Identity theft, lack of payments, and fraud are only some of the problems that come from getting involved with someone you don’t know. Background screenings are becoming a common practice in every industry, and even when it comes to personal relationships. Having more information about someone gives you leverage when deciding to sign a contract of any nature. And today, information is available everywhere. Long gone are the times in which people needed to hire a private investigator to find out more about someone. In a society in which technology permeates every aspect of our lives, background screenings are easier than ever.

Where to Find Information

Our problem today is not lack of sources, but too many of them. Most countries have online databases in which they store court records. Almost everyone has a social media profile. Professional networks let you rate services. Phone companies have more relaxed rules when it comes to sharing user data. So, if you are looking into performing any kind of background check, chances are, you are better off hiring professional services. Sites like sort and organize information, delete duplicated data, and present it to you in an easy to understand report. Their services are not expensive and can save you a lot of time.

Why Choose to Perform a Background Check or Screening?

1. Human Resources: Every company wants to minimize risks. Potential employee background checks will let hiring managers know if a candidate has a criminal record, how they manage their finances, and how often they change jobs. Some companies even perform periodic background screenings on their employees to determine if there is a r

2. Renting or Buying Property: Being a landlord involves a lot of risks. You could lease a place to someone with a criminal record and have headaches with the authorities, for example. Because most laws are more protective of tenants, a landlord has to go through due diligence steps that include knowing more about the candidate’s financial history –and not only their current financial status–, and even understanding how a person behaves in a complicated situation. This is also important for people considering getting a roommate, in which case a background check is even more important because your personal safety may be at risk.

The same thing happens when selling a property: most HOAs (homeowners associations) will require a background check on a potential buyer in order to protect neighbors.

3. Business Partnerships: If you are about to sign a contract for a business partnership, you need to have as much information as you can about your potential partner. Financial history, court records, and identity checks are essential. Never commit to any contractual deal before a thorough background screening, and understand that your potential partner will probably be screening you, too.

4. Hiring Childcare or Elderly Care services: Children and senior citizens are extremely vulnerable. If you are considering getting help from professionals, you need to perform a background check to ensure their safety. This also applies to tutors and housekeepers. Most staffing agencies will perform thorough background checks before placing someone. If you are unsure about where to start, you may prefer using an agency.

5. Online Dating: With many people meeting their potential romantic partners through online dating services, safety becomes an important issue. Before meeting someone in person, you need to check their identity. You’ll also want to know if there is any record of abuse, or if they are registered sex offenders.

As you can see, background screenings are used in a variety of contexts. The aim is always protection and risk mitigation. If we have so much information available at the tip of our fingers, why not use it? Prevention is always better than having to go through a lawsuit or worse. Remember that for some background checks (especially financial checks) you will need written consent. Get help and advice from an attorney if you are unsure about the legality of a background check. This also stands for understanding how you are legally entitled to use the information that you get (for example, some information can not be used to make hiring decisions, due to non-discrimination laws). Also, remember that you may easily be the subject of a background screening, so get leverage by verifying your own information.

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