Best Background Check Services of 2019

Best overall
BeenVerified
3.8 out of 5 stars3.8
Starting from 
$26.89
/mo. w/ $1 for 5-day tiral
Pro Bullet iOS and Android apps
Pro Bullet Court runner service
Best monthly price
PeopleLooker
3.8 out of 5 stars3.8
Starting from 
$22.86
/mo.
Pro Bullet Lowest monthly price
Pro Bullet iOS, Android, and Apple Watch apps
Most accurate information
TruthFinder
3.8 out of 5 stars3.8
Starting from 
$27.78
/mo.
Pro Bullet iOS and Android apps
Pro Bullet Unlimited reports with membership
Best trial
Instant Checkmate
3.8 out of 5 stars3.8
Starting from 
$34.78
/mo w/ $1 for 5-day trial
Pro Bullet Android app
Pro Bullet Unlimited reports with membership
Best for standalone searches
PeopleFinders
3.7 out of 5 stars3.7
 
$24.95
/mo w/ $0.95 for 3-day trial
Pro Bullet No membership required
Pro Bullet Inexpensive 3-day trial

Overview
We asked 500 people  whether they’d ever run a background check on someone. Over half said they had. Which raises the question—what background check services should people use?

We researched and tested the most popular background check companies to find out which ones are best. There are lots of options, so keep reading to find the best background check service for your needs.

Best background check services for 2019

Legal use of background check services
Remember

It’s illegal to use regular background check services to screen tenants, evaluate someone for employment, or approve credit. This constraint protects people from discrimination.

If you’re a landlord evaluating renters, a parent hiring a nanny, or an employer checking out a potential job candidate, you’ll need to use a consumer reporting agency. Most of this article focuses on regular background check services, but we do have a consumer reporting agency section later on.


Compare background check services

All of the services we recommend include the following information:

  • Age
  • Phone numbers
  • Email
  • Addresses
  • Work history
  • Relatives or neighbors or associates
  • Assets
  • Criminal offenses

Where does background check information come from?

Background check services draw from public information, like court records and phone books. And public information isn’t always what you think it is. If you make your email address visible on a Facebook timeline that’s not private, that information is now in the public sphere and may turn up on a background check.

Not every background search site includes every type of information, so you’ll want to look carefully at what a service includes before enrolling.

You might notice that none of these services includes marriage or divorce records. More on that later.


Data effective 09/19/2019. Offers and availability subject to change.

1. BeenVerified | Best overall

BeenVerified is quick to use and easy to cancel. It has a court runner service, unlimited background checks with membership, and better-than-average customer service.

Best overall
BeenVerified
Our rating:
3.8 out of 5.0
3.8 out of 5 stars3.8
Customer service
3.5 out of 5 stars3.5
Price
4 out of 5 stars4.0
Product
4 out of 5 stars4.0
 
$26.89
/mo.
    Pros
    • Pro BulletiOS, Android, and Apple Watch apps
    • Pro BulletCourt runner service
    • Pro BulletLots of info about associates/family members
    • Pro BulletMultiple ways to search
    • Pro BulletTransparency about legal uses of information
    • Pro BulletUnlimited reports with membership
    Cons
    • Con BulletMandatory membership

    What we like about BeenVerified

    BeenVerified is the overall best option for ongoing service. The reports are quick to run, and the account is easy to cancel. It’s also well-priced and includes a special court runner service for records that aren’t digitized.

    How much does BeenVerified cost?

    At $26.89 a month, BeenVerified’s monthly price falls in the exact middle of our top options. You can also purchase a three-month plan for a lump sum of $52.44 ($17.48 a month). If you’re looking for an ongoing service, that’s a fantastic deal.

    Want to try before you buy? BeenVerified has a $1, five-day trial. It’s not well-advertised, so be sure to look for it during checkout.

    Features

    In our test, BeenVerified turned up the highest number of connected people, especially family members. Since a monthly membership lets you run unlimited background reports, there’s a lot you can do.

