Reasons for a Background Check:
One of the most common inquiries we receive at our firm is to look into someone's background. Some clients need to know with whom their children are spending time. Others want to check out a potential spouse. The more financial savvy individuals are looking to find whether a potential investment is sound or if the deal may be a scam. Persons of a more litigious nature want to dig up the dirt before getting into the courtroom to either get something on the other guy, or make sure their own witnesses can stand up to cross examination. The number of reasons for a background check vary broadly.
Application of the Law:
As licensed investigators, we have to be aware of many laws which keep popping up to protect the privacy of our fellow citizens.
There's the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLB)
Next is the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)
Another is the Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA)
There are more, but these are some of the major ones by which we need to abide when checking into someone's background for a client.
If you attempt to check into someone else's background on your own, you STILL need to abide by these laws. They're not just for private detectives. They're for everyone.
To put it plainly, these laws are there to make sure NO ONE can have access to another individual's specific personal information without a valid reason. To see those reasons, check out the links above.
How Can I Do It Myself?
What Do You Already Know?
The first thing I ask a client is to write down all of the information they already know about the subject upon whom they'd like a background check. This saves them cost since I won't be running down the same avenues they've already traveled in their search. More importantly, however, this helps the client to organize their needs, information, and helps establish other ideas for where to search for more facts.
Well, you're not going to have access to our proprietary databases such as www.irbsearch.com, www.skipsmasher.com, www.locateplus.com, etcetera. So, what about those sites all over the internet which appear to offer a background check for around thirty bucks?
The difference between proprietary databases and the cheap online public access databases are that the proprietary ones typically update their information on a daily basis. However, if you're going to do this yourself, the public one might be worth a shot as a starting point. Be sure to note that some information may be outdated or incorrect. Always double and triple check your information for accuracy, especially when your subject has a common name.
Use the Power of the Internet:
The internet is a wonderful tool. Learn advanced search techniques. There's a very simple, but true, list of "do's" at:
For a deep web search, check out www.paterva.com . One could not ask for a better search and relationship connecting program than Paterva's Maltego Community Edition. I've been amazed at the depth to which this tool delves in its search to find information. The user interface is a bit difficult, but if you play around with it, the results will be worth the time and effort. The PI buddy who steered me to this "open source forensics and intelligence application" told me its even used by the CIA. True? I have no idea, but the program is awesome for our cause. Every investigator should add this data mining tool to their arsenal immediately. Hell, its free, too!
Social Networking Sites:
Don't miss the social networking sites. Although Facebook and MySpace are enormously popular, there are so many more like LinkedIn, Naymz, etc. Even your boss might be checking on your online activity on these sites. Opposing counsel and prosecutors use social networking site searches to gather evidence and more. Here's a great list of popular social networking sites for your search:
Another social networking site recently pointed out to me by a friend, which is not on the above list, is secondlife.com. Its new and growing fast as a virtual reality social networking site. Pretty cool, too. However, the first time I used it, I took the tour, then clicked randomly on the map and ended up in a virtual reality BDSM shopping center with no warning of the true nature of the content in advance. The moral of the story is to be careful where you click ;)
My family is urging me strongly to get off of the computer and join them for some family time. Therefore, this post is going to be a two-parter :)
Licensed Private Detective