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How to do a free online background check

How secure is YOUR password?

(FoxNews.com / Jeremy A. Kaplan)

Do you have an online background check of yourself lately? There are several reasons why you should.

There may be erroneous information about you floating around on the Internet or in your credit report. Maybe you find a photo of yourself or a comment you made years ago somewhere that’s a little embarrassing.

These things will pop up and hurt your chances the next time you apply for a loan or a job. Fortunately, you can take steps to correct or remove this damaging information.

It is also a very good idea to do a background check before taking on a roommate or going out on a date with that new crush you met online. You never know what sort of worrying or dangerous details could be lurking in someone’s past.

Because checking people’s background is a pressing need, there are dozens of ways to go about this. Fortunately, several ways won’t cost you a thing.

Before I continue, I should point out a tricky fact about background checks. If you are performing a background check as a landlord or employer or for credit, medical or insurance reasons — you can not just a service.

According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you must make use of a Consumer Reporting Agency. A CRA has to maintain certain standards for data protection and offer dispute resolution.

If you reject a potential tenant or employee (even semi informal employees like domestic workers) based on a background check of a company that is not a CRA, you could wind up in trouble.

You can find a fairly complete list of cras here on my website. The list is conveniently divided into categories such as credit reporting, work experience, insurance, rent and so on. Note that you can request and dispute the information that these CRAs have on file for you.

For checking on potential roommates or romantic partners, you can use just about any service or (legal) method.

The simplest option for a background check on the rental of a professional service. You can find dozens of background check agencies online.

You need to watch out for scam companies. Look around at different companies to find the average price for a background check and avoid any companies that are too low or too high.

If you want to save some money and you have some time, you can do many of the same checks yourself. You can also dig up information about a person’s habits or character that a professional might not consider. Click here for four sites that can help you to learn more about someone. They comb Google, Facebook and other information websites to find out details that the person has willingly shared.

A Google search could turn up other things about the person that you would think twice. However, you probably won’t see important details about whether they have already been arrested or evicted in the past.

Luckily, most court information is public report. To find it, go to the official government website or find the information you need at the National Center for State Courts. Make sure you search every state that the person you’re checking has lived in.

After that, you would want to drill down to discover which crime and misdemeanor convictions on the county and municipal level. Keep an eye out for civil judgments, too, such as a bankruptcies and court orders to pay debts.

In most cases, a credit report cannot be pulled without a legitimate business purpose and written permission. A good strategy for screening a roommate would be to ask him or her to volunteer a report.

All consumers have the right to a free copy of their credit report once per year from the three reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union.

The more information you have about a person, the better your searches will be. Knowing a second name and date of birth will help you weed out people with similar names.

If you are not completely sure you found the right person, do not act on the information until you have checked it actually. Is punished for something that is not your fault is not fun.

Copyright 2013, WestStar Multimedia Entertainment. All rights reserved.

Kim Komando hosts the nation’s largest talk radio show about consumer electronics, computers and the Internet. To get the podcast, watch the show or find the nearest station, go to: http://www.komando.com/listen. To subscribe to Kim’s free e-mail newsletter, sign up at: http://www.komando.com/newsletters.

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