    You can investigate someone’s immediate family, extended family, and maybe even their neighbors, depending on who turns up in the initial report. If you want to reconnect with an old friend or reach a distant family member, this extra info can make you more confident that you’ve found the right person. And if there’s a report you’d like to keep an eye on, you can monitor it on an ongoing basis.

    Another reason we like BeenVerified is its unique court runner service. Some public records can be accessed only at local courthouses. If you use the court runner service, BeenVerified will send someone to retrieve documents that you can’t get online. None of the other companies we researched offer this perk.

    Finally, BeenVerified offers an Android app, an iOS app, and, most uniquely, an Apple Watch app. Sure, a watch screen isn’t ideal for scrolling through a detailed report. But it does make it easy to run a quick report if you meet someone new while you’re away from home.

    Customer service

    BeenVerified responds to its online reviews graciously and without sounding too robotic. When you cancel, though, you have to call the brand. But you don’t have to speak with an erratic human. Instead, you input your account information in response to an automated branching message. Your cancellation is immediate, and you received a confirmation email shortly after.


    2. PeopleLooker | Best monthly price

    PeopleLooker’s cost is a steal for what’s included.

    Best monthly price
    PeopleLooker
    Our rating:
    3.8 out of 5.0
    3.8 out of 5 stars3.8
    Customer service
    3.5 out of 5 stars3.5
    Price
    3.8 out of 5 stars3.8
    Product
    4.3 out of 5 stars4.3
     
    $22.86
    /mo.
      Pros
      • Pro BulletLowest monthly price
      • Pro BulletiOS, Android, and Apple Watch apps
      Cons
      • Con BulletMandatory membership
      • Con BulletNo trial option

      What we like about PeopleLooker

      Of our top services, PeopleLooker has the best price. It provides the same information as BeenVerified while charging less. In fact, PeopleLooker and BeenVerified are what we call “sister sites.” They’re owned by the same people, are similarly run, and may pull their information from the same sources.¹

      Unlike BeenVerified, PeopleLooker doesn’t have a trial membership or a court runner service. It also isn’t quite as transparent. It clearly states that it’s not FCRA approved but doesn’t explain what that means for the user.

      How much does PeopleLooker cost?

      You’ll pay $22.86 each month for a monthly subscription to PeopleLooker. If you plan to invest in the service for longer, we recommend the quarterly subscription at $18.28 for three months.

      Disappointingly, PeopleLooker has no temporary trial, so you have to sign up for at least a month to try it.

      Features

      Like BeenVerified, PeopleLooker is a fast service with unlimited searches. It also sends you notifications when there are changes on the reports that you’re interested in.

      Also, like BeenVerified, PeopleLooker comes in an iOS, Android, and Apple Watch app, so your preferred device is probably covered.

      Customer service

      PeopleLooker uses the same automated phone system for cancellation as BeenVerified.


      3. TruthFinder| Most accurate information

      TruthFinder is our favorite option for tracking down recent information.

      Most accurate information
      Truthfinder
      Our rating:
      3.8 out of 5.0
      3.8 out of 5 stars3.8
      Customer service
      3.5 out of 5 stars3.5
      Price
      3.5 out of 5 stars3.5
      Product
      4.5 out of 5 stars4.5
       
      $27.78
      /mo.
        Pros
        • Pro BulletUp-to-date contact info
        • Pro BulletiOS and Android apps
        • Pro BulletTransparency about legal uses of information
        • Pro BulletMultiple ways to search
        • Pro BulletUnlimited reports with membership
        Cons
        • Con BulletMandatory membership
        • Con BulletNo trial option
        • Con BulletSeparate subscription for phone search
        • Con BulletGimmicky scare tactics
        • Con BulletUnnecessary emphasis on horoscopes

        What we like about Truthfinder

        TruthFinder reports tend to have the most accurate and up-to-date information. The brand also has more info than BeenVerified or PeopleLooker. For example, reports include previous and current property ownership information, as well as details about sex offenders near the person’s current address.

        Like all background check services, TruthFinder has some missing and incorrect data. But overall, if you’re running a check on yourself to see what turns up (and what others see about you), TruthFinder is a sensible place to start.

        How much does TruthFinder cost?

        TruthFinder costs $27.78 a month, a bit more than BeenVerified. Or, for a two-month subscription, $23.02.

