Can I Run a Background Check on Myself? (Warning: Read This First)
Table of Contents
Whether it’s for employment or for the sake of curiosity, many people ask, ‘can I run a background check on myself?’ But, there’s a warning everyone should read first.
The short answer is yes, anyone can run a background check on themselves, and in most cases doing so is a fairly straightforward process. Since the background check is being run on the person requesting it, there are no “consent” legalities to consider.
However, anyone who asks ‘can I run a background check on myself,’ should be aware that there are specific things to know about the law concerning background checks, and there are certain things that must be done to ensure the check is accurate.
What does this mean in simple terms?
There are many different types of background checks and using the wrong type can lead to a faulty or incomplete report. For example…
- Using a level 1 background check will not show any federal records.
- Running a name-based background search without using a social security number check (SSN) can lead to a report that includes information on other people.
- Using a background check to find pending charges or search outstanding warrants requires a completely different approach.
- Finding employment records that are full and comprehensive can’t be done with a simple background screen provider and other steps must be taken.
There are many more scenarios that we will cover in this article to make sure your background check is done correctly.
Can I Run a Criminal Background Check on Myself for Free
There are tons of reasons that individuals may be interested in running a background check. But many people also wonder if the criminal background check can be done for free.
Not only is it useful to know what kind of information may turn up on an employment background check, but with online background checks there is other useful information available. Forgotten social media accounts, information on identity theft, or even criminal history information that may be totally incorrect can be examined and removed from a background check.
Some reputable background check companies may offer a free seven day trial membership, which allows users to search criminal, educational and employment history. Using a free trial through an online company is both the cheapest and fastest way to get a background check of any kind, however it is not a perfect method.
Not all of the companies and websites that offer free background checks are created equal and many of them will not have the most up-to-date information, which can be a major problem in some cases.
However, there are some aspects of a criminal background check that can be searched free, including:
- How to find someone’s name by phone number for free
- How to find out if someone is in police custody free
- How to find out if someone is in jail for free
- How to find out if someone is a felon, or on probation
- How to find out if there are pending charges against you
The best thing to do for individuals hoping to get a free background check is to use a reputable agency that requires a membership. This will help to ensure that the most up to date and accurate information is being reported.
What is the Best Self Background Check?
Although going through federal and state agencies will provide the most accurate criminal information, the best self background check includes more than just criminal records.
For example, with most state and federal agencies, only criminal history information is going to be available. Although this is often the most important part of a background check, if an individual also needs credit check information, education verification and other info, then they will need to use a background check service, which will gather this information and more on their behalf.
For those who don’t want to hire a background check service and prefer to do a DIY background check, they will need to perform all the tasks individually, paying for each report. This can include:
- Identity verification: Social Security Background Check, Reverse Phone Number Lookup, Middle Name Verification, and Address Lookup
- MVR Report: Motor Vehicles Report
- Property Ownership/Tax Liens: These can be done at the state comptroller’s office
- Tax Records and Credit Check
- Sex Offender Registry Check
- And More…
Keep in mind that the DIY approach can look cheaper at first, but if a lot of different information is required, from a lot of different agencies and sources, the small fees can add up. This is why going through a membership based background check company is such a good option, as the membership will cover all the processing fees that are required to get copies of certain records and to access databases.
The best approach to running a self background check is to learn exactly what information is needed, and then decide whether a service would be the best option. If not, the following steps can be used to perform a background check on yourself.
How Do I Get a Background Check on Myself?
For many situations, asking, ‘can I run a background check on myself?’ is just a matter of a few clicks online.The methods for background checks in each state vary slightly, but they all follow the same general process.
Applying for a State Level Background Check
State background checks usually involve contacting some kind of state law-enforcement agency. This will be different in every state but is most often the state police or the department of justice. A table with a link to the proper background check agency in each state is provided further down, for users who need to know how to get a background check from the police.
Once the agency has been identified it’s as simple as following the unique steps for each state, which will often involve some or all of the following:
- Social Security Number
- Processing Fee
- Contact Information
Once the proper forms have been filled out and necessary steps, like getting fingerprints, is done, the form is then sent to the proper agency and ultimately returned to the requester with a complete background check.
Performing a Nationwide and Federal Background Check
Federal background checks follow a very similar process but are instead organized and conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), in cooperation with all state agencies and the Federal Department of Justice.
Detailed steps on how to run a federal background check on yourself is explained below.
Laws About Self background Checks
There are several laws to be aware of for individuals hoping to run a background check on themselves, including consent laws for background checks. In many cases, such as an employer requesting a background check on an applicant, written consent is required to perform the check.
