Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Background On Background Investigations

I'm no longer surprised when someone calls and asks me to do a background on themselves. I use to be perplexed, why pay me to do what you already know?

Then I learned some people applying for jobs want to know what their prospective employer could know.

And now, human resources companies all across the country are running checks of on line backgrounds. They're using hot sites to track you down like Spokeo,(there's a link on this page)

Other people with a rough past and worry whether sealed juvenile records, or other court records, can resurface and/or ruin them.

Some people want to know if an estranged partner or an identity thief is using their social security number or credit information.

In this age of instant access to public records and countless payable private database, all the information is out there. Much of the information is available free on the net. Even more is available through paid databases. It's just a matter of knowing where to look. And what you're allowed to look at.

There are many databases only licensed investigators and attorneys can access.In exchange for a per search or monthly fee we can access information not available elsewhere. Some of the information we get is reliable, some is not. That's why a good investigator checks, re-checks and cross-references information gathered.

However, all of the information I find, or you find, is covered by federal and state privacy laws. So if you get information on someone you're not allowed to have, you can and will be sued for invasion of privacy.

That's why when you work with an investigator, its important to get one who's licensed in their state, one who knows and respects those laws.

Anyone can put up a storefront. Anyone can call themselves an investigator. But only a reputable, state licensed investigator has your back. When you get paid to investigate you put your license and your client's case, on the line when you cross the line.

The challenge is maintaining the difficult and delicate balance between the public right to privacy and the public's right to know. If private investigators are legislated out of our ability to probe into a person's past, the public could be at great risk.

A retailer has the right to know if a potential employee has a record of theft.
A daycare owner has a right to know if a potential employee is a sex offender. The mother hiring a day care, or nanny, needs to know where a childcare provider is coming from. A business has a right to know who they're doing business with. And vice versa.

The first question I ask a client when they ask for a background is why? Then what will you do the information. If those two answers to not fall within ethical and legal parameters, I don't take the case.

There are databases you can use today for reliable free public records information.
One of my favorites is PublicRecords.OnlineSearches. Try it see the vast array of info you can find on yourself.

Remember, all information public record databases provide is believed by them to be reliable. However accuracy is never guaranteed. Some databases are not updated daily, others weekly, monthly, some not at all. And because data entry is a big part of the process and humans make mistakes entering info into databases, some databases are completely unreliable. In the days ahead, I'll provide more links and information about searches you can investigate for yourself.

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