A general background check can be performed in two minutes and cost as little as fifty bucks. With that you could get a person's date of birth, Social Security Number (At Sherlock Investigations, we only give out a person's SSN on a need-to-know basis.), address history, relatives, associates and neighbors.
Locating a person's place of employment costs quite a bit more, because of what we have to do to get that information. (Sometimes we have to follow a person to work.) Also, marriage and divorce records cost more. In New York, for example, they're virtually unobtainable. In Massachusetts they're public record in the County Courthouse.
When the FBI conducts a background check on a job applicant, it'll take up to eight months, and cost the government thousands of dollars. Sometimes our clients want this type of background investigation for $500!
At the very minimum, a background check should verify that the person is who they say they are. Of course, it can, and often should, offer much, much more.
Criminal background investigations can be obtained cheaply on the Internet, but they're often worthless. (There is no such thing as a National Criminal Check.) To do a thorough criminal investigation you need to first have positive identifiers on the person. In other words, you need to know who the person really is.
Then you need their address history. The reason for this is that criminal background investigations are carried out on at least 3 levels. We check federal, state, and county records. A person who did a few months in county jails in 4 different states likely will not show up on any Internet searches. One often has to go physically to the county court house in every county where the person has lived.
Criminal background checks should also include a Sex Offender Status check. Then, there's bankruptcies, liens, and judgments, plus civil suits, and even newspaper articles search. Suppose the person that your checking is an alleged crime boss, but has never been convicted. Court checks wouldn't reveal this, but newspaper articles might.
In a pre-employment background check, it's more cost effective to have a resume' or job application to start with. Then, the easiest thing to do is to verify everything the applicant has claimed. This includes the person's real name, address, address history, education, employment history, and references.
One thing we watch out for here is a continuity of dates. Say the person claims to have work on a certain job from January 1995 through March of 2003. The next job listed started on November 2003. There's an 8-month gap there. What was that person doing during those 8 months, unemployed....or in jail?
The hardest kind of background check to do is when you start with a minimal amount of information, such as the person's alleged name. These can be done, but takes much more time and effort. It really depends upon what kind of information the client wants on the target (the person being investigated).
Another thing to watch out for is references. These could be references from previous jobs, or personal references. A good thorough background check also checks out the background of the references, to be sure that they are who the applicant claims they are, and not their brother-in-law or great-aunt.
At Sherlock Investigations we often get cases where the client wants dirt on the target. This can be expensive, and may even require long-term surveillance.
In other cases, we deal with families, usually from India, Pakistan, or the Mid-East, who are arranging marriages for someone in the family. In these cases, we usually have to check out the habits, associates, life-style, and income of the prospective groom (the groom is usually in New York). Again, surveillance is often required in these cases.
Another kind of case we deal with is background investigations of cult leaders. These cults may be religious, political, or economic cults. (I won't take the time to explain the difference here, but see our Dangerous Groups Investigations page on our website for more information, or visit www.rickross.com )
To be really effective, these investigations can take a lot of time and money, as they often involve going undercover into one of these groups. A lot of information can be obtained without this drastic step, but going undercover is often the most effective way of getting the dirt on these manipulators.
In a nutshell, it's possible to find out just about anything on anybody. It's really a matter of time and money. Remember, you get what you pay for.
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