Although written consent is required by law for many background checks to be performed, when performing a background check on oneself, this consent form is not required.
In addition to the consent laws established by the Fair Credit Reporting Act, there may also be local regulations regarding background checks that individuals should at least be aware of before conducting a background check.
These laws will vary, based on jurisdiction, so it’s important to check local and state laws surrounding background checks and criminal history checks before getting started.
Search Criminal Records for the Best Background Check
When many people think of a background check, they are really thinking of a criminal history check. Although a criminal history check is almost always part of a background check, and in many cases is the most important part, there are many other aspects to background checks.
If a criminal history check is all that is required, it may not make sense to go through the normal background check process since criminal history information can be searched independently.
There are three main ways to search for criminal history information on an individual:
- Federal Checks
- State Checks
- Local Jurisdiction Checks
Each one has its own unique set of challenges and uses, so in many cases, it may be necessary to perform all three checks. However, each check is fairly straightforward and can be completed without a massive investment of time.
Keep in mind that although these checks are often very affordable, they do have a small fee associated with each one. If official copies of the background check are not necessary, going the free trial route with a reputable company is probably the best course of action.
Performing a Federal Criminal History Check
Running a federal criminal history check through the FBI is a fairly straightforward process, although it is somewhat longer due to a few important steps that must be completed in order to get the results.
Mainly, the fingerprint process, requires that fingerprints (digital or original) be conducted by an approved outlet.
There are a few slightly different methods to obtain an Identity History Summary Check, which is the term the FBI uses for a federal criminal history check. All the methods are very similar and the only main difference is how the information is submitted to the FBI.
Submitting the request online is the easiest and fastest method and heavily recommended if possible. Other options include mailing the required information, steps to do so are available on the FBI website and can be found on the Identity History Summary Checks page.
Detailed steps on how to perform an Identity History Summary Check from the FBI is outlined below.
Step 1: Access the Identity History Summary Checks Page on the FBI website.
The first step is to access the page of the FBI website that has the necessary forms and information to submit an official Identity history summary check. This can be accessed from the “services,” page on the FBI website.
On the services page there will be a link to the Identity History Summary Checks page, which is marked by a graphic marked “IDHSC.”
Step 2: Access the Electronic Request Form
Although there are options to submit the request via a mailed form, the online form is the easiest and the quickest option to submit the request.
The IDHSC page will have a link to the electronic form, this form will have the specific steps for how to submit the request.
An email address is required as well as verification of that address in order to begin the process. The FBI will send a pin to the provided email address, simply enter the pin and the proper forms will become available.
Step 3: Complete the Applicant Information Form
The first official step in the process, once an email address has been verified, is to complete the applicant information form that is provided. Information will be very straight forward and ultimately amounts to basic contact information so expect to fill in the following:
- Date of Birth
- Current Address
- Social Security Number
Step 4: Submit Preferences
With the application information form completed, the next step in the process is to select your preferences. This will only take a minute and is just to let the agency know how the individual wishes to be notified regarding status updates and how they wish to receive the results of the check.
Step 5: Submit Fingerprints
Submitting fingerprints is the next step in the process and is also the most tedious. The process is still fairly simple. Fingerprints must be taken at one of the participating United States Post Office locations.
Detailed steps on the process are provided by the FBI, but it ultimately amounts to getting fingerprinted at a post office location and having the Post Office electronically submit those fingerprints to the FBI.
Keep in mind that getting fingerprinted is the last step in the process when submitting the request electronically.
Make sure to have everything else completed and all payments made before going to the post office so that the fingerprints can be submitted immediately.
Step 6: Await Results
With all the information, fingerprints and payment submitted the only thing left to do is await results. The FBI will provide an email link to check the status, so that individuals can monitor the process.
The FBI says that results should be available within 3-5 business days of the fingerprints being received for electronic requests.
State Criminal History Check
Although it will vary slightly from state to state, the process for obtaining state criminal history information should be fairly similar to obtaining information from the FBI.
Agencies vary but starting with the State Police to obtain a background check is usually a good idea.
Step 1: Access the Proper State Agency Website
Which state agency is in charge of criminal history checks varies but is most often fulfilled by the state police or the department of justice.
A simple google search of “state criminal background check,” should be sufficient in locating the agency.
A table for the agency in each state is provided further down.
Example: For Colorado, criminal background checks are handled by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. (CBI)
Step 2: Locate Criminal Background Check Information
Generally, the agency website will have a section about criminal history information or criminal background checks. Accessing this page should point users towards the proper steps to submitting a background check request on themselves.
