Can You Really Trust “Free” Criminal Records?

Are free arrest records reliable?

Whether you’re dating someone new or just want to check your own record, using a reliable, credible criminal record search is crucial. It’s tempting to use free searches from third parties and government websites, but these are not always the best options.

If you want accurate and updated criminal records, you’re going to have to buy them.

Why Perform a Professional Background Check?

Why would you perform a background check or search for criminal records? People frequently run background checks for:

“People Search” for anyone involved with your kids

Leaving your child with the parents of their classmate? You want to take every step to ensure that your child is safe when left in the care of another person. A background check or criminal record search is a great way to find out if your children are safe with neighbors and other kids parents.


If you’re dating someone new and things are getting serious, you may want to learn more about your partner. A background check will provide information on arrest records, prior marriages and divorces, address history and other information that your partner may be hiding. It helps to know who you’re getting involved with before you take the plunge and make a commitment.

Due Diligence

When a person is buying a business – or even part of a business – they typically run background checks on the person or group of people selling the company. A background check may be ran on the business itself. In some cases, due diligence background checks are performed when making an investment decision.

Litigation Purposes

Attorneys will often run checks on his or her opponent to gather as much information as possible. That information can be used to attack the opponent’s credibility, truthfulness, or to refute or verify a testimony.

For some of these purposes, you’ll need a special type of background check to comply with FCRA requirements. But to find out the truth about your neighbors, friends, co-workers, family and other people in your life, a background check is a smart option and may keep your family out of harm’s way.

What’s the Problem with Free Criminal Records?

What’s wrong with free search services? For starters, some are inaccurate or outdated. Others make you jump through hoops just to use the search. Let’s take a look at a few examples of why free criminal records aren’t always trustworthy.

Florida Arrest Records

Google “Florida arrest records” and you’ll find plenty of results, but a lot of them are from questionable sources.

What about an FDLE background check? Sure, you can use the state search, but it will cost you $24 for each record check. To top it off, the results are not certified, and it’s up to you to determine whether or not the record is the appropriate one.

Many states are now charging for record searches. Want to perform an SLED background check? You’ll also have to pay $24.

Minnesota Criminal Records

Minnesota offers a free criminal record search through the state’s website, but it’s not easy to find or use. You’ll also need to know the individual’s birth date in order to perform the search.

As for third party sources, you’d be hard-pressed to find one that didn’t require you to sign up for an account or pay in some way.

Texas Criminal Records

To search for criminal records in Texas, you’ll need to create an account with the Department of Public Safety and jump through some more hoops before you can actually perform a search. The State’s search is a bit outdated, to say the least.

Because Texas is such a large state, you’ll find an array of different local and state websites relating to court case and criminal record searches. This just makes the entire process more complicated and confusing than it has to be.

Virginia Criminal Records

The State of Virginia doesn’t make it easy to search their criminal records. As a member of the general public, you’ll need to submit a notarized Criminal Record Name Search form. And if you’re a business looking to conduct a search, you’ll also need to pay a $15 fee.

What about free searches? I couldn’t find a single service that offered criminal record searches for free.

Free Searches are Unreliable

There are numerous websites that allow you to search a state’s criminal records for free – or at least that’s what they claim. But once you land on these websites, finding information can be complicated. Some simply supply a list of links to other websites that offer searches. Others will supply you with a list of names, but you’ll only get to view a sample of the report. To view the entire report, you’ll need to – of course – pay for it.

The bottom line? Free searches aren’t always free in the long run. And the ones that are free are typically not reliable or credible.

Free Searches Are Limited and Complicated

Not only are free searches unreliable, they’re also limited in the information they provide. You may find arrest and court dates, but little else. Free background checks don’t always tell the whole story, which can be concerning if you’re checking out someone who will be interacting with your family.

If you choose to use free search engines and public databases, you’ll have to use numerous sources to gather all the information you need and paint a clear picture of the person’s background. This could take hours or days to complete, depending on how much information you need.

Why Paid Background Checks are the Best Option

As you can see, free searches aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Even if you can find a free record search, you’ll spend an unnecessary amount of time digging through the results to find the right one. For accurate, updated and easy results, paid background checks are the best option.

A paid background check will also provide you with more information than a simple criminal record check. Most will offer the following:

  • Criminal records: All public information related to criminal activities, such as traffic tickets, pending charges, DUIs and other severe violations.
  • Public records: This includes any information and recorded documents that the law considers public.
  • Misdemeanors: These are minor violations that usually result in a fine.
  • Sex offenders: If the person is registered as a sex offender, a background check will include this information.
  • Felonies: More serious offenses that include prison time.
  • Marriage and divorce records: Marriage certificates and divorce documents issued by the government.
  • Arrest records: Records of any prior arrests.
  • Lawsuits: Records of civil court lawsuits the individual was involved in.