        Unlike BeenVerified, though, TruthFinder gives you a name search option and nothing else. If you want to look someone up by phone number, you have to pay for a separate, $4.99 subscription. On the flip side, that’s super affordable if you want to run phone searches only.

        If you want to download a report, you’ll have to pay $2 extra for each download.

        Like PeopleLooker, though, TruthFinder doesn’t offer a free trial.

        Features

        TruthFinder’s pretty up front about how its data can and can’t be used. Unfortunately, it takes a looooong time—at least 10 minutes—for your report to come together with TruthFinder. Since plenty of other services compile their reports almost instantaneously, we suspect the waiting is either for drama or to invoke the sunk cost fallacy.

        The penchant for dramatics doesn’t end there. While your report’s coming together, you’ll receive increasingly hyperbolic warnings about the subject of your search. Most of the services have a disclaimer about surprising information, but TruthFinder takes that to a whole new level.

        TruthFinder also shares the search subject’s horoscope sign, then offers to calculate how compatible you are with that person. We’re sure the intent was harmless, but it’s a tad creepy.

        TruthFinder Graphic Warning

        Image captured on TruthFinder's site.

        Customer service

        TruthFinder’s recent reviews are mostly positive. The complaints mostly talk about the extreme number of promotional emails users received.

        If you want to cancel, you’ll have to call, but it sounds like the brand’s reps are pretty helpful.


        4. Instant Checkmate | Best trial

        When it comes to trying a service temporarily, Instant Checkmate is our favorite option.

        Instant Checkmate
        Our rating:
        3.8 out of 5.0
        3.8 out of 5 stars3.8
        Customer service
        4 out of 5 stars4.0
        Price
        2.5 out of 5 stars2.5
        Product
        4.8 out of 5 stars4.8
         
        $34.78
        /mo.
          Pros
          • Pro BulletInexpensive 5-day trial
          • Pro BulletUp-to-date contact info
          • Pro BulletiOS and Android apps
          • Pro BulletTransparent about legal uses of information
          • Pro BulletUnlimited reports with membership
          Cons
          • Con BulletMandatory membership

          What we like about Instant Checkmate

          We recommend Instant Checkmate for people who want to run a few background checks and then call it a day. For example, if you just need to track down one relative for one funeral, the Instant Checkmate trial is an excellent choice. It has just as much information as TruthFinder but costs about as little as the BeenVerified free trial. That’s the best of both worlds.

          How much does Instant Checkmate cost?

          If you want the trial, it’s just $1 for five days.

          Instant Checkmate trial
          Protip

          There’s a trick to getting the Instant Checkmate trial. You have to pause on the checkout page for a few minutes and wait for a pop-up offering the discount. We assume the brand wants to establish that you’re not, in fact, going to pay $30+ before offering you a cheaper option.

          Like BeenVerified, Instant Checkmate requires a membership after the trial is over. The membership runs more expensive than any of the others we recommend, at $34.78 a month. But if you want to use the service for at least three months, you can try paying $27.82 each month for a quarterly membership.

          And like TruthFinder, Instant Checkmate charges a separate fee of $4.99 for reverse phone lookups.

          Features

          Instant Checkmate is TruthFinder’s sister site.², ³ It has everything TruthFinder does, including the problems. Instant Checkmate is sluggish, and the horoscope feature’s alive and kickin’ on its reports. Happily, though, it has far fewer doom-and-gloom pop-ups than TruthFinder.

          Customer service

          Instant Checkmate has a lot of positive recent reviews, and when it’s time to cancel, you have the option of using the phone, an email, or a contact form.

          5. PeopleFinders | Best for standalone searches

          PeopleFinders lets you run one-off background checks without enrolling in its membership plan.

