Category Archives: Employers & Background Checks

The laws on what employers can and cannot do when deciding not to hire or promote someone based on a background check. Includes how to get around most federal law by doing the background check using free records on the Internet. Also links to each state’s law on such.

Using AI For Instant Free Background Checks

Today I explore the powerful and exciting world of artificial intelligence. The free AI de jour is called Celect.io. And I just love it!

What the microwave did for Betty Crocker, Celect.io is now doing for online research. And this includes free Internet background checks! If you remember in the days of yore, it took hours to cook a meal and many more hours to do a background check. But thanks to the microwave, a meal can be cooked in mere minutes. And thanks to Celect.io, your free background check can be done in mere seconds! It will even write a summary for you!

Celect.io is extremely easy to use and it requires no download or sign up. Just type in your question and hit return. For example, you can ask: “Who is Graham Firestone attorney? The AI then plunges through the Internet and within seconds, extracts a professional summary based on Linkedin, Twitter, Rocketreach, company webpages, online media and much more. Up top it links to the source documents, and it can link to other sources in the footnotes. It even extracts photos! So try it out on yourself and your friends! 

3 Similar Searches With 3 Different Results
See below what it found when I searched by my name only, my name plus my company, and finally, my name plus my consumer law website.

The first search on me was mostly OK. But with only my name to go by, it mixed me up with another Graham Firestone who’s still in high school. But even then, it pulled 3 photos of me, two of which were missed in the other searches! The second search did better by listing my current job and past professions. The third search, which was just my name with another website, did something totally unexpected. It pulled up my religious beliefs along with the last three states I’ve lived in! And all of this was done, summary included, in less than a few heartbeats!

What Else You Can Ask It?
As you can see from above. Celect.io is a bit quirky and can give different results based on minor variations. It works best for names coupled with a profession, company, city or state, or website without the www. or .com. But it’s prone to some error if you try with only a name, even if it’s a rare name. It’s also less effective at finding the owner of a phone number, (missed a lot) and it didn’t work at all for me when I searched by just an email address.

Switching It Up
I got amazingly different but true results when I entered my name with both old and new jobs, different cities, different hobbies or just rearranged minor wording. Be careful with any misspellings! It will correct them in its answer, but then tell you it didn’t find much!

Here Are Examples of How Even Minor Variations Can Change Results

  • Who is graham firestone attorney
  • Who is attorney graham firestone
  • graham firestone attorney
  • Who is graham firestone Roswell
  • Graham Firestone Georgia
  • graham firestone department of labor (with an old job it found my new one! )
  • graham firestone sleuth for the truth (my company and website)
  • graham firestone Consumer-sos (my other website)

On a Final Note, Don’t Forget To Verify!
AI is excellent for extracting and summarizing. But it’s lousy at fact checking. Much of what you’ll get is self-published information from the person being backgrounded, or it’s info scraped from the Net by commercial services that can also be inaccurate. So you still need some due diligence to confirm the summary is true. For help with that, please see the free blogs on Employment History, Salaries & Professional Licenses. Happy hunting!

Other Blogs
Sleuth For The Truth
Christian-SOS

With Free Reverse Lookups You Don’t Need Their Name for a Background Check!

This blog is all about joy. Or at least, all about the joy of finding people and doing free background checks. But unlike most blogs, this one will show you how to do these things even when you don’t know their name, want to confirm their name, or when their name is an extremely common one like “John Smith.”

The fact is we’re far too obsessed with names. Too often, this means we overlook how to get beyond a name, and get straight to the core of their identity. So I recommend you try these reverse searches on both yourself and anyone you want to learn more about. When you’re done, you’ll see that privacy in the US is a myth, and you’ll probably start walking the streets with a bag over your head. But don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Now you may think I’m exaggerating. But people use false names all the time. They’re also constantly changing their names, intentionally misspelling their names or even hiding behind their middle names! And then there’s the fact that you may not even remember how to spell their name. Or if you can, you’re still stuck weeding out the Google hits of dozens of total strangers who share the same name.

Beating the Name Game
But wouldn’t it be great if you could find something unique about that person aside from their name? Something like a fingerprint, which could easily track them down with no confusion, so you know it’s truly them.

Well you’re in luck. Here are the free ways to cut through the name game. Below, I’ve included the powerful reverse lookups which can be used to find old friends, expose the frauds on dating sites, or to learn more about potential tenants, roommates, employers or business associates. Just remember to leverage what you find by plugging it into Google and the other reverse searches. A+B leads to C, and A,B,C leads to D,E,F…all the way through Z!

