There are many reasons why somebody might want to do a background check on somebody, whether you are going on a Tinder date and want to avoid being catfished, are getting a new roommate and want to make sure that they’re the person they say they are before they move in, or you’re a business owner vetting new members of staff. You may even decide to run one on yourself at times, for example, before you head to a job interview to see if you can find anything that you don’t want to be available online. Knowing what others can discover about you in just a few clicks is always good knowledge to have. Whoever you are background checking and for whatever reason, we’ve taken a look at how to get a free background check and some of the best paid background checks available. 

Can You Actually Conduct a Background Check for Free?

While you can access background checking services free of charge, it’s important to understand that it might be tricker, it can sometimes be quite time-consuming, and the results might not be completely accurate. It will usually require some extra work, including going through court and public records state-by-state or conducting a lot of intense Google searching. Of course, conducting a free background check on somebody that you have a lot of information about will always make it easier to access their records. 

However, a free background check might not be the best choice for you if you do not have a lot of background information on the person you are checking. It’s likely to be difficult since police records are organized at state, county and city levels, meaning that you are going to need information on the exact places that the person has lived, or where they have been arrested in the past.

Legal Guidelines for Conducting Background Checks:

If you are background checking somebody for housing, employment, credit, insurance or medical reasons, it is a legal requirement that you comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act. This states that you should use an official Consumer Reporting Agency to run checks on your potential tenant or employee to ensure that legal standards are correctly maintained when it comes to data protection and dispute resolution. 

Which Background Check Methods are Completely Free?


Google might often be the first place you turn to when trying to find out more about somebody. Although searching for the person’s name on Google isn’t always going to provide you with the results that you need, it’s still definitely worth trying. However, the main problem here is that when you’re searching for information on somebody who has quite a common name, it might be difficult to get any meaningful results. To make it easier, you can search for their name along with the name of their location, or search Google Images to see if you can find a photograph of them. Searching Google News or Google Videos can also be worthwhile. However, bear in mind that search engines alone are unlikely to give you the information that you want unless you get lucky or have somebody with quite a rare name. 

Social Media:

The next place to look is social networks. If you’re not having much luck with search engines, social media can be a better option for a more specific search. Use social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter to search for the person’s full name to see if there are any recognizable faces. Many people put a lot of information about themselves on their social media profiles including their full name, city, and data of birth, which can make it easier to narrow down people who might be a match. However, bear in mind that many people do have strict privacy settings, so there are some limitations to your search.


Websites like PeekYou give you a free overview of somebody’s online activity when you type in their first and last name along with their location. Although this could be viewed as a free background check, bear in mind that the search does not go much further than their online presence and social media activity, so it might not be the best choice for you if you want to find out more about things like criminal history. Other sites like Intelius or Truthfinder might be a good option for getting criminal and arrest records for a person, but they charge a small fee.

Court Records County Clerk:

If you know where the person lives or has lived in the past, you can go online to check their public record information. All you need to do is search for the county clerk of court records for their state to find the correct official government website. Once you have found this, all you need to do is search for any publicly available information about the person. However, bear in mind that the information you’ll find here is usually quite limited and does not go into a huge amount of detail. In addition, you will need to do this for every place that a person has lived if they have moved between different cities or states.

State Prison Records:

If you think that somebody you are checking has a criminal background, you can check the state prison records for the places that they have lived and perform a basic criminal background check. All you need to do is search for ‘corrections inmates’ in the state that they live in, and find the official state prison website. You can then enter their first name, last name, and city to see criminal records and any basic criminal background information that is available. This is usually free, but some states will charge a small fee. It’s also worth bearing in mind that you will be required to do this for every state that the person has lived in or visited. To save time and effort, sites like Instant Checkmate or Intelius can perform a criminal record check of all states for a small fee.

Annual Credit Report:

If you are performing a background check on yourself and want to check your credit score before you apply for finance, you can do this for free in some cases to make sure that your credit won’t instantly have you rejected. The three credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion – are required to provide you with a free yearly credit report for yourself. You can also find various apps that work with the bureaus where you can get more credit reports for free, or you can pay the bureaus directly to access it more often.

Best Cheap Trial Background Check Services:

Free background checks are often difficult to find, and require you to do a lot of work when it comes to searching to find the public records of the person that you are looking for. Even if you do manage to find some information, free online background checks are not always ideal because it can be hard to know that you’ve actually got the right person. 

