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Background Report FAQ

What are the advantages of conducting an online background search?
Online background search offer you the opportunity to quickly gather important public records' information about people of interest so that you can safely build trusted connections. This is an ideal search to run on a potential online date, neighbor, roommate, or new friend. Online background searches are advantageous because they allow you to verify facts, discover new information, and make more educated decisions about people based on their public records' background history. Additionally, online background searches can be beneficial to you to learn what information is included in your own public records background report.
What records are included in online background reports?
Online background reports include a variety of public records, such as criminal records, birth records, marriage records, divorce records, death records, court records, business licenses, bankruptcy filings, and sex offender information. Each state determines which records are private or public so the information available in each report could vary.
What is the best way to start searching for background reports?
It is a good idea to start with a broad online search to discover basic information about the person in question. Try a common search engine like Google or social networking sites. Identify general information like their name and a city they have lived in. You'll want to organize your search by state to narrow down results. From there, you can input this information into an online background search website to find the records you're looking for.
What is an FBI Criminal History Record?
Formerly known as an Identity History Summary, this record is a listing of certain information taken from fingerprint submissions kept by the FBI and may relate to arrests, federal employment, naturalization, and/or military service.

If the fingerprint submissions are related to an arrest, the Identity History Summary includes the name of the agency that submitted the fingerprints to the FBI, the date of the arrest, the arrest charge, and the disposition of the arrest, if known. All arrest information included in an Identity History Summary is obtained from fingerprint submissions, disposition reports, and other information submitted by authorized criminal justice agencies.
(Source: US Federal Bureau of Investigation)
Is it possible to run a federal criminal records check?
There are state-organized resources that can search for information on federal crimes. However, a federal criminal history record can only disclose cases from specific federal district court records. These searches must be performed separately, as FBI records are not accessible to non-law enforcement. Criminal charges on a federal level only include crimes that involve multiple state boundaries or crimes committed on government property.
What is the legality of running a public record background report?
The legality of running a public record background report on someone is as much based on the "who" as it is the "why". For example, it is not illegal for someone to run a SnoopStation/PeopleSmart report on her or his date, but it is illegal for an employer to use a SnoopStation/PeopleSmart report to make a hiring or eligibility decision about a job candidate. Landlords, creditors, insurers, and other parties defined in the Fair Credit Reporting Act are also forbidden from using SnoopStation/PeopleSmart reports to make eligibility decisions on applicants.
Are all background reports completely accurate?
It is very difficult for all background reports to be completely accurate because they originate from public records. Public records can include mistakes due to several reasons, including the interval of time they are updated, incomplete information, and incorrect reporting from the court. There are some instances where a search may return inaccurate results, such as another person by the same name. This can be avoided by including additional identifiers, such as middle name, age, city, etc.
Can I use SnoopStation/PeopleSmart to run a background check on a job candidate or employee?
SnoopStation and PeopleSmart are not Fair Credit Reporting Act-compliant background screening services. This means that SnoopStation/PeopleSmart cannot be used to make an eligibility decision about a job candidate or current employee. The FCRA also prohibits creditors, landlords, insurers, and other parties from making eligibility decision based on information from services such as SnoopStation/PeopleSmart. If employers want to use a third-party to run a background check on an applicant, they must use an FCRA-compliant background screening company such as GoodHire.com.
Is it possible to get a background check for free?
A background check pulls information from a wide variety of sources. Some of it is available for free if you want to put in the time and effort to go to the courthouses that hold those records. You can contact your local government agencies and the relevant county courthouses to find information on fees and hours of operation. These agencies vary by state but usually include the Sex Offender Registry, Department of Justice, Department of Corrections, and the Administrative Office of Courts. It can take from a few days to a few weeks to receive your requested information. If you do not want to go through the hassle of contacting each individual organization and waiting for results, you can use an online background reporting service to find results in minutes. The online service may require signing up for a free trial or paying a nominal fee. Some online services provide free contact reports without requiring sign up or nominal fees until you decide to upgrade to a full background report.
What is the best type of criminal background check to run?
The best type of criminal background check can vary based on the type of information you are looking for. Many services offer a comprehensive report as their premiere option. This is most likely your best option if you're looking for extensive information. Make sure that your report includes county, criminal, and civil court records. Many counties have not yet digitized their records but some online background reporting services will send a court-runner to obtain these records directly.
How long does it take to return a comprehensive online criminal background report?
Since there is no centralized way of delivering information, timing can vary based on the amount and type of information requested. Some online websites offer very fast results, since the records are already digitized and stored in their database. In these cases, you can purchase the report and view it almost immediately. However, other cases are more complex and may require searching courthouses, property notices, and additional processes. These types of records are not usually included in one database and may require additional time to collect. This could potentially delay your results and you may have to wait 1-3 days for your comprehensive report.
Where does the information come from?
Public records searches utilize dozens of databases and offer access to millions of public records. Results are compiled from multiple sources including vital records, government databases, and courthouses. Remember to choose a reputable site to conduct your search. Some public search sites use low quality sources that return limited information that is often outdated and inaccurate.
How far back do the records go?
Technically speaking, records can go back decades. However, some information only stays on a public record for 7 years. This is how long most bad financial data stays on a credit report. Civil cases, arrest records, collections and paid tax liens have a statute of limitations and cannot be kept on record after 7 years. Bankruptcy data stays on record for 10 years. Some records are included indefinitely, such as sex offender records.
What are the most important identifiers to have when doing a search?
As a general rule, the more identifiers you have, the more your chances may increase in finding the person you're looking for. Having a person's full name, date of birth, a city they've lived in, and the state in which they're currently residing can generally help focus the search.
What happens when I want to search for a hyphenated name or a maiden/married name on a criminal background report?
In this instance, you may need to conduct a search for each name. Sometimes individuals create records with only one name. This is why many forms and applications require all aliases to be listed. In the case of a woman with a new married name, you may have to search for the husband and use the identifiers on his record. For instance, you can use the husband's current address to search for his wife's updated information.
How often are records updated for online background checks?
Different sources update their records at different times. Certain sources can take as long as six months to update an old address. On the other hand, court records are updated quickly. Death records and divorce records take longer because of the required paperwork. It's important to find a background check service that updates its records continuously to ensure you are receiving the most accurate information.

Public Records Resources by State