Photo Reverse Lookups
You’re about to be scared. But also empowered. With facial recognition, you don’t have much privacy. But neither does the guy who’s photo you snapped as he was kicking in your car door.

Next time, try uploading their photo to Face Check ID. Face Check ID is the best free photo lookup I’ve ever seen. Sadly it will start charging on March 1, 2024. To test it, I snapped a new pic and uploaded it to their website. And unlike Google reverse images, it was able to pull up similar photos of me. Even better, it pulls up websites and sometimes usernames, the latter which can be plugged into reverse searches to learn even more about them! Note that this site works best for caucasians, and with faces staring straight at the camera.

Removing Unwanted Objects in Your Photos

Ever want to do a reverse lookup of just one person in a group photo? Or perhaps, your image search isn’t working because there are unwanted things in the background? Well, you just hit the jackpot! Here are 3 easy to use tools that are completely free, none of which require downloading.

First is the Windows Snipping Tool which allows you to extract only the person or object of interest. You simply trace a box over the head of the person in the photo and it will automatically be saved to your clipboard. From there, you can save the revised photo to your desktop and later upload to any reverse photo search engine.

Or if you like, you can use Remove.bg to nix any background such as trees or furniture, and then use the snipping tool.

Finally, If you’ve done all the above but still need to clean up the background a bit, the free erase tool on Cleanup.pictures will wipe away anything missed by the others. You don’t have to know Photoshop! You don’t have to select from a pallet of colors. You just brush over anything unwanted and it disappears!

For more exciting links, see photo and reverse image searches.

Email Reverse Lookups
Ever want to learn more about an old friend but have only a defunct email address? Old email or new email, now is the time to see the sites they’ve registered with and if it leads to new sites, new names, new addresses, new usernames, or a new marital status.

My favorite site used to be Osint.Industries.(now must pay as of 12/17/23) With their free signup, you were able to plug in an email address to get their photos, usernames, marital status, hobbies, where they shop or their professional occupation. The sole drawback is you must perform 2 annoying captchas per search.

When I tested with a friend’s email address, I confirmed where he works, who he’s married to and some of the websites he has accounts with. I knew most of this already, mind you, but I like to test these sites with the people I know. This is a great resource to find out what your old girlfriend is doing. But it’s also perfect for exposing con artists e.g. the guy whose email pulls up multiple names or the photos of different people.

This site claims to do the same with phone numbers; but when I tried a few, all I got was if they had a Skype account. Note that if you want to try this yourself, the format for US phone #s is xxx-xxx-xxxx.

For more on finding by email addresses, see the free links on reverse email searches.

Cell Phone Reverse Lookups
Aside from Google, there are a number of free reverse search engines for phone numbers, including defunct ones. Many of these pull up the person’s full name or a middle initial. (Things that can be Googled later of course.) Some even pull up their age, relatives, emails, and addresses. Now how about that! My favorites are CallerName.com and CyberbackgroundChecks.com (Reverse Cell Phone Lookup).

With the former, submit the cell # and then scroll down to “Caller ID” to see the name of who it belongs to. With CyberbackgroundChecks, it may pull up not just the person’s name, but also other contact info such as described above. CyberbackgroundChecks can also search by address, email, and name as well.

For more on free phone number look ups, see the other links on Cell Phone and Landline reverse searches.

Username Reverse Lookups
People like to reuse the same email addresses and usernames over and over again. This means you can search for old friends by their funky old email address and simply convert it into a username. For example, you could search for snicklefritz, which was from their old email address snicklefritz@aol.com.

Username reverse lookups are great for finding their photos, their new name, and their profiles on various social media. My favorite site is IDCrawl, which is simple to use and quite powerful. When I entered the username sleuthforthetruth, it found me on Instagram, Youtube, and even pulled up my posts on Reddit.

For more on username reverse searches, see these free username reverse lookup sites.

Street Address Reverse Lookups
Old street addresses can pull up new names and list their current addresses. I’ve used these types of reverse searches to find roommates of 20 years ago, including those who had foreign hard to spell names!

My favorite address reverse search website is Cyberbackgroundchecks.com (USA Only). Just type in a new or old address to find who lived or lives there, along with their more recent cell #s, email addresses and physical addresses.

For more, see my other links on free reverse address searches.

Domain Name and Other Reverse Lookups
Do they have a website? Or perhaps they reserved a domain name but never did anything with it. Either way, there are some powerful tools which use a name, a company name, a domain name or an email address to see what they registered. Often this reveals more phone numbers, more email addresses, and even other information about them.

For more, see my other links on Website Reverse Lookups.

Conclusion
The bottom line is that there’s tons of free info to confirm someone’s name, get their middle name, or just find out more about them, all without even using Google. But leverage whatever you find. Trust but verify; and above all, make sure to always enjoy the ride!