Some services may also include death records, foreclosures, real estate records, bankruptcy and other personal information, but this is not common.

What’s the Best Background Check Service?

If you’re going to pay for a criminal background check, it better be worth your while. While you can pay for searches on state government websites, a third party service will often give you more information for the same price or cheaper.

The question is: which service is the best option?

After reading through dozens of background check reviews, one service kept popping up time and time again: Been Verified.

Let’s take a closer look at their service and what they have to offer.

Services Offered

  • Criminal Records
  • Sex Offender Database

Unlimited Reports

It’s tough to find a cheap background check these days. Many services charge as much as $200 to perform one record check. Been Verified charges a monthly rate for unlimited searches and reports. This means that you can search as many names as you need for whatever your purpose may be – as long as you’re not using the report for purposes that would require FCRA compliance.

Transparent Pricing

Other background check services charge hidden fees for their services. Been Verified is upfront about their subscription costs, so you know exactly how much you’re paying and what you’re paying for.

Here’s a rundown of the packages offered:

  • $22.86 per month
  • $44.58 for 3 months
  • $59.16 for 6 months

All subscriptions include unlimited searches and reports. State websites charge more for a single record search than Been Verified charges for a month of unlimited searches.

30 Data Points

When you’re performing a criminal record check, you want to find out as much information as possible. With Been Verified, you’ll find information related to:

  • Criminal records
  • Marriage records
  • Divorce records
  • Phone numbers
  • Address history
  • Speeding tickets
  • Sex offenses, and more!

Need more information? The Premium Report (costs an extra $19) gathers data from additional sources to provide you with everything you need to know.

Accurate and Up-to-Date

Been Verified searches through federal, county and state databases to ensure their reports are as accurate and up-to-date as possible.

In my experience, Been Verified provides the most extensive background check reports. The searching process is easy and reports are more than affordable.

What You Can and Can’t Do with Your Report

Now, here’s the thing about paid background checks. They’re accurate and reliable, but there are a few things you can and can’t do with the information you receive.

For starters, you can’t use a service like Been Verified to hire an employee or make decisions about consumer credit, insurance, tenant screening, or any other purpose that would require FCRA compliance.

A complete list of the things you can’t do include:

  • Assessment of professional services: You can’t screen people for professional services, like tutors, coaches, teachers, personal trainers, etc.
  • Employment screening: You can’t perform pre-employment background checks or use this information for the purposes of promoting, demoting or terminating an employee.
  • Screen tenants: You can’t screen tenants when leasing, selling or renting residential or commercial space.
  • Make credit or insurance decisions: You can’t assess a person’s eligibility for loans, credit or insurance.
  • Make scholarship or educational program decisions: You can’t use this information to make decisions regarding scholarships, financial aid, grants and other educational programs.

You can use a background check to search for:

  • Family members: Track down lost loved ones, or find out the hidden truth about your family members.
  • Nearby sex offenders: Find out if you’re living near a sex offender.
  • Parents of your child’s classmates or friends: Are your kids safe at their friends’ homes? Use this search to find potential red flags.
  • Neighbors: Do you have new neighbors? Find out who’s really living next door.
  • Old friends: Lost touch with an old friend? Find out potential contact information to reconnect and rekindle a lost friendship.
  • New friends: Not sure if a new friend is trustworthy? Learn more about their past.
  • Potential mates: You can never be too careful in the dating world. Find out the truth about your potential dates before meeting in person.
  • Classmates: Planning a reunion? Use a background search to find current addresses and contact information for former classmates.
  • Online buyers or sellers: Buying and selling online can be risky. Before you agree to a transaction, run a background check to learn more about sellers and buyers.
  • Yourself: What would others find if they performed a search on you? Find out what your own background report contains.

At the end of the day, you need a reliable, accurate background check service to get all the information you need about a person (or persons) in your life. Free criminal records just won’t cut it and won’t give you all the details you need about the suspicious neighbor next door, or the parents of your child’s friends.

When it comes to keeping your family safe, you can’t take any shortcuts and you can never be too careful. Background checks are a great start, but you’ll need a trustworthy service to give you the vital information you need.

And for less than the cost of a single record search on a state government website, you can get unlimited searches and reports through a third party service like Been Verified.