Background Them By Their Business Card

So your 20 year old daughter is all gaga about the cool guy she met at the Waffle House.  “He’s fun, he’s fast and he’s really terrific”, she says.  “At 23, he owns his own modeling agency and is now off to Europe to check on his import export business!”

It’s obvious your daughter is wild about him.  But as a concerned parent you’re worried.  Some men will say anything for sex.  And as smart as your daughter is, she’s also a bit naive.  So you wonder, what if this guy’s a liar?  Or worse, what if he’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing?  He could be dangerous!

Your daughter won’t listen without proof.  And you know just how to get it!  Now is the time to be cheerful.  So with your best botox smile, you say “That’s great honey! I’d love to meet him when he returns!  May I take a look at his business card?”

With great joy she hands it over to you.  And now you’re really smiling.  For his neck is in your noose.  With just a business card, you have all you need for a full fledged background check!  It’s time to pull the beard off Santa, and expose him for the fraud he is!

A short time later your suspicions are confirmed.  The guy is 30 not 23.  And to your disgust, the slacker still lives with his mommy.  You also learn the company he “owns” doesn’t exist, and his arrest mugshots show he’s driving on a suspended license-a license he lost after his second DUI.

He’s also lying about his wealth.  Court records on PACER show that less than a year ago he filed for bankruptcy.  Looking at the bankruptcy petition, it’s obvious to you what happened.  With his minimum wage job at the gas station, he couldn’t make the payments on his flat screen TV and the Jet Ski he bought on credit.

Smug and self satisfied, you tuck away his business card and can’t wait to tell your daughter the good news.  Ain’t life grand!

A Sample of What You Can Find Out From A Business Card

old-bus-card-paint-mrkup-cropped

Why A Background Check Through Their Business Card?
As you can see, a business card is so packed with information that it screams out: PLEASE DO A BACKGROUND CHECK ON ME!

The typical business card has:
1. The names of the person, business and website; and also
2. Contact information such as their address, phone number and email address.

Even if you’re not a protective parent, there are plenty of good reasons to do a background check.  And what better way than with their own business card!

People use business cards to inspire trust.  They hand out them out in the hopes you’ll feel they’re competent, dependable and professional.  So at the very least you can investigate these claims before you date them, hire them or introduce them to your friends and colleagues.

What To Look For In A Business Card
There’s only two reasons to check out a business card:

  1. Confirm The Person Is Being Truthful About Themselves
    Are they really a doctor or a lawyer? Are they truly a licensed CPA?  Do they own that company or work for someone else?  Is their physical address an office, a home or just a concealed mail drop made to look business like?
  2. Learn The Things They’d Never Dare Tell You On Their Own
    Is the person reputable?  Have they had complaints, been sued, or ever been convicted of a crime?  Did they drive their former companies into bankruptcy?  Do they own the property or just rent from their mom?  These are the things they won’t volunteer.  And unless you background them, you’ll never know what to ask.

Where To Plug In The Information
Google everything.  This includes their name, the name of their company, the phone number, address, email address and website address.  Make sure to Google with and without their middle initial.
For more on name searches see:

Leverage what you find to get even more information.  For example:, if your search turns up more companies or prior phone numbers and addresses, Google these too.  After all, you don’t know what you don’t know.  It could be these lead to other failed ventures, or to lawsuits and arrests that reveal their rotten character.

Check Licenses and Certifications  and verify they own the company they claim to own.  For example, all doctors and lawyers better be licensed in the state they practice.  Same with CPAs, realtors and financial advisors.  If you’re unsure if they need a license, Google their profession and your state to see if such is required.  For more, see the Sleuth For The Truth blog on Backgrounding A Contractor.

Do reverse lookups to see who’s behind any of the contact information on the business card.  Learn who is behind the phone number, the email address, who owns the property and whether its a real address or concealed mail drop.  Often a reverse lookup will tell you other things such as lawsuits, who their associates are and if there are complaints against them.  Other red flags include connections to criminal activity, and the business being “theirs” but you can’t find them as an officer or registered agent.