More Blogs on Background Checks (Sleuth For The Truth)

Other Blogs

Find Old Friends and Classmates by Their Defunct Emails and Usernames

Imagine you’re in a huge, cavernous hall packed with crowds of silent people. You’re told you have just one hour to find your old friends and family or you’ll never see them again! Worse, you suddenly realize you’re blindfolded and deaf! You can only identify them by your meager sense of touch.

So how would you go about finding them? And how long would it take you? Chances are, you could look forever. For when blindfolded, all those noses, hair, eyes, clothing and even faces, would give you many false leads.

Bereft of your senses, you would be unable to identify the person you’re looking for. There’s just too many misleading similarities and not enough helpful clues.

This is your world when searching for someone with a common name. And all to often you won’t have the benefit of a photo. Sure, you’ll find Joan Smith. But chances are it’s not the Joan Smith you’re looking for. Worse, Joan could have married, divorced or remarried, which means you may be looking for the wrong name!

But what if in the above scenario, your loved one wore a special bracelet, or perhaps, a unique signature hairdo that no one else had? At that point, they would stand out in the crowd. And even with your limited senses, you’re odds of finding them would skyrocket.

This is where emails and usernames come in. Email addresses and usernames often act like a special bracelet or a signature hairdo. And better yet, because people are creatures of habit, they tend to use the same signature words or monikers they once used 20 years ago. That’s right! You can find your friends with even old and now defunct email addresses! Indeed, an old email address may contain their current username on social media. It could also pull up a new email address with the same signature phrase!

Email Searches, Extracting Their Username From an Email and How To Guess Usernames for Rare Names
OK, the person you dated 20 years ago may never have had a username. But times change and they almost certainly have one now. So to find old friends by their email or username, simply:

  1. Go through your old email list of contacts, and look for friends with rare names OR unusual email addresses. For example, I found an old friend with the ancient address of alot*sugarjet@bellsouth.net.
  2. Search in Google or Bing with their full email address in quotation marks. For example, Googling “g_firestone@yahoo.com” could lead to other postings which include new contact information and other leads.
  3. Try a Reverse Email Search using their whole email address, which can pull up their new name, plus new contact information, including new usernames, and other social media accounts. If you get a middle name or initial, be sure to Google their full name in “quotes”. These sites are hit or miss so use several of them for good leads. In my case, when I used a long dead email address it found my old friend with her current age, a new last name and plenty of phone numbers and addresses. (the last two I could plug into Google or do reverse searches on, for even more leads.)
  4. Google an old username (with no spaces) e.g..the first part of an old email before the @sign. For example: sleuthforthetruth. Also try with quotes e.g. “sleuthforthetruth”
  5. Plug this username into the most popular social media sites such as Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, Instagram, WeChat, TikTok, Reddit, etc. This sometimes works with old email addresses as well.
  6. For people with rare names like myself, try to guess their username with combinations like: grahamfirestone graham.firestone graham-firestone graham_firestone gfirestone g_firestone g-firestone.
  7. Use the Free Username Lookups that will tell you which usernames are NOT AVAILABLE on Social Media. These often will provide you a link to those NOT AVAILABLE, which can lead you to the person who has this name. But even if they don’t provide a link or the link leads nowhere, see if you can go to the social media site and search for them directly. Indeed, you may discover someone with the same first name and different last name, or get clues to where they live or who their friends are. These sites are hit or miss. I recommend using several of such for more leads and to see how they work: The best ones are those with the fewest false positives.
  8. Don’t forget the other numerous ways to find people. For more, see the free peoplesearch links at Consumer-SOS.com and the other blogs at Sleuth For the Truth! This includes how to find People With Common Names and How To Background Them.

For Additional Blogs, see Christian-SOS.

Verify What They Do For A Living

So you met this neat guy at Starbucks and he’s full of fascinating tales about himself. He says he’s a wheeler dealer world traveler. He likes art. And in his spare time, he bakes, he sews, and he deworms stray kittens. But is he for real? Is this guy too good to be true? And how can you find out?

Curiously absent from any of his exciting stories, was what he does for a living. Is a he a butcher, a baker or a candlestick maker? Or perhaps he’s a doctor or lawyer or grim undertaker? Does he have his own a company? Does he rent from his mom? Is he an industrious inventor? Is he building a bomb?

So how can you find out about these things? Or at least confirm if anything he says about his work is true.

Well, have no fear. Underdog is here! Yes, this is a blog all about employment. And how you can verify what’s true and what’s not.