Example: In Colorado, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation provides an Internet Criminal History Check System.
Step 3: Follow Steps and Submit Requested Information.
Once the proper forms have been located the steps will be similar to requesting a federal check. Basic contact information will be requested and in many cases fingerprints will also be needed, but not always.
Example: The CBI Internet Criminal History Check System allows users to perform a search using as little information as a name and date of birth. However, more information will result in more accurate results so entering a social security number will help with this.
Once this information has been submitted, the user will then need to enter payment information, in order to pay the $5.00 fee required for each search. Once entered, the information will be available instantly.
Local Criminal History Check
Local checks will vary even more than state checks, this is because in many cases there is no online database to search the information. Therefore the request must be made and fulfilled manually.
Step 1: Identify the Proper Agency
The process to identify which agency is in charge is the same as the state, simply googling “County criminal history,” should point users in the right direction. In most cases, the request will be made to the local Sheriff.
Example: The Larimer County Sheriff’s Department1 is in charge of all local records.
Step 2: Identify the Proper Forms
Generally the website of the agency in charge of local records will have forms that can be filled out online, or printed and then mailed to the agency. These request forms usually require basic information on the requester, as well as information on what records they are hoping to obtain. Most agencies will require a small fee to process the request with some exceptions, such as waived fees for victims of a crime.
Example: Larimer county has a form specifically for requesting arrest records, which is located on the Sheriff Records page 2 The form requires some basic information and a $7.50 fee.
Step 3: Submit Forms and Await Results
The final step is to submit the forms by following the specific steps for each county. This will be done either electronically on the same website where the form was found, or will involve mailing the printed and completed form to the agency.
The agency will provide a mailing address if this is the case. Return times will vary but in general shouldn’t take more than a week to receive results.
In some situations, the State Police Department can also provide criminal history checks, or at least provide valuable information on how to obtain these records.
Can I Run a Background Check on Myself? Use State Police Department Resources
Just like the criminal justice department, in many states, background checks are performed through the state police. These databases contain the criminal information that can show up on a background check.
The following list contains links to all state police departments:
Background Check For Employment (Run Background Check Records with Your Social Security Number)
In many cases, people wonder, ‘can I run a background check on myself,’ because a potential job requires it.
When an employment background check is planned, there are several areas that an employer may examine. For this reason, a background check agency can be a good idea.
However, the search can be performed manually, searching the following areas:
Search Social Media Accounts and Online Footprint
Simply enter the name of the individual being searched into the website’s search function and it should be able to show any online presence that the individual may have such as business, social media profiles and more.
Any news stories or other online mentions of the person will also be included. Examine each result to ensure the information is accurate, and something that would not become a disqualifying offense to a future employer.
Driving Records–MVR Reports
Just like criminal history information, the exact method for obtaining driving records will depend on the state. However, this service should always be available through the state’s Department of Motor vehicles.
Obtaining an MRV should only require basic contact information and possibly a social security number or diverse license numbers. Most states charge a small fee for this service.
Example: To get an MRV in Colorado, simply access the Colorado Department of Motor Vehicles website, and follow instructions on the Motor Vehicle Record page.
Completing the form online is the easiest option and can be easily completed using the provided form.
All U.S. citizens are entitled to a free copy of their credit report once every 12 months. Individuals will need to verify their identity with the following:
- Date of Birth
- Social Security Number
Information for how to safely request a credit report can be found through the Federal Trade Commission website. The process involves going to the official credit report website and completing the online form.3
If hiring a background check company to conduct the search, education checks are fairly standard practice and something the company will verify on the requestor’s behalf. However, there is a way for individuals to verify education themselves.
Step 1: Gather Information
The first step is to gather information for the individual being checked. At a minimum, the following information will be needed to properly verify:
- Name of individual
- Name of school
- Dates attended
Step 2: Contact the School
Once the proper information has been gathered, contacting the school with the information is the last step. This is common practice at most schools and simply providing the above information should be enough for the school to verify if the person attended and any other information such as if their degree was completed etc.
There are many ways to check information about yourself. Although some may take longer than others and the free options are limited, with a little bit of searching, the answer to the question, ‘can I run a background check on myself?’ is yes.
1Annual Credit Report.com – Home Page, Accessed 2 March 2022. <https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action>
2Sheriff Records.” Larimer County,Accessed 2 March 2022. <https://www.larimer.org/sheriff/support-services/sheriff-records>
3Sheriff Records.” Larimer County, Accessed 2 March 2022. <ttps://www.larimer.org/sheriff/support-services/sheriff-records>