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When and how to conduct background checks

The thought of conducting a background check on somebody else may make you feel a little squeamish, but don’t fret. It’s perfectly acceptable—and highly recommended for your safety and your family’s safety—to screen others more often than you may have realized.

Background Check on the Internet

According to Douglas Babcock, president of Cygnus Security Consulting, “You should check into anyone who would have unsupervised contact with your children, such as the parents of a friend your child meets at school. Whenever someone will have access to your home, such as a pet caretaker or landscaper, you should check to make sure they don’t have a criminal record, or haven’t been sued for something related to their business.”

Other individuals you may be wise in screening include potential dates, child caregivers, neighbors, job candidates, renters, and repairmen.

Now that you know when it’s appropriate to run a background check on someone, here are four helpful tips that will help you conduct a thorough and cost-effective investigation.

Internet Search

Search the Internet, including social media sites

“As simple as it sounds, Google is a good place to start,” says Babcock. “There are also sites like that, for a fee, will mine social media sites and public records and provide you with a fair amount of information.

Some people have also set up secondary Facebook or MySpace accounts for the purpose of looking at potential employees’ or neighbors’ accounts.”

Dig into public records and court documents

According to Julie Spira, author of The Perils of Cyber-Dating, checking county law records can tell you a lot about a person’s past.

She notes that your search can be as simple as doing a name search into the database of the county where someone resides.

Using a potential date as an example for the person you may be checking on, she offers the following suggestions: “See if your date was a named party in multiple lawsuits. Are there any default judgments due to their lack of response? You can also easily find out if they are divorced or not. Quite often a man or woman will say they are divorced when they haven’t filed yet or the divorce is still pending.”

Tap into other companies’ databases

Spira says another great way to learn more about a person is to use Date Check from Intelius. “All you need to do is type in a person’s e-mail address on your iPhone or Android app. If you don’t have an iPhone or Android, Intelius has a large database to access on your computer with results sent to you via e-mail,” she explains.

Turn to others you trust for information

Perhaps the quickest and most affordable way to conduct a background check is to feel out people in your network regarding their experiences and knowledge about a specific individual’s reputation and history. According to Pierre-Marc Larocque, a former investigator who now runs his own risk management firm, “The cardinal rule is to go out and talk to people. You would be surprised how often people open up or the information people give when asked.”

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