Knowing The Source of Where The Information Came From
Often you’ll find lots of information, but have no idea where it came from. The source of a record is key. Because if it came from the person himself, you’ll want other means to determine if it’s true or not.

Obviously you’ll know the source if you find it on LinkedIn or Facebook. But what if you find it on seemingly respectable websites like Intellius or US Search? Where did they get it from? And is it reliable?

It may surprise you to know that often they too get their employment info from LinkedIn and Facebook! And I have proof of such which I’ll go into shortly!

The 4 Sources of Information You Need To Know About
When it comes to employment info, there are only 4 types of records to be concerned with. These are:

1. Self Published Info (but allowed to lie);
2. Self Published Info (but required to tell the truth);
3. Reliable Info Published By Others;
4. Info that mixes all three of these.

The good news is that all 4 types of records have their purpose. All 4 of these can be used to find or verify someone’s employment. OR at least to catch someone in inconsistencies.

1. Self Published Info (but allowed to lie)
The first source of info includes what they say about themselves on LinkedIn, Facebook and other social media. You may think that because it’s self published it can’t be reliable. And you’re partly right. But it’s very useful as a starting point. And even here you can verify things.

First of all, people usually tell the truth about themselves. So Facebook and LinkedIn are great places to begin. Use these resources to gather as much as you can about the person’s employment. Later you can and will be verifying from other sources. So be patient.

Sometimes, the self published records on social media are quite reliable. Especially when you’re looking to confirm someone is being deceptive.

For example: if their Facebook posts brag about their two years as a homeless hermit in India, what does their LinkedIn account say? Does it claim that during this time they worked in NYC for Arthur Andersen?

On the flip side, social media can also prove he is telling the truth about himself.

Suppose I claim to work at the law firm of Heninger Garrison & Davis. And behold, 20 of my Facebook friends and various LinkedIn contacts also work at Henninger Garrison & Davis.

Chances are, this is a very good indication I work there now. Or at least once worked there! And what if I have posts where others laugh at what I did at last week’s office party? What more proof do you need?

Using LinkedIn & Facebook To Find Other People Who Work At The Same Company
Of course, not all Facebook friends are visible. And even when they are, not all of them will list where they work.

You could of course ask to be part of your subject’s LinkedIn network. Then you would see if they really know people in the same company. But that could be awkward. And it might make you look  like a neurotic busybody.

If you’re like me, you don’t want others to know you’re backgrounding them! So your best bet is to find the guy on Facebook and see if any of his friends work at the same company! With Facebook’s Advance Search function, this is very easy.

Once you’ve logged into your own account and are on your main page, click on Find Friends and scroll down a bit to your right where it says Search For Friends. Ignore every other field except for Employment, and type in the company they say they work for. Whallah! Suddenly you have a list of names and faces. Are any of them on his friends list?

Of course, for small companies, you can find employees by going directly to the company website. But in the case of law firms, secretaries and paralegals won’t be listed. So you’ll want to search on Linkedin, even if you don’t have an account.

As I mentioned earlier, to find employees on LinkedIn is easy when you’re already in their social network. For everyone else, you can
Google for company employees within the Linkedin website.

Searching Linkedin
Recruit’em X-Ray Search of LinkedIn Employee Profiles
Confirm the person’s job title or company or find others with the same job title.
Simply enter the “Country” and Job Title” only. In the “Key Words” field you can add the the person’s name and company if known. DO NOT USE “Current Employer” field as it will miss things.

Using Google To Search Within Facebook and Linkedin
In the Google search box , search within a website like this:

Rooms To Go site:Linkedin.com (Searches for other employees)
Graham Firestone site:Linkedin.com (Search for your subject)
Graham Firestone site:Facebook.com (Search for your subject)

Using Other Self Published Info Mixed With  Reliable Info (Source 4 docs)
At this point, we’re still trying to find employment information on the quick. So your next step is to look for them on the websites that offer free background check information on employment.

These sites are great for matching a name with an age and a job. And they often include a mixture of information which they get from  social media, the government and professional licensing boards.

But watch out! This 4th source of information is where you can run into trouble. Sites that provide mixed records, take information from wherever they can get it. And often they conceal where they got it from. So you can gather here. But you need to verify elsewhere!

For example, most people know about Pipl, Peekyou and Spokeo. So they expect that some of the information is official (like their age) while other information is clearly self published (i.e. taken from social media).

But what about the “respectable” pay websites such as Intellius, US Search and Radaris? Won’t their employment information be more reliable?

Believe it or not, they too get much of their information from LinkedIn! So you may actually be paying for self published information you could have gotten for free. And worse, it’s never been verified. So you may be paying for lies.

