check websites that charge an additional fee to download a report you have generated.
Spokeo’s premium services are available on a subscription basis, meaning you will need to sign up for at least a month's worth of service if you want to use them, even if you only intend to use them once. If you do intend to use Spokeo a lot, however, you can get a slightly cheaper membership by paying for three months at a time.
How We Made This List
As with all of our articles, a lot of consideration went into our list of best background check services. We want you to feel confident in our findings, and we know that understanding how we came to these findings can help you gain that confidence.
From the features offered by the background check companies to what real-world customers have said about their experiences, here is a breakdown of the key points behind our best background check picks.
In an ideal world, choosing the best background check services based on pricing would be a simple matter of finding the lowest prices. Perhaps even free. In reality, background check companies are businesses that need to make money.
So, while we always focus on the least expensive services, we place a bigger importance on the value offered. This is why our picks are not always the cheapest. If a service costs more but offers incredible value for money, we will consider it for our list.
The services offered by background check companies and the quality of those services are, of course, the main determining factor in whether a service is a good value for money. We consider the range of features you get for your money and how good those services are.
In this article, we focus on background check features specifically. Still, a service that offers a good deal of additional features as part of the cost of their background check service will be rated more highly in our eyes.
Perhaps one of the most important factors when deciding which background check company to include in our list is how real customers have rated their experiences with them. Many background check sites offer a similar suite of services for roughly the same cost, so customer reviews can serve as an excellent tie-breaker when deciding which best background check service to include in our list.
There's no good substitute for first-hand experience. The last step in our search for the best background check sites is to try the services ourselves. It is this step that enables us to verify if the site delivers on its promises.
This step is essential for us because it means we can make our recommendations about the best background check service options in the knowledge that we know what we are talking about.
What is a Background Check?
Similar to a reverse phone lookup, a background check is a process used to verify information about an individual. Broadly speaking, it is a means of checking whether they are who they claim to be — and that can come in many forms.
Background checks can return results from things like criminal records, civil records and more, all packaged into a detailed report for your convenience.
There are limitations on background checks, however. For example, many of the best background check services listed here are not consumer reporting agencies and cannot be used as part of the decision-making process when deciding whether to offer someone credit.
Background checks are also limited by the available information. In this day and age, comprehensive background checks are much easier to put together because there is so much information out there. There can still be situations where an individual has a lot of gaps in the available information about them. In these cases, it would affect the background report.
Background checks allow an individual or business to verify a person's identity by providing a good deal of information about that person. It will then be up to the person choosing to run a background check to compare the subsequent report against the information they have.
Remember, not all background checks are created equally. Some background check websites may be better than others at social media searches, for example. Our list of best background check sites covers a wide array of services, so you're sure to find what you're looking for.
How Does a Background Check Work?
Background checks work by scouring a wide range of data sources to find out as much information about a person as possible. A large chunk of this information is publicly available, such as arrest records, sex offender registries and even credit history in some cases.
The advantage of using a background check site over finding this information yourself is one of convenience. A background check site can sometimes return a report in as little as a few minutes containing all of the information you requested.
In contrast, sourcing the same information yourself would involve going to each source individually, and requesting information from those sources will likely take at least as long — if not longer — than the time it would take to get a background check.
What Data Can I Find Out From a Background Check?
For the most part, the only limit to what can be learned through background check services is what is available in public records. However, once a person has been identified, public records include a good deal of useful information.
Here is a list of common types of background checks:
- Criminal background checks
- Credit history checks
- Criminal records searches
- Education verification
- Motor vehicle record checks
- Sex offender checks
- Dark web searches
Though these types of background checks can often be purchased individually, many background check services will offer packages that include multiple types of background checks as part of the deal.
How Far Back Does a Background Check Go?
The short answer to how far back background checks go is "as long as they can''. The background check company itself is not restricted to a specific time frame when it comes to how far back they are allowed to search, but the sources they are searching sometimes are.
Some information has very clearly stated time frames attached to them. For example, information on bankruptcies is removed from your credit history after seven to ten years (depending on the type of bankruptcy). This does not mean that a background check service would not be able to determine that a person has faced bankruptcy after that six-year period, but they would need to find the information from somewhere other than credit reports.
