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Ask Angie: Hire a private investigator for a background check

A private investigator can sift through information both old and new to provide a quality background check.
A private investigator can sift through information both old and new to provide a quality background check. TNS

Q: How do I do a background check on someone?

A: Whether you’re an employer assessing a job applicant, an online dater checking into a potential mate or a cautious individual trying to protect a relative, background checks are increasingly common these days.

While some websites claim to be effective in producing background checks, there’s one tried-and-true profession that provides consistent results with a personal touch.

Private Eyes

Private investigators offer a wide array of services, but background checks account for the majority of their business. The more information you have on the person, the easier the process, but a PI can get results with little to go on.

Using databases only open to them and law enforcement, private detectives dig deep for accuracy’s sake. Primary focuses in a background check might include criminal, citizenship, financial, credit, driving, employment, litigation, education and military histories. Meanwhile, most online options only gather public information, and don’t decipher it.

While most checks are done for employers, with the rise of online dating sites, they’re now popular for those active in cyberspace matchmaking. A Pew Research Center study found 29 percent of online daters have searched for information on someone they were dating or were set to meet.

Families are also stepping up to protect loved ones from possible predatory activity. A rising number are hiring investigators to check out new companions, especially after an elder parent’s longtime spouse passes and there’s a lot of money at stake. Some want to confirm if a person is really divorced, and if so, what the legally stated reason is.

Other common checks include those done by real estate agents or property owners who want to ensure a buyer or renter’s ability and proclivity to pay.

Private Investigator Cost

Considering what’s a stake, especially when it’s your personal safety, background checks can be a bargain. Employment screenings by a private investigator start around $65, and depending on the depth requested, background checks cost anywhere from $150 to $550.

Your best bet: Steer clear of web checks, and search Angie’s List for a local private investigator or national firm. It should provide the peace of mind that the info you seek is correct and thorough.

Senior writer Brent Glasgow contributed to this report.

Send questions to askangie@angieslist.com or tweet with #AskAngie. Follow her @Angie–Hicks.

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