          PeopleFinders
          Our rating:
          3.7 out of 5.0
          3.7 out of 5 stars3.7
          Customer service
          4 out of 5 stars4.0
          Price
          3 out of 5 stars3.0
          Product
          4 out of 5 stars4.0
           
          $24.95
          /mo.
            Pros
            • Pro BulletNo membership required
            • Pro BulletInexpensive 3-day trial
            • Pro BulletAndroid app
            Cons
            • Con BulletNo iOS app
            • Con BulletLess transparent than other services
            • Con BulletCancellation fee
            • Con BulletDoesn’t search social media

            What we like about PeopleFinders

            You’re chatting with someone new online and want to double-check them before meeting up for drinks. With PeopleFinders, you can run a single background check report on this person and be done.

            How much does PeopleFinders cost?

            It depends on what you need. A trial membership is $0.95 for three days, but if you want criminal records included in that trial, you have to pay $3 extra for a premium. And if you cancel your trial to prevent it from automatically rolling over into a monthly membership, you have to pay an additional $2.95.

            A regular monthly membership costs $24.95 a month, while a premium membership costs $29.95 a month. Finally, a single report costs $1.95, but a single premium report costs $39.95. And a reverse phone lookup costs $3.95 a pop.

            A regular monthly membership costs $24.95 a month.
            Features

            PeopleFinders’ reports are more like BeenVerified and PeopleLooker’s reports. They don’t have as much information as TruthFinder’s or Instant Checkmate’s. Notably, they don’t include social media accounts. Still, they have enough to go on, especially if you spring for a premium report.

            The ability to run a single background or reverse phone lookup report is rare in the DIY background check industry, so that’s a huge plus.

            Customer service

            The recent reviews of PeopleFinders aren’t great. That’s largely because users aren’t happy about getting slapped with an extra fee when they cancel their trials.

            On the other hand, PeopleFinders is easy to cancel through a link on your dashboard. It’s also easy to opt out with this link.


            To get our top five background check services, we looked at services consistently ranked as top picks by tech experts. We then heavily researched each service and even ran some reports.


            Other background check companies to consider

            Intelius

            Intelius costs a little bit less than our top companies, but its reports include much less information. Intelius is also less clear about how the information can and can’t be used. We’d recommend sticking to a company that’s more transparent. >>See our Intelius review.

            US Search

            According to the Better Business Bureau, US Search is headquartered at the same address as Intelius, making us suspect that they’re sister sites.⁴, ⁵ But US Search provides even less information than Intelius and has terrible, terrible recent customer reviews. >>See our US Search review.

            IntegraScan

            To use IntegraScan, you have to know the person’s phone number to run a partial background check. If that’s not tricky enough, you have to have their Social Security number to do a full check. Since you probably won’t have the phone or Social Security number of a potential date, you can only use this service on people incredibly close to you. By contrast, almost every other service lets you run a check with a first name, last name, and city.

            Verispy

            Verispy’s exceptionally well priced; you can buy a one-off report for about half of what other services charge. It also includes marriage and divorce records, the unicorns of background check searches. But Verispy’s name keeps coming up in a spam scam, its online review responses are borderline rude, and to opt out, it requires proof of ID for no apparent reason. Needless to say, we don’t recommend Verispy in anything but dire circumstances.

            InfoTracer

            InfoTracer’s easy to use. It also costs $19.02 a month: not bad. But like Verispy, InfoTracer requires that you send a copy of your identification to opt out. The brand assures you that it’ll take good care of your information, but when you’re already trying to opt out of letting them use your info, that’s not exactly comforting.

            Net Detective

            Net Detective’s been shut down and rebooted by new owners in recent years, invalidating the lifetime memberships its members previously enjoyed. While it did make some surprising true connections between people that no other sites picked up on, overall it just doesn’t seem as reliable as other services.

            AccioData

            We love a good Harry Potter reference—and in a world of generically-named background check services, AccioData stands out. This site is specifically for checking employees, but apart from the vivid name, it just doesn’t measure up to GoodHire.

            Tenant and pre-employment background checks

            As we touched on before, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Federal Trade Commission enforce laws that are in place to prevent employment discrimination. It’s illegal to use the information found in a normal background check to make employment decisions (hiring, firing, promotions, etc.), screen tenants, or make credit or insurance decisions.

