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July 31 2013

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Very useful for anyone who may have a need for criminal background checks!
Recently, a stock broker from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was indicted on charges of embezzlement and securities fraud. His clients were shocked; they had entrusted him with large sums of their savings to invest. All the while, he may have been illegally siphoning money off in order to line his own pockets. It was also revealed that the broker had been engaging in pump-and-dump stock scams by encouraging his clients to purchase certain stocks, leading to an overvaluation. The broker's ruse was exposed when a suspicious client ordered an online background check to be run on the broker's name. As it turned out, the broker had fled the neighboring state of Ohio after having his financial scams exposed. He had taken up an alias and started a new business in Pennsylvania, but a client's wise choice to have his background investigated had put this scheme to an end. The broker's license was quickly revoked and a court ordered him to pay restitution to several clients he had stolen from.

As you can see, criminal background checks are not just for law enforcement. Ordinary John Q. Public types have just as much use for background check services as law enforcement and employers do. The majority of average people never consider using one, but there are many cases just like this in which they could be quite helpful. No need to spend a pretty penny, either: plenty of cheap background checks will turn up a great deal of information on a person's past. Online background check services typically include such information as:
- Criminal records
- Civil judgements
- List of immediate relatives
- Marriage/divorce records
- Business records
- Debts and tax liens
- Past addresses
- Military service records

The Fair Credit Reporting Act outlaws the reporting of certain information older than seven years as well as arrest records. This is designed to provide a second chance for individuals who have a criminal record or history of financial delinquency but who have since turned their life around. It is not likely that a person who has kept a clean record for seven years still has criminal intentions, but it is important to be aware of what may be excluded from a criminal background check. This law does not govern the inclusion of data in government background checks, however.

As with any industry, the online background checks niche has proliferated a certain class of disreputable hucksters. A few tricks to be aware of:
- "Multi-state" background checks. These sound like they would span the entire United States, but often only cover a small region. "Nationwide" or "national" are the words you want to see when you are looking for a background check to cover the entire country.
- "International" or "worldwide" background checks. No such thing exists, unfortunately. The incompatible justice systems and linguistic disparity make this impossible.

On the county level, a great deal of data is accessible for free, mainly criminal convictions. Many counties have online searchable record systems for your convenience. If the information is not available online, you may have to contact the county authorities by mail with your request for the records. Property records are also a matter of public record. The county auditor will provide information about when the property was purchased and the price that was paid. This will not include rented properties, however.
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