Finally, see what else you want to know about them at Consumer-SOS.com below:

Find Or Background People By Their:

Arrests, Mugshots, Criminal, Civil Records Friends, Associates & Relationships
Age, DOB, Relatives & Where Else They’ve Lived Liens
Contact Information (Includes Reverse Searches) Newspaper Articles
Assets (Whatever They Own) Name (Search By First or Last)
Bankruptcies/Bad Debt Neighbors
Business Or Profession Or Certification   Photos
Campaign Contributions Property 
Dating Profiles State, County, City or Zip
Death Records Websites/Intellectual Property 
Salaries-Federal & State Employees & Officers of Public Companies (Exact $ Amounts) Misc. Public Records (Classmates, Military, Genealogies, Rare Names, etc.)

 

Backgrounding A Contractor

Ever hire a home contractor who didn’t do the work?  Or worse, someone who ruined your floor and then vanished when you complained about it?  Well, welcome to the club.

For most of us, the home is the biggest investment we’ve got.  So it makes sense to do a background check before you hire a home builder or home improvement contractor.

I’m not talking about doing a background check for minor matters.  If you’re single with no kids, there’s no need to background the plumber who unclogs your toilet. .

But it’s a whole different unicorn when you’re building a basement or adding a new deck to your backyard.  These are huge projects that require time, money and a commitment to get the job done.  It won’t do for the contractor to disappear on you because he’s broke or on drugs.  So you need to be sure they have the character, competence and resources to do it right.

The Three Things To Look For In Every Contractor
They must be:

  1. Legally allowed to work;
  2. Competent and honest in their work;
  3. Likely to finish the work (Fiscally sound and show commitment)

Below are the five absolute show stoppers.  If you see any of these, cut bait and run!  Don’t even think about hiring them!  And yes, I’ve provided you with all the free links to do your own background check.

  1. He’s Operating Illegally (No License )
    So he’s got a company and the Secretary of State says he really owns it.  Great.  He’s shown you he can pay $150 to reserve a business name.  But can he repair your roof?  I too own a business.  But shoot me dead if you catch me remodeling your kitchen.  Home remodeling takes special skill and training, which is why most states require a special license for it.
    .

    Now it’s possible you’re a free thinking anarchist.  And maybe you just don’t give a fig’s behind if your contractor has a “gubmint” license or not.  After all, “the stinkin state” just wants more money, right?
    .
    But this isn’t about philosophy.  This is about your home.  When they haul away your contractor in handcuffs, just who’s gonna finish your half basement?  And if he did a bad job, how will you get him to redo his shoddy work?  An honest contractor will try to fix it.  But if he’s busted, he can’t.  And good luck getting a refund from a guy who just lost his business!
    .
    How Do I Know My State Requires A License?

    Easy.  First, ask the contractor if he’s licensed to do the work and if not, why not?  He’ll either tell you he doesn’t need a license, make excuses or say he’s got one.  Whatever he says, confirm it with your Secretary of State or your state licensing board.  Just click on the map to see what each state’s requirements are for builders and home improvement contractors.  Or call the numbers listed to find out if he needs a license or already has one. 
    .

    Another approach is to Google your state’s eligibility requirements.  For example, just enter in home builders licensed in Georgia (replace with your state.)  This should tell you if he needs a license or not.
    .
    Where Do I Search For Licenses?
    Want to search for their license yourself?  Then plug in their name in your state’s Occupation Licensing Boards
    .

    Every state’s website is different and has different ways to search for licenses.  But if you can, I recommend you do a general name search without checking off the profession you’re looking for. .In fact, to be safe, I’d try pulling up all licenses holders by last name only.  Otherwise you might enter in a first name when he’s listed under a middle name or vice versa.  If you must list a profession or license type, look for search categories such as building contractor, general contractor, electrical contractor, home improvement contractor or plumber/journeyman/contractor..
    .
    It’s not enough that he has any license.  He must have the right license.  For example, a friend of mine wanted to build a new house on his Georgia farm.  But the contractor he had me background wasn’t qualified to do the job.  The guy was licensed to build barns but not homes! 
    .

