How to Complete a Background Check on Someone

A background check is a series of record checks used to disclose an individual's criminal past and financial background, as well as to verify other types of personal information. Some organizations and employers are required by law to obtain background checks on employees and volunteers, such as day care workers, victims' rights organization volunteers and medical workers. Many companies also opt to include background screening as part of the pre-employment process. Before requesting a background check on someone, it is important that you understand the variety of background checks available and the general procedure for obtaining a background check on private individuals.

Acquire written consent. Regardless of whether you request a background check from a state government agency or a nationwide background check by a private organization, you must first obtain written consent from the individual being searched. Some state agencies and private companies require proof of consent before they can process third-party requests. Even if a private organization does not require written consent for a particular type of background check, it may nonetheless contact the individual being searched to inform him or her of your request.

Request and complete an individual background check form. To complete a background check on an individual, you must provide his correct, up-to-date personal identifying information. You may be required to provide the individual's Social Security number, address, former address, maiden name and date of birth. When obtaining written consent, also ask the individual to provide you with personal information and affirm in writing that the information is correct.

Designate the scope of the search. Although state governments provide only a criminal history check, private organizations offer a variety of background checks. In this case, you must designate the type of searches you want the company to perform, such as a credit report, past employment verification, education verification, or residential history. Generally, the wider the scope of your search, the greater the fee you must pay.

Submit the applicable fee in a form that is acceptable the organization that will be processing your request. Some state agencies and other entities that provide background checking services will accept only money orders or checks, while others may also accept credit cards, debit cards or cash.

Select a delivery method. State agencies and private companies typically offer several methods of distributing search results. State agencies may permit results to be distributed via email or through an online system, as well as by mail. If you choose to receive printed results in the mail, though, you must include a self-addressed, postage-paid envelope, as the government will not incur your postage costs. Private companies running a nationwide search typically deliver their results online or by email due to the volume of data being retrieved.


  • When requesting a background check from a government agency, you must submit the correct form. This is because government agencies have different forms for licensing organizations, nonprofit organizations and private individuals.


  • Comply with all state and local requirements for consent when requesting background checks on individuals.