How To Do a Background Check
A comprehensive Background Check should only be performed by a professional but here are some tips you can use to do some digging yourself.
Why Do a Background Check?
People are creatures of habit. Our destinies are largely shaped by the patterns of behaviour we adopt. Warren Buffett, the world’s greatest investor, only ever buys shares in companies whose directors have a proven track record over several years. He believes, rightly, that past performance is the best indicator of future behaviour.
Just as patterns of behaviour dictate success, so they lead criminals and fraudsters down the wrong path. You will notice that police pay special attention to whether a person of interest is “known to police.” This is because past criminality is an indicator of future wrongdoing – over 50% of prisoners released from Australian prisons in 2014-2015 returned to corrective services by 2017.
So, in any situation where you are considering commencing an important personal or business relationship (or even if you’re in a relationship already), it makes a lot of sense to do a little bit of research. Estimates vary but some experts believe that for every dollar spent on risk assessment, $5 or more is saved in the long run. In cases where you are dealing with a malicious personal or business partner, a background check will lead to a saving of a much greater magnitude.
When To Do a Background Check
There are a number of situations in which it is sensible to carry out a background check:
- If you or a loved one is involved or considering becoming involved in an intimate relationship with a person and there are any doubts about the partner, a background check is a must. This is especially true when the relationship has begun online.
- If you are contemplating a business relationship, a partnership or an investment then it is always wise to learn more about the person involved and any business he or she represents – a background check on a business is typically referred to as a due diligence investigation.
- If you are involved in litigation it may be worthwhile to know whether the litigant on the other side is of bad character and whether he or she has assets to recover against if you win.
- If your former partner or spouse has taken up with a new partner and your children will be exposed to this person, it’s vital to perform a background check on the new partner.
- Background checks are also important for potential employees, nannies, tenants and it’s even sensible to consider checks on your neighbours before buying a house – neighbourhood disputes are widespread, serious and often intractable problems.
The best time to perform the background check is before commencing the relationship however it may not be too late to learn something vital if you are already in some kind of relationship with the subject person.
How To Do a Background Check
There are different ways to conduct background checks depending on what you wish to uncover and depending on your budget. A standard background check is a good place to start in most investigations. This kind of background check initially involves searches across various databases for information relevant to the person who is the subject of the investigation.
The databases used by private investigators and others in the course of a background check store what could be described as personal information about citizens and residents of a country or state. The type of databases and the nature of the information stored varies greatly between different jurisdictions. Generally these databases are public record databases in that the information is lawfully available to the public but a fee is required to access it through a database provider. An example is the ASIC database of registered proprietary company information. Sometimes the data stored may only be available to certain types of researchers, private investigators for example. Certain information held by governments and private entities is available but certainly not all databases are accessible and the information that is available should not necessarily be considered comprehensive.
Unfortunately for the layman, discovering what databases are available and knowing how to search those databases in any kind of useful manner takes years of practice. In truth, even the vast majority of investigators don’t actually know how to search the databases. If you want to search public record databases, you will also need subscriptions to access the data. Because of the fact it is a very niche skillset and there are no comprehensive guides online about how to perform background checks, it is in most cases probably easier to research law and represent yourself in court than it is to conduct a proper background check.
So, where does this leave you if you want to conduct a background check? In Australia it is lawful to conduct a background check (unlike in some more authoritarian countries where investigators are banned) so you fortunately have at your disposal a background check expert in the form of an experienced private investigator. While it takes years of practice to learn how to do a complete background check, there are certain searches you can conduct yourself and we will address these below. But if you do need to conduct a detailed background check, how do you find the right investigator? Well, by doing a background check yourself!
We discussed above how searches on databases are the first step in a background check. Without getting into semantic debates about whether Google is a database or not, it definitely acts like a database and it is an increasingly valuable resource in investigations.
We will now examine how to use Google to research investigators and, in doing so, give you a taste of how a background check is actually conducted. If you can understand the principles of an investigation, you may find what you need on the web without requiring an investigator’s help. Failing that, you’ll know how to choose an investigator to help with your case.
What Techniques Can You Use In A Background Check?