Another example comes in the form of criminal records. Criminal felonies may be reported for seven years, but could also be reported indefinitely. In this case, it depends on the state where the search subject lives or works. Again, the lack of information in official criminal records does not mean that a background check service cannot find that information, but it would have to come from another source.
As a rule of thumb, an official reporting agency may hold information for between three and ten years or indefinitely. The specifics depend on a variety of factors, such as the type of information and any applicable laws.
For less formal sources, we often have no way of knowing how long information will be available. For example, information retrieved through social media can be removed at any time by the owner of the social media account or if they make their account private. The information may still be available through a background check service’s own database, but even that may be opted out of if the company provides that service.
The other main information source to consider is the background check service itself. Many background check services maintain their own information databases, which may hang on to things like bankruptcy filings longer than the official reporting agency.
Information stored by background check services can also be removed. Many of these services provide opt-out functionality, allowing a person to request their data be removed from their database.
Can I Do a Background Check on Myself?
There is nothing to prevent you (or anyone else) from running background checks on anyone, including yourself. Indeed, background check services only require minimal information from you when you run a search.
With that in mind, why might you want to run a background check on yourself?
Plain old curiosity is one reason. If you are just curious, performing a background check on yourself can help you get an idea about what information is out there.
Another reason is for personal security and protection against identity fraud. Some of the best background check services will include a search of the deep web. Finding your information on the dark web is rarely good, but knowing it is there gives you the warning you need to find the weak link in your personal security and close that hole.
Why Use a Background Check Service?
The reasons for carrying out background checks will depend on the relationship between the person using the background check features and the person they are checking.
Some personal reasons for using a background check service include vetting a babysitter before trusting them with your children or just looking up someone you have a bad feeling about.
You might also want to run a background check on yourself, perhaps as a test of the background check service itself. Seeing what information background check services return about you will give you a reliable sense of how accurate the information returned by a particular service is.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the most important part of a background check?
While every background check is carried out under its own set of priorities, criminal records checks are often the most important part. Things like poor credit history or a lack of education will be seen as important in certain situations, but a criminal record is rarely overlooked.
This applies more so when a person has denied the existence of a criminal record that later turns up in their background check.
How common are mistakes on background checks?
While background check sites work hard to ensure as high a level of accuracy as possible, there is always a chance that inaccurate information can slip through the cracks.
As a general rule, information from an official reporting agency on things like criminal records or bankruptcy filings will be accurate as long as the search is carried out on the right person. Typically, if this kind of information is inaccurate, it is something that would need to be taken up with the reporting agency.
There are also less reliable sources of information, such as social media, though background check services will use these sources in conjunction with more reliable sources to mitigate potential inaccuracy.
Should I be nervous about a background check?
Background checks may be far more common than you think and not necessarily something to worry about. That being said, there can be many different reasons for carrying out a background check, and the reason you are being checked out is relevant.
What would make someone fail a background check?
It is important to remember that background checks are just a form of information. Whether or not a person can “fail” a background check is entirely determined by the context of why that check is being carried out.
If the background check is being carried out in a more informal manner, such as a family checking out a potential babysitter, the criteria for “passing” will be more subjective.
Can you check criminal records online?
Criminal records in the U.S. are publicly available and accessible to everyone. Checking them "online" is not necessarily possible, however. Archives.gov provides a form for requesting this information. You will need a good deal of information about the subject of the search to perform criminal background checks in this manner.
Criminal records are much more readily accessible when you use a background check site. The site will take care of any interactions with the reporting agency responsible for things like court records and other criminal background checks.
Remember that background checks often can't be used as consumer reporting tools. Many of the best background check sites will adhere to the Fair Credit Reporting Act and prohibit the use of their service as part of the decision-making process when deciding whether to give someone credit.
The cost of a service is always an important factor, but it's not always the case of the cheapest being the best. If you need to perform many checks, choosing a service that offers unlimited background checks as part of the cost may work out more cost-effective in the long run. Not all services offer unlimited reports, so shop around.