As a private investigator here in Portland Oregon I work all kind of cases for business owners, attorneys, and private individuals. Surveillance, child custody cases, missing persons, thefts & fraud investigations – you name it, I do it. One of the services I specialize in is providing comprehensive background checks on individuals all over the USA. These are not the “instant” online background checks that are ubiquitous on the Internet. Sometimes those “one-size-fits-all” background check sites can provide some worthwhile information but often you pay your money and end up getting inaccurate, outdated, or incomplete information. The “instant” background checks often fall way short of a real comprehensive background check and can often be worse than worthless. And, sometimes you have the issue of the website continuing to charge you monthly for a “subscription” you never wanted and never knew you consented to because it was intentionally buried in the fine print “boiler-plate” language at the bottom of the “order” page.
As a licensed investigator I subscribe to proprietary investigative data bases that are not available to the general public. These data bases contain information that is more accurate, more thorough, and more up-to-date than anything one can find on the Internet. But, as good as these investigative data bases are, some are better than others and every data base does not always include all the information available on a person. A real comprehensive background check involves a trained investigator gathering information from several of the very best professional data bases and sorting through and analyzing the morass of raw data with an intuitive eye. The investigator looks for what is relevant and also keeps a keen eye out for bits of information that might be relevant and are worthy of checking out further.
One can understand why someone would want to “check-out” someone they are dating, a troublesome neighbor, or a former spouse or partner when they are involved in a child custody situation. But, I was surprised when a man called me and wanted me to do a background check on himself! Since that first call, I have had a number of clients who have hired me to conduct background checks on themselves.
Why would someone want to hire a private investigator to check on themselves? The reasons are varied but have included:
* A young man wanted to become a police officer. He went to college and earned a degree in criminal justice and applied with several local police departments. He passed the written and physical tests, scored well in the oral interview process, but always failed the background check portion. He had paid for a few online background checks and found nothing in his background that he felt would disqualify him from a law enforcement career, so he was baffled.
I was able to find out information that was not included in the online background checks he paid for and was able to give this young man some career advice.
* A woman having issues with her Homeowners Association wanted me to “check-out” several of the HOA Board Members who seemed to be in cahoots. She wanted to know why she was being singled out for “harassment.” I was able to find some derogatory information on some of the HOA board members. I presume client used this information as “leverage” to get the HOA to treat her more fairly.
* Here in Oregon, recreational marijuana is legal under state law. Anyone working in the marijuana industry must be licensed by the State and part of the licensing process is passing a background check. I frequently do background checks for people seeking their Oregon marijuana worker’s permit who want to know what might be on their record before they apply.
Job seekers also hire me to do background checks on themselves. They know that the company they apply with is likely to do some sort of background check and they want to know what a prospective employer might discover so they are not caught off-guard.
* A man wanted to run for local office in a small town and knew that his opponent had the resources to dig-up all the “dirt” that might be out there on him. Decades had passed since he had a few scrapes with the law and some former acquaintances, and he wanted to know what was still out there so he could address it if it came up during the campaign. This client figured that if I couldn’t find anything derogatory about him, the other candidate probably couldn’t either.
* Many of the other clients whom I have conducted comprehensive background checks on had no immediate or special reason for wanting to know what their background would reveal. They were just curious about what someone could find out about them and if something derogatory was discovered, they wanted to do what they could to address it (i.e., court expungement of criminal convictions, removal of data from websites, etc.).
Not All Background Checks conducted by private investigators are the same.
Comprehensive background checks conducted by a professional investigator can serve many valuable purposes and are a THOUSAND TIMES better than online background checks. But, not every investigator is skilled in conducting comprehensive background checks and not every investigator is willing to put the time and effort into producing a good product. Instead of providing a client with a professionally prepared report in an easy to read format, some investigators will just give a client copies of computer print-outs from the single data base they use. That is not a comprehensive background check!
Just like attorneys, plumbers, mechanics, and just about every other profession, not every private investigator has the same skills, training & education, or work-ethic. I recently wrote an article “What You Should Know BEFORE You Hire a Private Investigator” which gives some guidance on how to hire a true professional investigator and how to get the most out of your investigative dollar.
It has been said that “Knowledge is Power.” Having a professional investigator conduct a comprehensive background check on yourself can give you valuable knowledge and help you make important life decisions.