However, there are some background check services that charge a small fee that might be worth looking into. And many come with a free or a cheap trial, allowing you to easily conduct your search without breaking the bank or taking all day to barely get any information. 

Best Overall Background Check Service – TruthFinder:

TruthFinder is one of the most popular online background checking services, allowing you to perform unlimited background checks once you have signed up to their monthly membership, which costs $27.78 per month. It covers a wider range of search parameters, making it an easy option for those who need to search for a person that they have limited information on. It’s very accurate and can easily help you find personal information such as email addresses and phone numbers, social media profiles, educational backgrounds, property ownership information, job history, criminal records, and potential associates. 

You can access TruthFinder on both your PC and smartphone, making background checking on the go easy. There is also clear information on how all the information you find can be legally used, helping you stay in line with the Fair Credit Reporting Act if applicable. 

On the downside, TruthFinder does require you to get a membership to run any background checks and there’s an additional fee of $2 if you want to download a report in PDF format.

Does TruthFinder Offer a Free Trial?

No. Membership costs $27.78 per month, and you can get a discount if you sign up for several months at a time. 

Is TruthFinder Legit?

Yes, you can trust this background checking service. The information tends to be accurate and there is more advice on what you can and can’t do with it legally, helping those who need to do so use it in line with the FCRA. 

Best Background Check for Businesses – Intelius:

Intelius is a people search website where you can gather data from both private companies and public records to get more information on the person that you are checking up on. All you need to do is enter their name and location before filling in the answers to a few follow-up questions to narrow down your search. To get the full results, you will need to get a membership, which costs $22.86 per month and offers access to unlimited background checks. Intelius has been around since 2003 and is a trusted name in the industry, allowing you to gather data such as contact information, email addresses, dating profiles, possible relatives, felonies, misdemeanors, traffic tickets, tax liens, civil records, criminal records and more. It allows you to get an accurate picture of the person you want to background check without spending hours searching through tons of public information. 

On the downside, bear in mind that Intelius is not a CRA, so the information cannot be legally used by employers or landlords to make decisions. 

Does Intelius Offer a Free Trial?

Yes, there is a five-day trial available for $1.99, after which you will need to get a full membership, which starts at $22.86 per month. You can get a discount if you purchase several months’ membership upfront.

Is Intelius Legit?

Yes, it allows users to search for information on a wide range of records and the results are typically accurate. However, bear in mind that it is not a certified CRA. 

Best Value for Money – Instant Checkmate:

Instant Checkmate offers everything that you would expect from one of the best background checking services including employment history, county records, state records, and many other public and criminal records to help you get a better idea of the person that you are searching for. There are various different ways that you can search for somebody and advice is provided when it comes to using the information you find legally. 

However, it’s worth noting that while the layout and interface for this website is nice, there have been some complaints about slow loading times, poor customer service, and the fact that you cannot purchase an individual report. 

Does Instant Checkmate Offer a Free Trial?

You should definitely use Instant Checkmate’s free trial offer if you want to run a background check that is almost free. All you need to do is leave the checkout for a few minutes once you get to the payment page when signing up, and to try and get you back in, they will offer you a one-dollar trial for five days. After your trial is up, you can sign up for either a monthly report membership, a quarterly report membership, or a phone-lookup only membership. Since getting a trial period for this cheap is rare, it’s a good way to see what you can get without paying out for a monthly membership. 

Is Instant Checkmate Legit?

Yes – they use both private sources and public information to find a range of records including contact information, online activity, employment history, arrest records and more. However, since Instant Checkmate is not a CRA, it cannot be used by landlords or employers to vet potential tenants or employees. 

What is the Best Free Background Check Site?

If you are looking to conduct a background check without paying a penny, you are best using a basic search site like PeekYou or setting some time aside for a lot of Googling. However, bear in mind that you might not always be able to get the results that you want for free as the information can be quite limited. 

Instead of a free background check, it might be more worthwhile to use a cheap site that offers a lot more information. With TruthFinder, you can run unlimited background checks for their reasonable monthly membership fee, making it an ideal choice for those who have a lot of people to check. Instant Checkmate and Intelius come with very cheap trials for the first five days, making it easy to find what you’re looking for without a large fee. 


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