Background Check VS Background Investigation

Many people use the terms background check and background investigation interchangeably. The reality is they are very different and take different levels of expertise. It’s important to know the differences so you know which type of service suits your situation best.

What is a background check?

A background check is a way of quickly verifying a person’s integrity. As licensed private investigators, a background check often includes checking a name in databases only available to law enforcement and private investigators and then providing the client with the raw data that comes from within the database.

The information gained from databases exclusively for Private investigators / law enforcement differs but can include your typical investigative staples such as social security numbers (cannot legally be provided to the client without the permission of the subject to which the background check is being conducted on), criminal records, license plate verification, date of birth, address history, judgments, professional license verification, bankruptcies and property records.

It’s not unusual for a private investigator to use several exclusive databases to run a background check. Using one, two, or even three separate databases might not get the pertinent information that the client needs. Just to show you how inconsistent some of these databases can be, within our own company, we subscribe to over ten databases to get the client the information they need. I’m not talking about the next .com website advertising the cheapest background checks. The websites we access are exclusively for licensed private investigators and law enforcement. The accreditation process for these databases is rigorous yet we as investigators are sometimes still provided with inconsistent content. This is why it’s extremely important that if you’re considering purchasing a background check to first consider a licensed private investigator who can decipher what matters most. We as investigators know how to conduct a thorough background check.  I recently had a client who advised me they used a .com website to run a criminal record search on a subject. The criminal record report came back negative for active warrants or prior criminal history. After running my own background check I determined the subject to have lived in the same county for over 15 years. I then ascertained an out-of-state investigator to physically go to the courthouse in the county where the subject in question lived and pull any criminal records from the county clerks office related to the subject. It turned out the subject had been arrested, convicted, and sentenced to six years in prison for residential burglary eight years prior. My client was going to hire this subject based off the report she obtained from the internet. Will a .com background check website do this for their clients ; go the extra mile to get the real data?

 What is a background investigation?

A background investigation is the proper route for an in-depth investigation and review into who someone really is.  A background investigation is a more comprehensive, accurate and complete way of investigating a person’s past. An investigator may comprehensively review court dockets, public records, publicly available documents, property records, UCC filings, corporate documents,  and on-site court searches in the relevant jurisdictions. 

 A proper background investigation would be incomplete without interviews. Investigators may interview friends, past co-workers, neighbors, and family members to get a more complete profile of the subject. Things we look for in this analysis include, amongst others, false statements, omissions, misrepresentations, inconsistencies, fraud, sanctions, fines, suspensions and even disbarments. With knowledge, training methods, and expertise a private investigator can provide a more accurate, comprehensive and complete picture of a person.

 In conclusion, a background check is often a method that only scratches the surface of the information truly needed to validate the character of a person.  On the other hand, a background investigation is an in-depth investigation , leaving nothing to be unverified.