It’s especially important to have this information if you’re hunting for a job or in a position where someone is likely to run a background check on you. You want to know what they know, and make sure there aren’t any major errors in it. (Or get your cover story ready for when it comes time to ‘splain yourself.)
Because background checks are based largely on public records, you can do much of this yourself for free if you’ve got the time. SearchSystems’ Free Public Records Directory should have most of the links you’ll need.
In a hurry? Then it’s probably worth ponying up $50 to $70 to a firm like Intelius or Backgroundchecks.com to compile it all for you. But you probably have to do this only once every few years, as these records don’t change often.
5. Get a copy of your credit report. This will list all the loans, bank accounts, credit cards, and other financial data, along with addresses of the places you’ve lived. As with background checks, this is information a loan officer or landlord will request, so you’ll want to be familiar with it. It’s also a good way to find out if somebody has stolen your identity. If you see a lot of unfamiliar accounts or addresses on your report, you’ll want to put a credit check or freeze on your accounts until you straighten that out.
You’re entitled to one free credit report each year from each of the big three credit reporting agencies. Visit AnnualCreditReport.com (and only AnnualCreditReport.com) to order it. Be on the lookout for fake sound-alike credit reporting sites; they are set up by the credit bureaus to charge you for stuff you’re entitled to for free. Order a new one from a different agency every three months, and you’re golden.
6. Fight back. If somebody has been trashing you in public, the best defense is to martial your allies and counter it with the truth – or, at least, a version of the truth that’s kinder to you.
For example, my insurance agent (a lovely woman) is being thoroughly trashed on Yelp, Merchant Circle, and similar sites by someone who took a severe dislike to her. The solution: Recruit people who know and like you who will post positive things to balance out the negative.
If you don’t already have a Google Profile, it would make sense to create one and fill it with positive information – Google will automatically place it higher in search results. Creating a personal blog, YouTube channel, LinkedIn page, etc, can also help push your whiny critics down toward the bottom of search results where no one will see them.