    So you can imagine if he was shut down before the job was complete.  My friend could have been roofless and without a contractor!  And then the rain would come…
    .
  2. Complaints About Dishonesty or Bad Work
    If he’s legal, he could still be incompetent.  Or worse, a lousy cheat.  Now is the time to learn about his character.  Be sure to Google his name or company (do both) and then do it again with the following words: suit, lawsuit, litigation, complaints, fraud.
    .
    At first, search without limiting it to a particular state.  You may discover he’s had the same business in other states where people have complained about him. Too many hits?  Then add your state too.
    .
    Search Examples (A partial list with phrases in “”)
    “Conrad Peters” builder complaints
    “Conrad Peters” builder fraud
    “Conrad Peters” “home improvement” complaints
    Conrad Peters builder litigation (name w/o quotes)
    and
    “Equine Farms” complaints (his company)
    “Conrad Peters” builder litigation Georgia
    “Conrad Peters” builder lawsuit Georgia
    “Conrad R Peters” (middle initial)
    .
    Be sure to also Google the contact information on their business card.  Include their phone number, email address and physical address.  See How To Google By Their Address,  Phone Number and Email.  For how to Google using quotes, no quotes and their middle name, see Google Like A Pro (Quick Tips & Tricks) and People With Common Names-How To Background Them..
    .
    Also check out his business with the national Better Business Bureau Complaint Database. You can search by website, company name, phone number or email address.  Keep in mind that a new business may not have complaints.  I recommend a search with and without their state.  It’s possible his new company in GA has no complaints, but his old one in AL does.  This only works if he used the same name for both companies (not uncommon).
    .
  3. The Guy Was Born Yesterday (New Business, But No Work History)
    It’s not enough that he has no complaints.  If he’s experienced and good at what he does, his name should be all over the Internet.  So beware of someone who appears to have no past.  If he’s over 40 and suddenly popped into existence two years ago, something is wrong.  It could mean he’s just new and inexperienced.  But if that’s the case, why do you want him working on your home?
    .
    But it could also be something more sinister.  For example, he could have formed a new company to hide a sordid history of shoddy work and dishonest dealings.  You’d never know because the complaints were against a different business.
    .
    How Can I See Prior Companies Or A Job History?
    Does a Google search of his name or business show a LinkedIn account with no prior companies or job history?  Or a search at the Secretary of State shows that his business is less than two years old?  Here’s how to learn what he was doing before then. 
    .

    While at the Secretary of State’s website, search for him by both his business name and his first and last name.  It may be that he’s been the officer or agent of other companies that either went bankrupt or received a lot of complaints against them. You can also search their name to see if they ever owned companies in other states.
    .
    If you find his other companies, Google these for lawsuits and complaints as well.  Also Google any addresses or phone numbers connected with these companies.  See also the businesses or work he’s had previously, by looking for his prior employment at the Age, Employment DOB websites.
    .
  4. Recent Bankruptcies (Personal or Business)
    Is your contractor having money trouble?  Can he handle your project without going broke halfway in between?  Check out how he’s handled his finances in the recent past.  For example,  I found that one contractor had two bankruptcies in 2013.  One was personal, and the other was his former company.  To escape the heat, he formed a new company in the same year and started all over again!
    .
    If you still want to use him, be to sure to ask: What happens if you start building my house and don’t have the finances to finish the project? “How will I be protected?” “Do you have safeguards now that you didn’t have in 2013?” “Are you bonded and insured?”  To find out if he or his businesses have had recent bankruptcies, see the Sleuth For The Truth blog on Finding Free Bankruptcy Records..
    .
  5. Crimes That Show Moral Depravity
    Don’t worry about the DUI from 20 years ago.  Pay attention to recent acts of violence, sex offenses involving minors and anything to indicate he’s depraved or dishonest.

Related Links

 

Why A Background Check?

For anyone who would background the house or car they buy,  but not their date…

Are Public Records A Bad Thing?
Are you a privacy nut?  Or someone convinced that free public records mean the end of the world?  Or maybe you’re less extreme than that, but just a little alarmed because there’s far too much public information freely available online.

Well, to quote Bill Clinton: I feel your pain.  There’s a lot on the Internet that can be used to stalk people, defame people, or simply harass people. Too much hate, too much bullying, too much social media.  And yes, too many YouTube videos with annoying pop up ads.

So what are you going to do about it?  Without a time machine, we’re stuck in the here and now.  And like fire, which is good in the oven but terrible on the curtains,  so is the free information you’ll find on the Internet.

Think back to all the amazing inventions.  And the opposition they all received. The VCR allowed you to illegally copy.  But with it you could watch all your favorite programs without the commercials.

And what about the Internet?  It made huge numbers of teens more isolated, more asocial and even more into pornography.  Yet it also allowed bedridden grandmothers to Skype their distant grandchildren.  I could talk about the car, the iPod and the smartphone.  But you get the gist.  The technology is neutral.  What counts most is what we do with it.

So let’s stop the complaining. It’s now time to make the lemons into lemonade.

