Quick! What is the first thing you think of when you hear that there was some type of warning or “red flag” in a background check/background investigation?

If you are like most people, you probably think of criminal records … and rightfully so.

Criminal records are the most important piece of a background investigation. (Doing a criminal record check properly is also critical, but I digress.)

Dig Deeper: How to Conduct a Criminal Background Check Like an Expert

Would you be surprised to know that criminal records are not the only piece of a background investigation?

While criminal records are a clear warning, the truth of the matter is most people don’t have criminal records. The fact that there are no criminal records against an individual doesn’t mean that there are no warning signs.

For example:

  • Would you hire a controller who wasn’t a CPA like they said they were? Or had just filed for bankruptcy?
  • Would you hire a nanny who had filed a civil lawsuit against the last three families she worked with?
  • Would you invest with a hedge fund manager who didn’t go to Harvard University like he said he did?
  • Would you want to partner with someone whose secretary just had filed a civil lawsuit alleging that he harassed her?

In most instances, the answer is pretty clear.

The point here is that criminal records, while they are the proverbial “smoking gun” of a background check, are not necessarily the only warning sign. There are literally hundreds of potential warning signs that can be identified during an in-depth, comprehensive background investigation.

In the attached infographic, we have included some of the most common warning signs and red flags in a background investigation, ranging from unreported work histories and falsified military careers to discrimination lawsuits, multiple divorce filings and hidden corporate interests.

These red flags are broken down into five areas:

  • Criminal Involvement – This is the classic red flag of any individual who has been involved in criminal activity.
  • Professional Concerns – There are many stories of business leaders, politicians or coaches falsifying their credentials … but they aren’t the only ones.
  • Personal Life – How someone leads their personal life can provide clues about their performance elsewhere.
  • Financial Issues – Of course, there is nothing wrong with owning a McMansion or a Bentley, but when your income doesn’t match your spending, there is reason for concern.
  • Legal Entanglements – A pattern of behavior that includes numerous legal entanglements or regulatory complaints can be a major concern.

Final Thought

There are numerous red flags that can come out in a background investigation other than the discovery of the obvious proverbial axe murderer.

The bigger question is, will you spot it?

This post is part of a series of posts titled Background Investigations 101 – What You Need To Know.


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3 replies
  1. Kim Schwarz
    Kim Schwarz says:

    Can a private investigator track down an Internet predator if he/she has only a user name to work with? Does an IP address help locate that person? (I’m writing a book and am getting to the part where my PI is helping the protag find her daughter who has been snatched by a predator on a dating site.

  2. lori perez
    lori perez says:

    Brian , this info was great but i was wondering if you may be able to tell me how exactly to read a individuals court register of actions and how to find the transcripts to support the registrars events of hearing and supporting documents from agency’s with in the legal system as well,i am fairly new at reading court documents and i know all proceedings excluding juvinial cases are all public information ,its just a matter of finding them and digging, however very time consuming is there a easier way to do this. i am working on this case for a woman that has hired me for her son,that she feels is wrongly accused as far as the part he played and the severity of the crime, and the evidence so far supports her doubts although she admits hes not entirely guilt free,she fears hes been unjustly accused,by the co-defendant and looking at the reg.of events show ,suspicious court activity and court actions of suppression and dismissals and pleas of lesser charges,and a huge amount of glaring misconduct and neglagnts on behalf of the agency conducting the police investigation,not sure if i can do anything more then bring into light my findings but either way i intend on filing a report with the interdependent police auditor ,but before doing this i would like to see all the facts and findings about the co-defendants
    ,cases and determen what the conditions of any plea agreements given. is there a way i can do this i know u can sometimes find the court summery within the attorneys and even the court judicial officers websites but not every case could you please help me in this area?

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