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How Long Does it Take to Run a Background Check on Yourself?

Different companies often use background checks for different things. You can expect to have a background check done when you apply for a job, try to rent a house, or if you’ve been arrested.


You may not realize it, but background checks cover more than your criminal history. There are many types of background checks. Each one can contain personal information. Have you thought about doing a background check on yourself? Use this guide to find out how.


What Is A Background Check?

A background check is a summarized document that contains personally-identifying information. There are different types and different reasons for each one. Things that a background check usually covers are:


  • Identity verification
  • Criminal record
  • Credit history
  • Previous addresses
  • Driving record
  • Reference check
  • Employment history
  • Licenses and certificates verification


The type of background check done will determine how long it will take. Most of the time, a professional company will handle collecting the information. It takes 1 to 3 days but can take as long as five. Having one person do many background checks can be time-consuming. But, some background check companies can provide incomplete or incorrect data. So, it’s important to know what may be showing up when you run your name.


How to Do a Background Check on Yourself

If you’ve decided that you want to do a background check on yourself, you have two options. You can do your leg work, although there are some records you won’t be able to access without clearance. Or you can use a professional company that specializes in background checks. This method is often faster and more reliable, but it does cost money.


If you decide you’d prefer to do the investigation yourself, here’s a breakdown of how it works. Be sure to review each item you receive to make sure it’s correct. If there are mistakes, you will have to dispute these with the organization that messed it up.



Identity Verification

One thing that all background checks cover is your social security number. Your identity has to be verified before you can accept a job, rent a house, or get a personal loan. You can do an id verification through the Social Security Office for free.


Sign up for a free account on the Social Security Administration website. You will get instant access to a list of all the names associated with your social security number. These will include name changes from marriages, divorces, and adoptions.


Criminal Background Check

A criminal background check is one of the most important background checks to use. These criminal records will go back at least seven years, although some states do go back further. It’s important to know what information might come up in your criminal history. A criminal background check usually takes 1 to 3 days to get results.


Some public databases can provide state or federal criminal records. But for local charges, you’ll have to visit the courthouse in person. You can search for federal files using the online index. There can be a fee if you view too many documents.


You can expect to see results if you have had:

  • Criminal convictions
  • Imprisonment
  • Parole
  • Probation


In some cases, it might even show up that an arrest occurred but without charged being filed, or you were found not guilty. And you can end up getting results that match your name but not your criminal record. It’s important to be able to prove that these records are not yours if they do come up.


Ordering a comprehensive criminal background check can provide you with more detailed records. Including if your name appears in:

  • Federal court records
  • State court records
  • County court records
  • National Criminal database
  • Sex offender registry
  • Domestic and global terrorist watch lists

Credit Report

It is common for employers to do a credit check on potential employees. But many states have made it illegal to deny a job based on credit score alone. Knowing your credit score is a smart thing to do. You can’t apply for a credit card or get a house with lousy credit.


By law, you get one free credit report a year. You can request this report from each of the three credit bureaus. Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. If you order online, you’ll get an instant statement. But if you order by calling the toll-free number, it can take you up to 15 days to receive your report. You can visit to request yours. A credit report will provide you with:


  • Details about payment history, including late payments or collections
  • Past and current debt. It will include any loans you’ve paid off. As well as any accounts that are currently open or closed, and any outstanding loans you may have
  • Bankruptcies over the last ten years
  • Civil judgments
  • Tax liens

Previous Addresses

Previous addresses are often collected using resources like subscriptions or credit card statements. These addresses go back seven years and can connect to motor vehicle and criminal checks. So, you’ll want to make sure all the information is correct.


Sometimes, you can use online search engines to find previous addresses in your name. But this isn’t always possible; especially if you’re a frequent mover. You should do your best to have correct addresses, even if they’re old.


You can also use your tax returns and credit reports to get a list of your addresses. If you don’t have your tax returns, you can get transcripts by visiting the IRS website. You can pull up this year’s tax forms, as well as the three prior years’ returns.


These results will be instant. If you want to go back six years, you can request a full copy by filling out form 4506 and mail it to your local IRS office. It can take up to 75 days to receive these.

Driving Record

Getting your driving record is easy. Visit the Department of Motor Vehicles and ask for a copy. Or you can request a copy be mailed to you. Most states charge $10 per record. You can also get your driving record immediately online, but it wouldn’t be an official version. These are a cheaper way to go, especially if you live out of state.


You could also ask your auto insurance agency for an unofficial copy. Not all agencies will provide you with one, but some companies do. You’d have to check with your insurance agent to be sure. These would be free of charge and instant.


Reference Check

When you fill out an application, you have to list references. These are people who will be able to provide insight into your life. Employers like to be able to communicate with your former employers to find out what kind of employee you were.


They’ll also ask questions about your work ethic, integrity, ability to be a team placer, and your boss’s opinion. Make a good impression with employers by making sure all the information you provide is accurate and up to date. Don’t give them disconnected phone numbers or make them jump through five different options just to talk to your ex-supervisor.


List the extension number. Make sure the email address is correct too. And that you provide the correct name and spelling. Your new employers will appreciate this attention to detail. By providing good information, the reference check can be completed quicker. The time it takes varies for each situation.

Work History

In addition to checking references, employers are going to want to verify your work history. They might also check any educational qualifications or degrees you claim to have. And confirm any licenses or certificates you hold.


Make it easy to do this by making sure you have the following information up to date and accurate:


  • Name of company/Institution
  • Position/Degree
  • Duties/Area of Study
  • Start and end dates
  • Dates of any promotions/Graduations
  • Names of any supervisors/Counselors


If you have copies of your school transcripts or degrees, provide these so they can be verified easier. School and licensing records often take longer because not all places have automated files. The more documentation you provide, the less time the check will take.


Don't Get Caught Off Guard: Be Ready

Don’t risk being surprised by what comes back on your background report. Be proactive and see what information is available on you. Most results don’t take long to get back. You’ll spend the most amount of time searching through databases. Ordering your background check from a company can be faster and more efficient.


If you decide to go with a company, check out online reviews from other users. Also, check their business rating with TrustPilot or the Better Business Bureau to be sure your information is protected. Avoid using instant background checks as these are limited to what information they can provide, and they are frequently incorrect.