Trust But Verify
Too many times I get the question: Why do a background check?  Sometimes I’m even accused of being  a snooper or stalker.  The people who ask these things tend to think there’s something shady when you look someone up online.  Their concern is that the mere act of backgrounding someone creates inherent feelings  of mistrust.  And that it’s better to be ignorant than poisoned by unfounded suspicion.  In some cases they may be right!

I agree that it’s what’s in our heart that matters.  It harms us when we always suspect others of being liars or underhanded.  But this doesn’t mean we throw away our intelligence or our caution.  We live in an age where people are no longer in communities.  A time when people are no longer accountable.

Unlike a century ago, people now have the power to run away from their own heat.  They can escape their own bad reputations.  So you’re an abuser, a liar or a cheat?  Simply cut off old ties, move to another town and reinvent yourself.  Who will know?   Unless of course, there’s a trail of all the harm you’ve caused.  A trail that can be found easily and for free by those with a need to know.

Your Need To Know
As employers, parents and singles, we all have a need to know.  We have a responsibility to protect ourselves, our friends and our families.  We need to know who we’re going to hire or date or allow near our children.

As Ronald Reagan once said when dealing with the Russians, we should  “trust, but verify.”  This means we start out in good faith and with the best of intentions.   But we’ve got to do our homework as well.  We cannot close our eyes to the realities that surround us.

As the mom of little red riding hood, would you let your little girl wander alone in the forest?  And what about the man you invited home for dinner?  Are you so sure he’s not the big bad wolf?  How can you tell?  As in the story, the wolf wears many disguises.  And the faster you know it’s a wolf, the faster you can protect those you love.

When Is A Good Time To Do A Background Check?
So now you’re seeing wolves and want to do a background check.  But when is a background check appropriate?   It’s all about balancing your desire to trust verses the risk of being too trusting.  The threshold of trust is different for everyone.  It’s your life.  So only you can answer that question.

But allow me to make a few suggestions.  Do a background check whenever the stakes are high.  At the the very least, I recommend it when dating, hiring, renting out your house, or when investing in someone’s business.

I also recommend a background check when you notice something is wrong.  It could be that someone’s story doesn’t add up.  Or that an employee has a pattern of acting strange or erratic and you’re unable to figure out why.

What Do I Look For In A Background Check?
What to look for in a background check all depends on why you’re doing it in the first place.  For example, if your dating someone, their age and marital status may be more important than their DUI of 20 years ago.

If you’re checking out a renter, take a look at any incidences of violence or prior evictions, destruction of property, etc.  Also find out if they ever sued their landlord.

For investors,  you’ll want to check out their honesty and their competence in financial matters.  Do they have recent bankruptcies or defunct companies they ran into the ground?

Were they ever charged or convicted of fraud or embezzlement?  How do they manage their assets?  Checking out what they own tells you if they’re good managers.  It may also reveal if they have undisclosed conflicts of interests.  For example, are they asking you to invest in something they have hidden ties to?  Is it a Ponzi scheme or a company secretly owned by their kid brother?

Lies, Omissions & Funny Business (My Law School Days at ASU)
Often we have no clue what a person has done or even what to ask them.  In other words, we don’t know what we don’t know.  But if something suddenly appears fishy, it’s time to do a background check!

A great example of this occurred in my law school days when I met a a self proclaimed millionaire named Mike Davis.  Mike was smart, affable and seemed like a really nice guy.  But I should have suspected something fishy when I caught him waiting on the financial aid line.  Law school was a lot cheaper back then.  Millionaires didn’t need or qualify for student loans.  That was my first clue something was definitely amiss.

Years later at a party, I confessed to him, “Mike I’ve known you for three years and you’re still f*n inscrutable!  I know as much about you now as the very first day I met you!”  Mike grinned at me and said “just ask away little buddy!”  I was  silent.  What could I ask him?

A few years later Mike made national headlines.  And I so badly wanted to go back to that party and ask him: Hey Mike, by any chance, is your real name Walter Waldhauser And before I knew you, did you ever flunk out of a Texas law school and serve 9 years in prison for killing people to collect on their inheritance money?   And by the way, if you hadn’t plead guilty and ratted out your accomplices, do you think you too would have died by lethal injection as they did?  Just asking little buddy.  Just asking…

But again, you don’t know what you don’t know.  That’s why you should do the background check as soon as you know something’s fishy.   If there’s water dripping from the ceiling, don’t sit around until the roof caves in.

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