Proof That Pay For Background Check Sites Use Social Media
Take my employment information. Did you know I worked for the prestigious white-shoe law firm of Salamander and Spivak? It’s a law firm that’s so exclusive, only the best even know of it.

The truth is it doesn’t exist! Except in my mind of course! Years ago I put it on LinkedIn as a joke. But it’s now listed on Radaris, US Search and other sites that charge you for online background checks!

So don’t trust them simply because they look official. Before you pay these sites a dime, find out where it is they get their information from! Sites that gather from social media may include the Whitepages, Pipl, Spokeo, US Search, Intellius and other background check websites.

2. Self Published Info (but required to tell the truth)
The second source of info is deliciously wonderful. It’s where people must voluntarily list their employment when dealing with the government, the courts or a licensing agency.

Examples include court filings, bankruptcy petitions, license applications, tax filings, census filings and the job information they volunteer when donating to political campaigns.

No one goes to jail for lying on Facebook. But lying to Uncle Sam is a sin. And if they’re caught, it could cost them their case, their license and even their freedom. With this in mind, people are usually more truthful here than on social media.

Find Their Latest Job Through Their Professional Licensing Board
Many professionals such as doctors, lawyers, and real estate brokers all need to update their respective licensing boards. And this means they often are required to list where they currently work. They could lie of course. But if they get caught they could lose their license. To look up your professional by job type and state, see
Occupational Licensing Boards For All 50 States & DC.
See also Their Profession/License Or Certifications (Consumer-SOS)

Find Job Histories Through Their Federal Campaign Contributions
When you donate to a political party or candidate, Uncle Sam wants to know where the money came from. And so every contributor is asked to list their employment. The beauty of this is that you can sometimes trace the donor’s job history.

Here’s how I did so for John Stanford using the free website Political Money Online. This site tracks all federal campaign contributions since 1980. And this includes the employment history of the campaign donor!

Just enter in their name like below and select their state. Ignore everything else except Search All Cycles.

Wallah! Suddenly their occupation is listed along with the date and amount of their contribution.

In the snapshot above, I even numbered the last five jobs he had in chronological order. Are these the same jobs he posted on LinkedIn and Facebook? Is this what he put on his job application? If not he’s got a lot of explaining to do!

For more links of this sort see Campaign Contributions (Consumer-SOS)

Find Job Histories Through Their Bankruptcy Petitions
A person’s bankruptcy petition can capture years of their financial activities. And it can include other information such as where they worked, how long they held a job, and what they spent their money on.

If you want to see the type of employment info you can get for free from bankruptcy petitions, see the Sleuth For The Truth video Search For Bankruptcy Filings (Free Public Records) and advance to 5:36.

For more on using PACER to get free bankruptcy petitions, see the bottom of the Sleuth For The Truth Blog Free Bankruptcy Records.

3. Reliable Info Published By Others
Now is the time to talk about the reliable outside sources that show where they work or have worked in the past. The more official these sources are, the better. These could include government listings, a news article, or a membership roster from an occupational licensing board.

For example, a government listing of property owners, a federal listing of all US Postal workers, or a state bar directory of all Georgia attorneys. These are all official publications.

Ignore Commercial Directories Which List Employment
Commercial directories are almost never reliable. To be reliable means their information is accurate and includes all licensed members of the profession. Most commercial directories only publish the names of those who pay their fees. And they also rely on whatever their members say about themselves.

So if you’re not sure, test them by looking up at least two people you know are licensed in that profession. If one of them is missing, you’re either a bad speller or dealing with a commercial directory.

Commercial Records Can Be Reliable
Don’t be so quick to write off a record just because it’s commercial. Reliable records can be found on the employer’s website, in newspapers, from charity events, or in a list of consumer complaints from the Better Business Bureau.

For example: You can bet Steve Wosniak really works for Apple when their website shows he hit a home run at the company picnic.  Likewise, when a charity lists a 10 million dollar donation from Graham Firestone of Firestone Tires, wanna bet they got his job title right?

Googling For Reliable Records
OK.  Suppose you want to confirm that Bill Gates works at Microsoft. The first stop is to go to the firm’s homepage and see if he’s listed there or in some employee directory.

But what if he isn’t there? And suppose the firm doesn’t have a search engine where you can look for him? In that case, use Google to search for his name within the company’s website like this:
Bill Gates site:microsoft.com

If the website blocks Google from searching within the site, (and some do) you can still Google “Bill Gates” Microsoft. The latter may pull up other reliable sources such links to newspapers and charitable events that show his affiliation with the company.

