Nationwide Criminal Background Check

Why, you may ask, is a “nationwide criminal background check” complete BS?  For one thing, there is no such thing.

Last week we highlighted some warnings about online background check services, and the gaping holes that these services have.

What most of these services offer, including the one we highlighted, is a “nationwide criminal background check” which has even more holes than a donut shop.

Now the facts…

There are over 3,000 counties in the United States, many of which have multiple courthouses which maintain criminal records. The procedures to access these records vary, most of which can’t be accessed through a central repository. Even so, many of these courts have not yet digitized records making them completely inaccessible online.

There is no official count as to how many criminal records (arrests and/or convictions) are accessible online, but it’s pretty minuscule and spread across to many different systems, courts and repositories that it will make you want to pull out your hair just thinking about it.

“True” Nationwide Criminal Background Check

As we have discussed previously, there is only one “true” nationwide criminal background check in the U.S. today. The N.C.I.C. (National Criminal Information Center), which is a central repository for criminal record information that is available only to registered law enforcement agencies and related criminal justice organizations which is not available to the public.

Even so, there have been questions about the reliability and accuracy of the NCIC database so even if you did have access to it, it may not be the most comprehensive way to find criminal records.

Further Reading

If you are serious about conducting a “nationwide criminal background check”, here are some helpful links:

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9 replies
  1. Doreen Carter
    Doreen Carter says:

    Brian: Thank you,

    I learn the costly way, paid a website to check on a guy I was dating, then engaged from another state…. it failed big time. My grandchildren was my greatest concern.
    Violent history, DWI’s and prison for a year… Thank God his family came forward. None showed up on the report.

  2. Russell Busby
    Russell Busby says:

    Brian I have read several of your articles and applaud you for bringing this information to light. One additional fact about national criminal record checks is that the automated criminal record information (NCIC) checks are based on the DOJ/FBI Interstate Identification Index (III) system (commonly referred to phonetically as “triple eye”). The FBI’s III system is based on fingerprints, and at the time I retired from law enforcement in 2006, “only 31 states” contributed criminal arrest/conviction information to the III system. State reporting is not federally required, and the 31 state contributors to III, only represent 62% of all 50 states, which is far from being a comprehensive, national database. As you have pointed out in articles, many mistakenly believe (even many in law enforcement I might add) that an NCIC check (FBI III system) is truly a complete national criminal history check, and it is clearly not. Please keep up the good work informing the public about these issues.

  3. Wayne Coleman-Aaron Investigations & Research
    Wayne Coleman-Aaron Investigations & Research says:

    Brian, thanks for posting this segment regarding the falsehoods of advertising Nationwide Background Checks! I have been a PI in Arizona for 20 years and have been telling people and businesses this when they tell me they can get a nationwide background check for next to nothing and can get their results back instantly!

  4. Michael Belk
    Michael Belk says:

    Brian, I guess it is all about the way you package things. I worked as a correctional officer, while I did not conduct background checks myself, I am familiar with the N.C. I.C agency.

    You are right, it is virtually impossible to conduct a nationwide background check without access to governmental records or national records.

  5. Kelsey McDonald
    Kelsey McDonald says:

    Great post! I had no idea that online companies were claiming to offer a comprehensive national background check, when they don’t even have the authority to check the right databases. Thanks for the info, I will be visiting the site again!

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