How to do your own background check for as little as $20

background checkWhile it is becoming more common to get your credit reports from the three major reporting agencies every year, nearly half of the respondents of a recent survey by Zendough had either never checked their report or had not checked it in the past year. It's likely that an even greater number of consumers are forgetting the wealth of information stored about their life that is also used by employers, landlords, banks, insurance agencies and others to make decisions that affect their life.

The only way to know that there is something potentially damaging in the information collected by companies is to do a background check on yourself; a process The Consumerist has made easier by collecting links and phone numbers for requesting information from 30 different agencies and organizations.

But how much do they cost? Are they worth it? I thought it would be interesting to look into those 30 agencies and find out how many are free and what you get for your money from the sites that charge.

In the same survey that was commissioned by, an online service we reviewed that can help you learn about your credit and identity theft risks,less than 1% of the more than 2,000 respondents checked their credit reports before applying for a job; even though it has become increasingly common for employers to run credit checks to determine an applicant's fiscal responsibility.

Thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), most of the companies collecting information that relates to credit are required to provide you with free access to your information. Of the 30 agencies listed by The Consumerist that track credit, rental history, auto insurance claims, prescription history, check writing history, utility payment history, store returns history and gambling information, 21 provide free reports.

Of the remaining agencies only three charge a fee which totals $20, one will only provide a report with proof that you were refused a return and others did not respond to a request for pricing clarification.

The following companies charge for access to records:
  • Axciom Employment History Report -- $5
  • First Advantage SafeRent Tenant History -- $5
  • Innovis Credit Bureau Report -- Up to $10.50 depending on your state.
Much of the background check information can be requested online or by phone. However, seven agencies require filling out a form, including proof of who you are, and mail it in. If you were to run the complete background check on yourself, expect to spend $3-5 on stamps and envelopes in addition to any fees that apply.

As far as the time required to compile this information, the Consumerist's one stop shop for background check contact information has cut down a lot of the time. But you should still expect to spend 2-3 hours filling out forms, e-mailing and calling agencies. Some of the companies may take their time responding to your requests so if you want to know what an agency has on you, ask now instead of waiting until you need to know.

Unfortunately if you really want to know what all of these agencies have recorded about you, so that you can correct any mistakes, you'll need to put in the time because most of the one stop background check services advertised online focus on property records and criminal checks instead of the transactional data that landlords, employers and insurance companies are looking at when making decisions that affect your life.
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