Beware of Online Background Check Scams
If you found this page, you already know how many “Background Check” websites there are. It seems that hundreds of sites are out there claiming to provide Super Instant Comprehensive background checks for pennies. In reality, many of these sites give you so little information, they are essentially online background check scams.
This poses a big problem for you: Which is truly worth the money? How do you determine who is telling you the truth about their abilities and the reliability of their information? What happens when the background check comes back showing “no records found”?…
…what happens is you pay and the background check company laughs all the way to the bank!
Putting them to the test
We spent almost two full weeks testing and reviewing dozens of these web based services to find out what the consumer is getting for their money.
In truth, the owners of our private detective agency had some secondary motives as well. The thought was, if others can offer a “super instant everything included” search that provides everything that is advertised, then we should either stop what we are doing all together or to use these cheap services in our investigations.
Then came the results. None of the “instant” delivery services came back with complete results. Some found several his criminal records, others found his bankruptcy and tax liens, some found nothing. Only the most expensive of these on-line background check services (those costing more than $79.95) were even close. Only one located his sham companies, and of those that found civil records for him, they found less than 10% of what we knew about. To make matters worse, much of what they did find was outdated, like where this person “currently” lives. Three sources even provided the wrong person’s information!
It turns out that most of these websites are just that, websites, with no real company behind them.
They have no telephone number to call with questions or problems. Few have an address either and if there is one, it goes to a P.O. Box.
Who are they?
Once we reviewed these results, we decided to question these companies and ask about the missing information. This proved to be a bit harder than we anticipated.
It turns out that most of these websites are just that, websites, with no real company behind them. They have no telephone number to call with questions or problems. Few have an address either and if there is one, it goes to a P.O. Box.
Being private detectives who do background checks for attorneys, corporations, and individuals all the time, we decided to pull back the curtain and see who the wizards were.
That’s when we found a strange truth. Many of these sites are owned by the same small group of computer programmers who, ironically, own many, many websites and have limited access to old public records, which they sell to you and I as a “background check”. It seems making a background check website and connecting it to a database of old public records can be very profitable.
The next group we found is people selling the do-it-yourself background check software disguised as a background check website. Buy their CD or download of old junk public record source links and you can know anything, so they claim. We purchased two of these downloads and found they offered little real information, but added the hassle of having to look at each of the links separately, some of which were dead links. On the scale of one to ten, these scored scored a two with us.
We did find a few sites that claimed to be part of a giant security corporation which makes them more legitimate. They tended to charge more and to give a bit better results, but still well below the bar. The best of this group did not promise immediate results and it appears that they did look around a bit, but the prices for their services were well over $ 100.00.
What we found out is that all of these background check “companies” are able to produce “Super”, “Instant” disclaimers about all the limitations of their searches and your complete lack of recourse for relying on the information they provide. In short, they all seemed to say, you get whatever I give you and what I give you can be old, outdated, inaccurate and certainly free to me.
By far the single most common response we received was no response.
Either the telephone number went unanswered or our calls were not returned.
Some of these background check websites are foreign owned and have no US contacts at all. (This is common among online background check scams) Makes you wonder where they get their information from.
Once we had our test results, we decided that we would try and contact many of these background check “companies” to discuss the information they did and did not find and to see how helpful they could be. Aside from the large firms that cost more, we had little luck.
Among the worst of the them was the group that has absolutely no contact information at all. With this group, we literally had to track down the name of the entity that received our credit card payment and then search for that business to try and find a telephone number for someone to talk to. In one case, when we finally locate a working telephone number, the woman who answered our call began screaming “How did you find me?” and hung up on us with the closing comment “never call this number again”.
Some additional dialog with other site owners also ended poorly. When we asked about the sources they used or pointed out the information that was missed in the “comprehensive background check”, we had more than one person tell us that they do not discuss their sources and that if we do not like the results, we should refrain from working with them again in the future. Two amongst this group took it further and actually began swearing at us, just for calling and asking questions. A third indicated that if we had any questions, we could refer them, in writing, to their attorney in Los Angeles. We did, but the attorney never replied.
By far the single most common response we received was no response. Either the telephone number went unanswered or our calls were not returned. We know of no legitimate business that operates this way and leads us to believe that these sites offer nothing more than online background check scams. When we did receive a reply, it was almost always someone pointing out that the disclaimer that came with the service indicates that there is no guarantee that they will find all the records. In essence, you get records from where ever they decide to look. If they truly wanted to conduct a complete search, they would have to look much harder than they were willing to. Although these firm may not meet the true “online background check scams” requirement, they certainly mislead the customer into believing they were getting a comprehensive search.