How Do Online Background Checks Work?

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It’s no secret that background checks are critical in our day and age. Recruiters order background checks on potential job candidates. Spouses resort to the services of online search engines like Checkpeople to shed light on dim spots in their significant other’s past.

What Happens When You Order a Background Check?

Think of each people search engine as Google’s little brother. You feed it relevant information about the person you’d like to check, and it returns the most relevant results it could scrape from the internet. The more preliminary data you supply, the more likely you are to find relevant information about the person you need to check.

Most people check services have two versions – free and paid. The free version is usually quite rudimentary, but it can still reveal some general information about the person of interest. This may include former schools, years of graduation, academic publications, etc.

For a more sophisticated online background check, you have to use a premium account with a quality, reputable people search engine. Each background check has got three main stages: Validation, Discovery, and Investigation. Let’s look at each more closely.


During the validation stage, you validate the information you already have about the background check’s target. Ideally, this should be a name and a social security number (SSN).

 Authorization must be requested for all background checks with one’s SSN. This kind of people check is only performed by specialized authorities, like recruiting agencies or private investigation bureaus.

The SSN trace that you start is a very powerful lead. It can reveal the checked person’s car loan applications, mortgages, and credit score. In doing so, you can find out their former addresses or any aliases that they might have used.

There are some super-powerful people search engines, usually used by the Pentagon or the special services. These can even show one’s history of magazine subscriptions.


Using the addresses and aliases you have acquired at the previous stages, you can now run the online background check service to uncover the different locations where the person of interest has lived in the past. You can also check how many times they have changed their job or if they have had any problems with law enforcement.

In addition, the SSN trace points to a trail of residential addresses the person being checked has had in different states or counties. You can request authorization to check their databases for any additional information.

Many online people check engines use the candidate’s data to run a quick automated criminal background check in various sex offender databases, global watchlists, and federal and local criminal databases.

You cast a wide net at the discovery stage to try to find as many potential offenses as possible. Some of them may have been committed under an alias.


The investigation is perhaps the most critical stage of any online background check. You want to make sure that all of the info you dug up during the previous two stages refers to the actual person of interest and not to a different individual by the same name.

The online people search engine returns the most relevant, accurate, and specific information during the investigation phase. Most free people check services will limit the investigation stage to a thorough county search.

If you’d like to order a nationwide search as well, you’ve got to sign up for a premium account. With the premium package, you can also access the databases of different courts to check if the candidate was acquitted or convicted of the offenses that you found they had committed.

How Much Does a Premium Background Check Take?

This question is indirectly related to the title question. Usually, online people search services communicate with the federal courts’ databases through a system called PACER. PACER typically takes up to 48 hours to return the information your online people check service has requested for you. On the other hand, if you run a more detailed background check, but only within the state’s limits, the whole process may be completed in less than 24 hours.        

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