            Consumer reporting agencies, on the other hand, can be used for pre-employment screening and tenant screening. To qualify as a consumer reporting agency, a company must comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

            RentPrep | Best tenant screening service

            Best tenant screening service
            RentPrep

              If you’re a landlord, you want tenants who will respect your property and pay their rent on time. RentPrep can help you quickly vet applicants, whether you need a basic background check or a credit check.

              GoodHire | Best employee screening service

              Best employee screening service
              GoodHire

                GoodHire is a go-to option for small businesses looking to screen applicants. It’s well-reviewed online and has a solid reputation among other background check reviewers like PCMag and Business News Daily.

                eNannySource | Best nanny background check service

                Best nanny background check service
                eNannySource

                  eNannySource makes it easy to find the right caregiver for your family. You can purchase an all-inclusive background check or an à-la-carte package with just what you need. eNannySource even offers personality assessments to help you determine whether a candidate will work well with your children.


                  Why you need to run background checks

                  The idea of running a background check on a romantic interest can feel a bit cringey. And you employers and landlords might wonder why you’d ever go to the trouble of running an FCRA background check on a potential employee or tenant, especially if they’re a colleague of a colleague or friend of a friend. Well, we recently ran a background check survey, and some of the results were startling.

                  Survey respondents said they lied on applications or profiles

                  Our survey suggests that more people lie about their backgrounds than you’d think.

                  Survey Results of How Many People Lie About Their Backgrounds

                  Too much trust, or not enough awareness?

                  Happily, during our survey, we found that using background checks isn’t uncommon.

                  • 2% of survey respondents have done a background check on themselves.
                  • 4% of survey respondents have done a background check on a spouse or partner.
                  • 4% of survey respondents have done a background check on a date.
                  • 13% of survey respondents say their most recent employer definitely or probably ran a background check on them (this excludes respondents who haven’t applied for a job before).

                  But they’re still far from universal.

                  • 4% of survey respondents have never used a background check service.
                  • 8% of survey respondents have never done a background check on themselves.
                  • 89% survey respondents say their employer definitely did not run a background check on them; 4.05% say probably not (this excludes respondents who haven’t applied for a job before).

                  It’s alarming that almost half of our 500 respondents have never run a background check on someone they’ve met, especially since Eharmony estimates that 40% of Americans date online.⁶ And, since 61.6% of our survey respondents haven’t searched a sex offender registry, it’s unlikely that the average person takes even the minimal step of checking to see if their date’s a sex offender.

                  Background check accuracy

                  Of course, just because something turns up in a background check doesn’t mean it’s true. Even public records have errors, as our survey illustrates.

                  • 8% of survey respondents have experienced inaccurate results from a background check.
                  • Among the survey respondents who’ve run a background check on themselves, 92% say they received inaccurate information.
                  • 2% of survey respondents say an employer has received inaccurate information about them during a background check.

                  That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t run background checks. It’s better to have too much information than too little. You can always ask the background check subject to explain anything that seems incongruous or extreme.

                  Survey methodology

                  Using PollFish, a trusted and anonymous polling service for researchers, we surveyed 500 people. To avoid misleading results, our survey wasn’t open to those who are self-employed or unable to work. Participants included men and women over 18 who reside in the United States and described their employment status as “unemployed looking,” “employed for wages,” or “retired.”


                  Background check service FAQ

                  What is a background check?

                  A background check pulls from public records to create a picture of the subject’s past. Some subjects have nothing worse than a parking violation in their background, while others have serious criminal records.

                  What comes up on a background check?

                  Background reports vary dramatically from one company to the next, and all of them rely on public records and social media. Even the best services won’t be 100% accurate. Some of the services we tested included up-to-date contact information, property ownership details, and criminal background info, while others didn’t even have a correct phone number.

                  Opting out blues
                  Definition

                  Opting out of a background check service means requesting that your information be removed from the site. We see a lot of complaints from users who are unhappy to find information about themselves on a background check site. It helps to remember that background check services aren’t peddling info; they’re just making it easier to find what’s already publicly available. So opting out is more of a courtesy than anything—especially because it requires effort to make sure your information isn’t pulled back onto background check sites by data-gathering tools.

