Beware of Bait-and-Switch Background Check Sites

We are alarmed that some companies on the Internet are deliberately misleading people about background checks.

One user called us to complain about not finding criminal record results when she used our Premium Criminal Records database, which was surprising because it is the most complete criminal record database available online: over 400 million records, including over 70 debarred persons and terrorist. When we asked why she expected a record to turn up for her subject, she explained that before coming to our site, she ran a free preview through another online service that provides background reports. That site had a very slick interface that promised to provide all available criminal records from all states, and it gave her a list of matches for the person she searched, indicating that all the names on the list had criminal records in the database.

Instead of paying for those results, the customer came to Search Systems to take advantage of our lower search fee. She expected our results to be identical, but when no records were found, she assumed that our database was inferior to the one provided by the first company.

We knew something was wrong because 1) only the FBI’s database has close to “all records in all states” and it’s only available to law enforcement; and 2) most people DON’T have criminal records.

We decided to foot the bill and take the Challenge. We went to the first website the customer had used and we paid for their full search results for the same subject. When the results arrived, we discovered that there were NO criminal records for the subject. Instead, the service gave us “people finder” results, which are name and address matches. They fraudulently induced us with a misleading preview, then provided people-finder records after we paid to view the details.

The lesson here is that if an online service purports to sell you criminal record information, they should also provide you with a list of the sources for each state (the coverage). If you don’t see that coverage available to view before you buy… beware.

Another red flag is that most reputable criminal record database providers do not provide a “free preview” indicating the number of actual criminal records matching your subject. This is typically the procedure for people searches, so if you see this in practice, be careful. The site may be pulling a bait-and-switch.