To find where lawyers and other professionals work, you could also Google a person’s name along with their occupation, like this:
“Graham Firestone” attorney or
“Graham Firestone” attorney Georgia

Verify If They Have A Professional License
Earlier we used the professional licensing boards to show where they currently work. But here we just want to know if they really are a doctor or lawyer or acupuncturists. Unlike commercial directories, the licensing boards will have every single person in that profession.

How Do I Search For Licenses?
Every state’s website is different and has different ways to search for a professional. In GA, for instance, you can do a general name search without checking off which profession you’re looking for. This is great when you’re just curious as to what they do for a living.  In most cases, I recommend you search by first and last name and a profession. If you can’t find them, search by last name only. Sometimes people will register with a first name, but their friends and colleagues know them by only their middle name.

To look up your professional by job type and state, see
Occupational Licensing Boards For All 50 States & DC.

Verify Job Histories of State, Federal and Other Government Employees (Salary Lookups)
Nearly one sixth of all U.S. employees work for the government.  That’s right. Twenty two million people. The links below can show up to six years of their employment history and may include their job title and salary.

See Public Salaries & Employment History (Blog) and

Salaries: Government, Non Profits, Foundations & Publicly Traded Companies (Links)

Verify Job Histories of Executives At Publicly Traded Companies
Each year, high ranking officers of big companies like Walmart, Exxon and Apple must publish their job title and salaries. So you can see exactly how long they worked there and what their job title was. See Private Salaries That Are Really Public (Blog) and

Salaries:Publicly Traded Corporations (Links)

Verify If They Own A Corporation (Consumer-SOS)
The government keeps records on every Inc., Corp, and LLC.
The link above will also show if they are officers or agents of the company. Sites ending in .gov are the most accurate. Other non government sources may miss records, but are good when you don’t know what state the company may be incorporated in. (Allows you to search by the person’s name or company name in all 50 states at once).

Verify if They Own A Business That’s Not Incorporated or Have Patents or Other Intellectual Property
Some people are inventors. Others have a thriving business which you can only find through their websites. For links to find out if they own a website or other intangible property, see Find Their Intellectual Property(Consumer-SOS).

Verify if They Are High Up In A NonProfit or Foundation
See Foundations & Non-Profits (By Individual or Company)

Now you have more than you ever wanted to know. There’s loads of free stuff out there.  So stop lollygagging and start backgrounding!

 

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.

Related Links

Locating Assets

So he owes you money?  Or it’s a divorce or child support case where they’ve got to be hiding something!  Either way, you’ll want to know all about their assets.

Searching for assets can be tricky.  And there’s no guarantee you’ll find anything.  But this blog will show you some powerful places where to look.  And how to do it fast, easy and all for free!  In fact, while I urge you to read on, you can find all these links Here.

Why Look For Assets?
Here are the obvious and not so obvious reasons to look for assets.

Divorce and Child Support
Sadly, this is the main reason why people try to hide what they own.  See Tricks People Use To Hide Assets From Their Spouse

Someone Won’t Pay You
So they refuse to pay you? The good news is you found their boat, their car, their house and their tractor.  Do they want to lose these things?   Ask them.   Sometimes, a mere threat works wonders!

They’re Lying About Being Rich
Is little orphan Annie pretending she’s Daddy Warbucks?  People lie about their assets for many reasons.  Some do it for personal approval.  But others claim to be rich so you’ll invest in their Ponzi schemes. Think Gregory Crabtree and his association with University of Georgia  football coach Jim Donnan.

Spotting Conflicts Of Interest
People are influenced by what they own.  So knowing their assets can help uncover a hidden conflict of interest.  For example, a judge rules against your solar power company, but you later discover he owns stock in a competing oil company.  Or what about the
non-profit director who rallies against pollution while holding a majority interest in the notorious Smog R US, INC.?  Could assets in these competing ventures influence their day to day decisions?  Could it affect how they vote?  You bet.

Criminal Investigations
How do you know that scumbag A is connected to scumbag B?  Trace their assets!  Often shell companies lead to other shell companies which are held by friends, relatives and known criminal associates.

Wills & Probate
Are you sure their will is up to date?  What if they acquired new property, new stock options or a new company that the family never knew about?  This could happen by oversight. (The decedent was forgetful or never got around to revising their will.)  Or it could happen by design. (The secret car or house was for a mistress or baby mama.)

Assets Lead To Other Assets
The fact is that assets point to other assets.  Suppose for example,  that Company A and Company B have different owners, yet both share the same address and phone number.  Is Company B connected to Company A?   Maybe not on paper.  But what if you found both company owners were related to each other?  Could a friend or family member be hiding assets?

