There are plenty of horror stories about people faking an identity. Netflix’s hit, “Dirty John” portrays one of the most famous of them. The 90’s box office hit “Single White Woman” is another one. But if you check the news, there are many, many others, all of them with a similar beginning. They all go something like this: nice stranger approaches someone, becomes their friend, romantic partner or employee, and little by little displays more and more violent behaviors. Some of them end when the other person “wakes up” and is able to put an end to the relationship and/or alert the authorities. But some of them end in someone losing all their belongings –or worse– with someone dead. In a world permeated by technology and information, how is it that easy to trick other people? A simple background check would suffice to verify someone’s identity. But, are you allowed to run a background check without permission? There is no single answer to this question.
What you are Allowed to Verify?
Regardless of the reasons why you need information about someone (for hiring purposes, before a date, before signing a lease, etc.) you are always allowed to check public records. Information such as some criminal records or bankruptcies, as well as some information related to their social security number, is publicly available. Because almost everyone has a digital footprint, there is also a wealth of information available through social media (without violating privacy settings). Services like Check People allow you to find out publicly available data on someone, in a painless and simple manner. Using crawling technology, they search the web and provide an instant and accurate report. They also sort information and eliminate duplicated records. In most cases, this type of background check (which is absolutely legal) is enough to keep you safe before allowing someone to be a part of your life.
If you Need to Dig Deeper
Most hiring decisions cannot be made based solely on publicly available information. Debt management information, for example, can be really important for certain positions. But conducting a credit background check does require written consent under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Some criminal records are also kept confidential and require consent. If for whatever reason, you need a more thorough background check, it’s best to consult with a lawyer and understand when consent is legally required. Remember that a first red flag is when someone refuses to have a background check and consider it before making any final decisions.
Be Careful With Discrimination
If you choose to move forward with any kind of background check, you need to know that you are not able to use all information indiscriminately. There are laws that prevent discrimination. While some of them are pretty straightforward (you cannot discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, national origin, or disabilities, for example), some are more complicated to interpret. A criminal conviction can be a reason not to hire someone, but it depends on many factors. Discrimination can end in very ugly litigation problems, so you should never move forward if you have doubts. Always consult a lawyer to understand your rights and the other party’s rights.