FreeBackgroundCheck.org is a data-pooling search site that offers many types of specific searching with the goal of getting you information quickly and efficiently. The accuracy of the information, however, is questionable and I would advise any users to do a double check on the information provided just to be thorough.
Section 1: Who is FreeBackgroundCheck?
I recently had to start over in life after a divorce and, though I had a home, I needed a new roommate. I put a few ads out on Craigslist, Facebook, etc. and got a handful of hits right away. I was particularly intrigued in a gentleman who responded to me through Facebook; I was able to look at his profile and could tell that we had quite a few things in common. I decided, just to be safe, to do a background check on him to make sure I wasn’t letting a creep into my home where my children would be coming to visit.
After a little online searching, I found FreeBackgroundCheck.org and it seemed like a very straightforward site with lots of search options so I gave it a try. My first clue should have been that I could not find any information on the site as to who the company behind the site was, where they were located, or how they started. Most companies will have an “about us” section where they proudly tell you about themselves and how they came into the business. I could not find anything about the company at all, even by searching on popular search engines.
Section 2: Pricing and Available Plans
When signing up, I was offered 3 levels of access: 1 month of unlimited searches for $19.95/month, 1 week unlimited for $4.95, and just a single report for $29.95. I had a few people I could search if this gentleman wasn’t going to work out but I knew I would be making a decision within a week so I chose the 1 week option.
Nowhere on the sign-up does it say that the payments will auto-renew but I assumed it would, as this is how most of these sites work. I looked at my account and it showed my 7 day purchase and now listed it with the term “Trial” next to it. So, I dug into the Terms & Conditions and saw that it was a recurring charge unless you canceled the subscription. So, essentially, every 7 days it would charge me another $4.95 if I did nothing. I am pretty good at remembering to follow through on things like that so I decided it would be ok.
Section 3: Features & Benefits
My initial search took quite a while. I was willing to wait, though, because it showed that it was searching in many areas.
When the search was complete, it returned 54 results! I’m not sure if this is a good thing or bad in my situation, though. I don’t know much about this person other than the information I can find on their Facebook profile that they used to contact me. Because I only had his name and birthdate, I looked through the list to find people that were about 29 or 30 years old. Quite a few entries were returned without a birth date but one entry said the man was 29, which would make him most likely to be the guy I was looking for.
I didn’t know any of his relatives or locations so none of that information was of much help to me but I could see how that might make a huge difference for others.
The report generated very little information. There were minimal details given beyond his name, date of birth, age and address.
It gave only one address for him and then listed 3 sex offenses. This immediately caught my attention and decided to look further into these. The link was clickable but only brought up his profile again; it did not give any information about the offenses themselves.
Below, there were two death records listed but upon looking deeper into them I realized that they were both for other people who had been much older.
5 email addresses were listed but 4 of them were associated with someone at a different address and the person had a different middle initial. The 5th result was, again, associated with a different address and I did not have faith that it was correct.
That is it, honestly… It didn’t give me any more information than that. So, I decided to look at other people that might be him. I asked the gentleman coyly where he was living currently so I could send him a lease agreement to review and he gave me his address. I used this information to make sure I had the right person and was surprised to find that it actually was the correct address but that it was tied to three separate profiles, one with the correct birth date, one older person and one person with no birth date listed.
I checked each profile out individually and the one with no birth date listed 90 (Yes, 90!) traffic violations, most of which were duplicates. It also listed the same 3 sex offenses and email addresses as the original profile. The older gentleman, who I would assume is my guy’s father, gave 5 addresses but listed the current address as the same which would suggest that my potential roommate was living at home with his parents at almost 30 years old. That doesn’t really bode well with me because I would assume he isn’t paying rent there and might not consistently pay me on time. The older gentleman’s profile also listed the same 3 sex offenses and 5 email addresses.
It was at this point that I decided to look into the sex offenses to see if it was even the correct person. Upon searching the state’s sex offender registry it turns out it isn’t even remotely close to the same person, having been born at a different time and living at a different address than any listed for either person. This is concerning because if someone was not diligently checking into the validity of the information provided they could easily accuse someone wrongly of a very serious crime and potentially really screw up a relationship.
I did find it nice that there was a menu on the left of the page that would let you search specifically for criminal records, arrests, court records, sex offender, and many more. If you were looking for specific information, this could be very helpful. All you have to do is click on how you want to search, put in the name and it brings up a bunch of results.
It also lets you search by phone number and address in case you didn’t have someone’s name and just that information. To test its accuracy, I searched my ex wife’s address and, though the house was in her name alone, it lists that house as owned by me and that I am married and the current occupant. That has not been my residence since we split 5 years ago.
Section 4: Tests
I had become very skeptical so I decided to check the validity of the rest of the information being provided by checking my own report. Four results were returned and all four were incorrect. They were someone in a different city with a different middle name and I was nowhere to be found.
I tried, instead, to search my maiden name and that finally returned some positive results. However, none of them were fully correct.
The most correct one listed an old address as the current and then listed two phone numbers that were landlines not connected with either address. It also listed 4 email addresses, 2 of which were incorrect and none of which were current and valid. This is only concerning because I currently have 6 active email addresses that I use on a regular basis for both business and personal effect and they are no secret online and on my small business’ website. The fact that they were not picked up shows a lack of information being reported.
Section 5: Pros, Cons, Meh
- There is an astonishing amount of results propagated by each search. The probability that you are going to find something on the person you are searching is very high.
- Many of the results returned are duplicate and/or incomplete. You may have 5 profiles that refer to the same person with different information in them. They would all be partially correct but none would give a cohesive report.
- Searching took a long time. Both the initial search and subsequent ones stalled or failed multiple times.
- Shuffling through incomplete information and incorrect details can get very confusing and concerning, especially when in reference to confused criminal and sex offender records! This is particularly important when you are searching someone you don’t know; You might not know that the information you are receiving is incorrect and that could influence you to make decisions that would be unfounded.
- You were able to search many different ways, directing you to specific results that you may be interested. This could be helpful if you are desiring a very specific bit of information.
- I also found it to be a little disconcerting that my IP address for multiple email addresses was provided. I can’t come up with many good reason why this information should be presented so readily.
I decided to immediately cancel my subscription. I didn’t feel like anything I found was trustworthy which made it pointless to search other candidates. It also made me feel like the company itself might give me trouble cancelling which was, sadly, the case. When I had looked up the Terms of Service previously I had noticed a link to cancel the subscription. I followed that link and was directed to a “Send Help Request” with a drop-down menu to choose “Account Cancellation” from. I added comments to let them know I wanted to cancel and then waited for an email in response.
The next day, I received an email apologizing for the lapse in reliable information, confirmed cancellation and assured me that I would not be charged further.
Though FreeBackgroundCheck.org returns a wide variety of information, I did not find it to be accurate or reliable, which is very important to me. When it comes to background checks and sexual predator histories, it is important to be sure that the information you are being presented is linked with the correct person.
I was not able to get the information I desired from this search so I ended up having to sign up for a different search site that came much more highly recommended. At the end of the day, I only spent $4.95 so I wasn’t too upset about the financial loss. Lesson learned!