For more on why you should do an asset search, See 10 Reasons To Locate Assets

What Is An Asset?
Most people know why to look for assets.  But what exactly is an asset?  In the broadest sense, an asset is money or something that can be sold for money.  This includes anything from homes and cars to their used paper clip collection.

But don’t waste your time with paper clips.  Start with big ticket items such as their houses and companies. Then work your way down to smaller assets such as their stocks, cars and personal property.

3 Types of Assets:

  1. Real Property, Business Property  & Personal Property
    Examples include:
    Homes, buildings, parking lots, stores, boats, planes, tractors, cattle, cars, antiques, artwork, furniture, medical equipment, jewelry, collectibles & hobby equipment, corporations, partnerships, non profits, and the physical property associated with such.
  2. Cash, Income, Stocks, Bonds…
    Examples include:
    Salaries, retirement funds, pensions, bank accounts, stocks,  annuities, dividends, residuals & royalties from contractual and licensing  agreements, legal settlements, insurance proceeds, book sales, etc.
  3. Intangible/Intellectual Property
    Examples include:
    Copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets, patents,  inventions, proprietary software, goodwill, client lists, buy out agreements, etc.   Like homes or businesses, these have value.  And like any other property, these can be sold to pay off debts.

How & Where To Look For These Assets (An Overview)
How and where you look all depends on what you know about the person.   You can search for assets based on:

  • Asset Types (What you think they own)
    This includes records on corporations, foundations, intellectual property, real property and cars, boats and planes. These can reveal the owner behind them.
  • Where The Person Works
    Often you can obtain salary, stock or pension information if they work for the government, manage a non profit or are an officer or director in a publicly traded company.
  • Their Hobbies, Licenses or Profession
    Many dentists have their own practice, and therefore, own expensive medical equipment such as dental drills and X-ray machines .  Same goes with cosmetic dermatologists who may own expensive lasers and dermabrasion equipment.  A person with a boating or pilot’s license could very well have a boat or small plane,  a gun collector, expensive guns, a sports hobbyist, expensive baseball memorabilia, a farmer, a tractor, a cyclist, a six thousand dollar bike, etc.
  • Usually you can get their profession or hobbies from LinkedIn, the Age & Relative lookup sites, or through Facebook, Twitter or ID Crawl.com.  But if you can’t, don’t despair.   Many states have occupational search engines where you can search by name just to see what license they have.  For example, in Georgia, you can find all the people in the state named “Adam Rosen” who have a professional license.  Just enter in their name without selecting a profession.  But don’t expect to find any Adam Rosens who are lawyers and doctors.  Typically those are found at the state bar and state medical board websites.
  • Key Events In Their Life
    Did they ever file for bankruptcy? (The bankruptcy petition may list assets.)  What about winning or losing a lawsuit?  (Assets could be listed in divorce, breach of contract, or personal injury claims.)  Did they ever receive insurance benefits from a death in the family or from a car accident?
  • Their Online Announcements
    Did they move and list items for sale on e-Bay or Craig’s list?  What about that new job they announced on LinkedIn or their vacation posts on Facebook?  Did they brag about their timeshare, boat or condo?

Googling Two Names Together To Find Hidden Connections
Key is to find as many names connected to your subject as possible.  For example: Plug the name Graham Firestone into the various international  company databases such as the Panama Papers or Off Shore Data Leaks. This may unearth other connections to the subject, such as new companies or the names of their officers.

So you think Graham Firestone owns the company but you only get the name of the Secretary Paula Saunders? Great! Now try Googling them together as shown below. This could reveal they went to the same school were involved in other companies or went to prison together.

Examples of Googling Both Names Together
“Graham Firestone” Paula Saunders” (both names in quotes)
Graham Firestone Paula Saunders (no quotes may reveal a middle name)
“Graham Firestone” “Fennan” (a rare first name)

Age, Middle Name & Close Friends & Relatives
You might think you need their Social Security number to find their assets.  But it ain’t so!  There are three things far more important.  And yes, these too can be found for free online.

Before you do an asset search, you should know their age, middle name or initial and their close relatives and associates.   You want the first two to make sure you have the right person.  But close friends and relatives are almost as critical.  If someone wants to hide their assets, guess who they’ll do it with!

Age/Relative lookups are not the only place to find relatives.  Checkout Facebook as well.  Make sure to  look for all “friends” with the same last name as your subject.  And then add these to your list of their close friends and associates.

You’ll want to look for the son, daughter, spouse or live-in girlfriend who suddenly acquires a new house, plane or boat!  Same goes with their business partners and close associates.  It’s easy to find out when they got the new house. The online property tax records will show you exactly when they started paying the taxes on it!

Plane and boat registrations are also helpful.  These often list the exact date when the new owner acquired the property.  And the timing matters!

