How to Run a Personal Background Check on Yourself
Employers, colleges, and volunteer organizations learn a lot about you when they check your records. Ever wonder what they see? You can find out by running a personal background check on yourself.
Below are the different kinds of personal background checks you can run. Remember, most employers will look at more than just your criminal records — driving records, education transcripts, and credit reports are all fair game.
Court Records (County, State, and Federal)
If you're unsure whether or not you have a criminal background, try using an online criminal background check to see if there is anything in your records.
If you know you have criminal convictions or arrests on your record, you should ask for a report from the court(s) where those charges were filed. Remember to check with county, state, and federal courts if applicable. And if you want files from a county court, plan to visit the courthouse. Most county courts require someone to obtain records in person.
If you had an arrest without conviction longer than seven years ago, potential employers shouldn't be able to see it, according to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). If you see a conviction from longer than seven years ago on your personal background check report, you can contest the errors.
Laws about what's included on a driving record, and for how long, vary by state. You can check your personal driving records by going to the DMV website for each state that you ever held a driver's license. Note some states charge fees for obtaining records.
Not all employers will check your driving records. These are generally only obtained for positions in which driving is a large part of the job, such as a truck or bus driver, nanny, etc.
Potential employers can look at your credit report (not your credit score) to determine if you're a financially responsible person, but only if you give them written permission. Credit reports can often have small errors, so it's a good idea to check these regularly.
Under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction (FACT) Act, you're allowed to check your credit report once every 12 months for free from each of the three national credit unions. That means you can get up to three credit reports for free a year. To see your credit report, visit the annual credit report website.
Your credit report will tell you the following:
- How much debt you have
- What your debt/income ratio is
- How many times someone asked for your credit report
- If you have any accounts placed for collection
Keep in mind that a credit report does not show your credit score — you need to pay for that separately. If you believe there's an error on your credit report, follow the FTC's guidelines for disputing it.
Employers or other organizations interested in verifying your education might go through a service like the National Student Clearing House, or they might ask for copies of official diplomas or transcripts.
If you think an employer or another organization is going to ask for copies of your transcripts, make sure there are no errors on them. Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), students have the right to request their transcripts and ask schools to correct any errors.
One study shows that 77% of employers used social media to recruit candidates in 2013. If you're applying for a job, to school, to volunteer, etc., you should assume someone is going to look at your social media accounts as part of the screening process.
Type your name and city into a search engine to see what comes up (make sure to turn off all personalization settings in your browser first). Beyond that, check all the privacy settings on your social media accounts (If you aren't sure how to do this, there are plenty of helpful guides online). Make sure your photos and posts are shared only with the people you're comfortable sharing them with. If you have any posts or photos that could be seen as unprofessional, make sure they are kept private or deleted.
So, How Do You Run a Personal Background Check On Yourself?
Running a personal background check on yourself periodically is a great way to ensure that you're staying on top of your records. If you're applying for a rental property, college, or a new job, it's important that you check your criminal record, credit report, and online footprint thoroughly so you can contest any errors.
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