If you have been looking for background information that is 100% free, you've likely had difficulty in achieving your goal. This is especially true if you have been using the web as your main search method. The reason for your lack of success is not because the information you want isn't available online or free, but is instead the result of how you've been attempting to attain it. For instance, if you've tried running a background check on a website that offers this service, you are actually requesting the assistance of a third party, and you can bet this help will come with a fee. Thus, if you want to find background information that is absolutely no cost, you'll have to do all of the investigating on your own.

Do-it-yourself background searching will require your patience, determination, and creative thinking. The following are a few strategies you can try to find the information you want for free:

Search Engines - Lookup the person with a major search engine (I.E. Google). Try different ideas, such as combining relevant and important words in the query box and using various search techniques, such as placing words in quotations.

White Pages - Lookup current phone numbers and addresses by using the person's name as your main search detail. A reverse telephone lookup may also come in handy to find out who owns a phone number and where they live. This site can be very helpful in confirming the contact details you have of this person, or provide you with other data that will be beneficial for other searches you conduct.

Social Networking websites - MySpace, Facebook, Orkut, Hi5, and other social sites are incredibly popular among most Internet users, so there is a very good chance that the person you are looking for has created a profile on one of these networking websites. Although you usually have to join these sites to search for the profiles of their members, signing up is free. To search for the person on whom you would like to run a background check, simply fill in the query box by searching their full name.

State and/or County Records - All states and counties maintain public records, and some provide you with the chance to obtain these records (I.E. criminal reports, birth certificates, driver history, marriage licenses, divorce decrees, immigration records, etc.) through a free online service. The best way to find out if this service exists for the state or county you need is to contact your local government, or look for this information on their website. However, keep in mind that if you manage to gain free access to a government database, the information will not be organized and you will have to fish through a deep sea of records.

Once you have exhausted all of your free search options, you can then compile all of the information you found to see if your do-it-yourself background search was a success. If it wasn't, and you really need to know if there is a criminal history you should worry about, treat yourself to some well deserved convenience, and use a paid site that offers background inforamtion and instant results. It's worth it for your sanity and safety.

Originally published July 18, 2008 10:51 AM