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How to run a free background check

Everyone has skeletons in the closet. Whether it’s Facebook photos of underage drinking in college or the complete criminal record of your sister’s new boyfriend, the internet is a treasure trove of background information. And while there are many fee-based services, it’s possible to learn quite a bit about someone from public records or through content found on online social networks.

Related: Feds want to review social media history before granting security clearances

While your initial impulse might be to run a check on somebody else, perhaps you should scan your own background first. The information you find could be preventing you from landing a good job, or even buying a car or home. You’ll be able to check your credit report and insurance information for inaccuracies. You’ll also see what potential landlords, employers, or anyone else can find out about you if they decide to do a little detective work of their own.

Either way, here’s how to run a comprehensive background check with dropping a dime.

Using search engines

The first place you should start is a web search. Google and Bing can easily pull up a ton of  information, assuming you know your target’s name or any relevant information pertaining to him or her. The results can function as a starting point from which to branch out.

Isolate search terms by putting the name in quotation marks in the search query. Searching “John Smith” will yield the first and last name in that particular order and filter out any results that don’t match your exact specifications. Keep in mind that searching for a person’s name will bring up results for anyone with that name, so use additional terms to limit your results, such as a city of residence, a job, or any education info you know. The more specific the search terms, the more relevant your search will be.

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