                  Super-sensitive information, like your Social Security number or driver’s license, isn’t available publicly and won’t turn up on a background check. That helps prevent data mishaps like a stolen identity. But if you’re worried about identity theft, we suggest signing up for credit report monitoring.

                  Also, minors won’t show up on background check reports.

                  Can I find my significant other’s divorce in a background check?

                  It’s entirely likely that you won’t. Most online background check services don’t include birth, marriage, divorce, or death records. We came across two possible explanations for this:

                  1. In some places, these records aren’t yet digitized.
                  2. Some of these records are protected by local privacy laws.

                  None of our top five sites use marriage or divorce records.

                  • Instant Checkmate is the only top site that states it includes birth records.
                  • Similarly, PeopleLooker and Instant Checkmate are the only top sites who say they search death records for their reports.
                  • We noticed that TruthFinder, at least, included more information in reports than the brand advertises. So you might stumble across a birth or death record on TruthFinder or other sites anyway since they’re less likely to be kept private than marriage or divorce records.

                  If you’re specifically looking for divorce or marriage records, try Verispy or InfoTracer. Just know that both services require ID to cancel.

                  When can I use a regular background check service?

                  As mentioned earlier, some background check uses are illegal unless you go through a consumer reporting agency.

                  If you need to complete a pre-employment screening or tenant screening, you should use a consumer reporting agency.

                  Pro Bullet Do
                  • Pro BulletScope out a potential date, especially for online dating safety purposes
                  • Pro BulletMake sure you’re comfortable before sending kids to a neighbor’s house
                  • Pro BulletRun a check on yourself and make sure nothing weird shows up
                  • Pro BulletInvestigate an online buyer or seller before doing business with them
                  • Pro BulletTrack down extended family members
                  • Pro BulletFind contact information for old friends
                  • Pro BulletCheck out potential roommates
                  • Pro BulletFind out who’s spamming you with phone calls
                  Con Bullet Don't
                  • Con BulletScreen someone for employment
                  • Con BulletMake decisions about promotions or employment terminations
                  • Con BulletScreen potential tenants
                  • Con BulletEvaluate household workers like nannies, cleaners, landscapers, etc.
                  • Con BulletDetermine eligibility for credit or insurance
                  • Con BulletDecide whether to give someone a scholarship or admit them to an educational program

                  Where do I get a background check?

                  You can go to any of the services we’ve recommended to get a personal background check. We’ve also recommended services for checking potential employees and tenants.

                  Why aren’t these criminal records showing up?

                  If you’re running a primarily criminal background check and you don’t see criminal records for someone you know has them, there are a couple of possible reasons. The records showing the criminal background might not be digitized yet. Or, if the person wasn’t convicted of a crime, the charges could be expunged or sealed.

                  Can I do a Google search instead?

                  Background search companies get their information from public databases and records, so in theory, you could track down a lot of the same info by yourself. So why pay someone else? To save time and get more information.

                  A background check company can quickly get hard-to-find information and condense it all into one convenient report. You might easily find someone’s LinkedIn profile, but it would take a lot more work to find things like proof of property ownership or a criminal background.

                  Instead of spending weeks tracking down details, you can spend a few minutes typing in a name and a city and let the pros do the work for you. That way, you can make sure you feel comfortable before you send your kid to a friend’s house or pick up furniture from a Craigslist stranger.


                  Our recommendation

                  As a recap, here are our recommendations for best background check companies.
                  • BeenVerified is our top background check service pick for most people because it’s easy to use and has superior service.
                  • PeopleLooker is similar to BeenVerified but at a lower price.
                  • TruthFinder has some of the most accurate information we’ve seen.
                  • Instant Checkmate offers an inexpensive trial with a wealth of information.
                  • PeopleFinders doesn’t require membership for one-off background checks.

                  Contributing author: Brianna Jensen

                  Sources:

                  1. Better Business Bureau, “Been Verified, Inc.
                  2. Better Business Bureau, “Instant Checkmate, Inc.
                  3. Better Business Bureau, “TruthFinder
                  4. Better Business Bureau, “Intelius
                  5. Better Business Bureau, “USSearch.Com
                  6. Eharmony, “10 Online Dating Statistics You Should Know