Was it just before or during the divorce? Or right before the bankruptcy?  This is something your lawyer or a judge might find mighty interesting!

What If I Don’t Know Their Middle Name?
If you don’t know their middle name, at the very least, you’ll want their middle initial.  This is critical when searching for a common name.   For example: There may be 1000 John Smiths, but only 25 John R Smiths.

A middle initial is your best friend in Google searches.  It’s also useful when searching the corporation and real property databases.  Sometimes these databases will cut off results after the first 100 returns.  If this happens, add their middle initial for more targeted results.

Test Bookmark
How & Where To Look For These Assets (Specific Links)

Find Assets Or Asset Holders Through Their:

Real Property (Who Owns What & Where) Relatives & Associates
Private Corporations (By Individual or Company Name) Intellectual Property (Websites, Patents, ©,® and ™)
Public Corporations (Look up Companies, Officers, Their Stock & Salaries) Foundations & Non-Profits (By Individual or Company)
Personal Property & Fixtures (Boats, Planes, Cars, Equipment…) Life Events (Bankruptcies, Lawsuits)
Government Employment (Salaries & Retirement Funds)

Related Links On How To Find Assets

Employers and Background Checks

2.0 Good Mugshot

No employer wants trouble.  But that doesn’t mean you can screen out any applicant with an arrest or conviction.  This blog will show you the federal laws to watch out for and which ones won’t apply if you do the background check yourself.  I will also point to links where you can read up on your state law requirements.

Keep in mind that you need to follow both federal and state law.  And there’s no uniformity between the states.  What’s fine in Arkansas could be illegal in Arizona.  So read your state’s law.

Federal Laws On Employment Background Checks
When it comes to the workplace, there are two federal laws to be mindful of when doing background checks.  The first is the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).  The Fair Credit Reporting Act is generally understood to refer to credit reports.  But it also applies to Background Reports and Consumer Reports.  The latter is most often used by prospective landlords and contains information about a person’s credit characteristics, character,  general reputation, and eviction records.  It’s a catch all phrase that includes credit reports.

Under the FCRA, you must get a person’s consent before ordering either of these.  If you refuse to rent, hire or retain them, they must be given a copy of this report and the reasons for your decision.

The second set of laws are those from Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  These are the laws enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to prevent discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion, disability  and national origin.

When it comes to criminal records, the EEOC’s main concern is that there’s no discrimination based on color, race or national origin.  Previously they’ve noted “an employer who adopts a blanket policy of excluding all applicants with a criminal record could screen out disproportionate numbers of African Americans and Latinos, which could in turn constitute illegal discrimination.”

The good news is that Title VII does not apply to employers with less than 15 employees.  So small employers can ignore The EEOC Guidelines on Arrests and Convictions.

Counting how many employees you have is another matter.  Sometimes part-time employees don’t count.  Sometimes they do.   It all depends on how long they’ve worked for you.  For more, you’ll want to read up on How To Count The Number of Employees An Employer Has.

What If I Do My Own Background Checks?
The Fair Credit Reporting Act covers only certain types of background checks i.e. those you pay for or get through data brokers or through credit/criminal/consumer reports.

It does not cover you doing your own research using free public records.  However, the EEOC rules against employment discrimination (especially against race or color) restrict how you can use the info regardless of how you got it.  Key is if you have over 14 employees.  (Independent contractors don’t count as they’re not employees.)

State Laws On Background Checks
So you have only 5 employees and you’ll do your own background checks, all for free.  Great.  The Federal laws above can’t touch you.  You’re exempt from the FCRA because you’re not ordering a background or consumer report.  Likewise, the EEOC can’t touch you because Title VII applies only to larger employers.

So are you scott-free?  Not quite.  Your state may impose additional legal restrictions on employee background checks.  State laws vary dramatically and can offer additional safeguards to prevent discrimination.

Nor does it always depend on the size of your company or how you got the information.  Some states limit what you can ask, when you can ask it or what you can do with the information regardless of how it was obtained.

For example, under New York law,  it’s illegal for a company with 10 or more employees to exclude all applicants with a criminal conviction.  Rather the employer must show that hiring the applicant would pose an unreasonable risk to property or to public or individual safety, or the conviction bears a direct relationship to the job.

In Georgia,  the law is totally different.  There is no restriction on the size of the company.  And in some cases, first offense or parole records cannot be used negatively in the hiring process.

For more, see Background Check Laws & Regulations For Private Employers

Related Links
State Laws on Use of Arrests and Convictions in Employment
Free Criminal Records Including Arrest Records & Convictions
An Employment Law Tightrope: Criminal Background Checks