If you Google the phrase private investigator, you’ll see many results. This is a broad search term and it’s akin to searching John Smith in a database. The result you want to find is probably in the list somewhere but how do you narrow down the results? If you are searching for a person with a unique name, obviously the process becomes more straightforward but it is rare that all results in a database and on the web relate to one person. An experienced investigator will know by using his or her intuition roughly how many results there will be for most names.
When investigating a subject with a common name on public record databases or on the web, it’s often easiest to begin with a process of elimination. Get rid of what you don’t need so you can concentrate on what you might need.
Write down the top ten or so results displayed through the Google search engine for the term “private investigator.” Identify the business name and, if possible, the names of persons involved with the business. When researching a service most users simply look at the Google results, the Google reviews and the websites of the business. Let’s think like an investigator and go a step further by now searching in Google the name of the business and, if possible the name of the director.
Take the example of Lipstick Investigations. By scrolling down the first page, you can identify the CEO, David King. Now, run the name Lipstick Investigations in Google. Looking through the first 5 pages of results is usually sufficient for a particular search phrase. You will note here multiple different sites, including media sites, that relate to Lipstick. Because we are in the elimination phase, we are primarily looking for any adverse information (which is usually the primary objective of a background check).
Things are looking good for Lipstick – no sign of anything untoward (note we have no association at all with Lipstick Investigations, we simply use it as an example here). If a business is regularly ripping off its clients, there will eventually be news coverage of this or online reviews by unhappy customers. If we now run the name David King (the CEO of Lipstick) on Google, we encounter a problem – the name is very common and it appears none of the results relates to our subject. This is an issue with any subject person whose name is not unique.
The first technique we will use to try to find results we are most interested in is to search only for results in Australia – this will cut out results for David King from overseas websites. In the Google Chrome browser, use the Setting / Advanced search tab underneath the search bar to select Country: Australia instead of Any country. Unfortunately, David King is so common, it still doesn’t give us what we want.
So, the second technique we should try is to combine terms and search David King investigator or David King Lipstick. Combining words with names is a useful trick when searching Google. If you know a subject’s spouse, job title, employer, suburb of residence or hobby, try running the subject’s name along with those identifying words, especially if the subject’s name is common. You can also combine this second technique with the first technique as well.
The phrase David King investigator brings up a number of similar results to Lipstick Investigations. The phrase David King Lipstick mostly brings up results relating to Poppy King, lipstick entrepreneur – let’s circumvent these results using the third technique and searching “David King” Lipstick. By using the quotation marks, Google will only display results using the exact phrase within the marks. You can use this with or without other words. Searching in this manner here cuts out results relating to Poppy King and returns similar results to the other searches.
So, all clear for David King and Lipstick. Now, let’s try searching Spousebusters, another investigation firm. Unfortunately, amongst the results is this one. The article speaks for itself. Not surprisingly, the name Brett Sutcliffe, who the newspaper article lists as the operator of Spousebusters, is not displayed on the Spousebusters’ website. We know this if we employ the fourth technique, searching within a website for a word. You can do this by searching the following in the Google search bar (replace the domain name with the relevant website you want to search and replace Sutcliffe with the word you want to search):
Site: www.spousebusters.com.au Sutcliffe
Now that we know the name of Brett Sutcliffe, we can search his name on Google. If you didn’t find the articles about his conviction in the first search, you should be able to find them now. When looking for any evidence of untoward behaviour in a background check, it is also worthwhile searching words such as convicted or conviction or sentenced along with the subject’s name.
So, you can employ this strategy when researching a suitable business and you can use each of the techniques mentioned above in the course of a web background check. It is usually preferable to conduct the public record database searches first and then perform the web searches when you know more about the subject and his or her associates.
Where To Search
We have addressed Google searches above. Of course, social media searches are a must these days and there are useful government resources such as the ABN Lookup which enables you to determine whether a subject has a registered business or trading name.
In truth there is no substitute for the public record searches so the best way to have a proper background check conducted is to use a professional private investigator. We have only scratched the surface above and there are multiple other investigative options in background checks including pretext inquiries, surveillance and deep web searches.
Who To Use For Your Background Check
Lyonswood Investigations has 36 years of experience conducting background checks and prides itself on the level of expertise of its search team. Lyonswood is led by Lachlan Jarvis, the author of this article, who is a law graduate and a licensed private investigator. If you require a detailed background check, contact Lachlan or the Lyonswood team today for an obligation-free quote