Online Background Checks
And their Shortcomings, as told by MARYLAND PRIVATE INVESTIGATORS
If you want accurate, comprehensive information, don’t settle for online background checks. Let the professionals at Brown, Kaszak, & Associates conduct a thorough background investigation. We are a Maryland private investigations firm. Our agency boasts nationwide capabilities and resources which allow us to successfully manage cases not only in Maryland, but across the United States, as well as the globe.
I’m sure that you’ve seen them, too. Websites that claim to provide comprehensive background search results for a fee. You know the ones, where for only $29.95 you can get all of the information possible on the subject of the investigation. Well, I’m here to tell you that this is not entirely true.
There are a couple of myths that need to be dispelled right from the start. First, despite what you have read, or have been told, there is no publicly available national criminal database. I’m not saying one doesn’t exist, quite to the contrary. In fact, the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) is an electronic clearinghouse maintained by the FBI, and it contains over 12 million active records from virtually every criminal justice agency nationwide. The problem with this database is that access is restricted only to criminal justice agencies.
There is certainly a place for the results that you do get from an online search. To be fair, you will get some results, but I must stress that they aren’t all inclusive by any means. For example, the results can be an indicator of any criminal activity outside of the jurisdiction that the subject resides. Let me take that a bit further. If the subject indicates that they have never been arrested, but the results indicate a criminal arrest or conviction in another state, it may warrant closer examination.
Brian Willingham of Diligentia Group mentioned that a lawyer once joked by saying that private investigators are just an expensive Google search. This leads me to my second point. In all of Google’s greatness, they are not the alpha and omega with regard to online searches. In fact, Google has indexed approximately 35 trillion web pages, or roughly 4% of the information that exists on the internet. Let me repeat that; roughly 4% of the information on the internet. That’s an awful lot of information that Google can’t find. This information hidden from Google and other popular search engines is known as at the deep web. The deep web contains information such as sites behind a login, unlinked content, database query results, and web archives. This isn’t a discussion on the deep web, but just to clearly state that there is a lot beyond Google. If you are relying on the results of googling your subject, you are doing yourself a disservice.
This leads me to my third point; the accuracy of information. Often times, service providers of online background checks cannot guarantee complete and accurate information in the results that they are providing to you. This is due to their reliance on complete and accurate information being supplied to them. The reality is that while most service providers do a good job in providing information on the subject, the information itself is often outdated, inaccurate, or incomplete.
So, what is the solution? Well, an experienced private investigator can certainly conduct a truly comprehensive background investigation. Let me point smoothing out; notice I called the service a background investigation and not a background check. There is a profound difference between the two. A background check is just a cursory look, taken at face value, of the information surrounding a subject. An investigation is a careful examination and verification of the information provided by the subject. The private investigator performing the background investigation can certainly benefit from the results of an online inquiry, and is often one of the initial steps in performing the investigation. But the private investigator isn’t satisfied with the results from a proprietary database, and will take the steps to verify the information and develop information beyond the results. For example, the private investigator actually going to the state and federal courthouse to manually search for records to verify criminal or civil activity such as arrests or judgments is the best means to verify the existence and accuracy of those records. The private investigator will also interview neighbors, or other people who may have additional insight into he subject of the investigation, and in most cases will also be able to develop references who may be more impartial and objective to the subject of the investigation. There is an analysis of information that includes identifying discrepancies or other inconsistencies that is present in the professional background investigation that simply does not exist in the online background check.
This brings me back to the subject of this blog, the problem with online background checks. Don’t get me wrong, they do have a place as a service as a starting point of an inquiry. Private investigators get a great deal of information from open sources, but it is not the ending point of an investigation. Use it for what it is. Should you decide that you need a true background investigation, whether it is for pre-employment (which poses a whole new set of rules to play by), a business partnership, or to provide peace of mind in a personal relationship, don’t settle for the quick and easy because in most cases, the quick and easy falls short.
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