How To Find Out What's On Your Background Check

Photographed by Beth Sacca.
In an age of internet transparency, it’s reasonable to wonder what kind of information others can dig up about you. And I’m not just talking about old, racist tweets (like the ones that recently tarnished the reputations of several beauty bloggers, social media stars, and music artists).
Truth is, we live in a time when even some of our most sensitive information is readily available to the public, often at the click of a mouse. And if you’ve ever applied for a job, changed insurance companies, gotten a new utility provider, or applied for a new apartment, then chances are someone has checked your background.
A background check isn’t just about criminal records anymore. There are many things that someone could be searching for, from your credit rating to whether you’ve ever been pursued by a debt collector.
According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s 2019 report, there are a number of different scenarios in which businesses can request information from consumer-reporting companies. And with the exception of employment screening, businesses requesting reports generally won’t warn you if they decide to take action against you based on what they find.
Thankfully, it’s easy to learn what these searches could potentially dig up on you. And if you’re at all worried, it’s not a bad idea to get ahead of the game by doing one on yourself first, so you can review the reports closely and dispute any suspected inaccuracies.
Under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), consumer-reporting companies must provide you a copy of your report if you request it. And obtaining one is usually free or, at the maximum, $12.50 in 2019. It's also worth noting that requesting copies of your consumer reports does not harm your credit score.
Ahead, we outline a few of the different scenarios in which you might get your background checked, who can see your reports, what searchers could be looking for, and what your rights are in the situation.

More from Work & Money