How Much Does a Background Check Cost?

In this era of credit card fraud and technology-enhanced crime, it’s important to know who you’re dealing with when you have to trust someone. That’s true for people in many situations, from rental property landlords to parents who need to hire babysitters to adult children seeking a caregiver for an elderly parent. “Never judge a book by its cover” goes the old saying — and that’s worth remembering for anyone who can’t afford to accept an individual or secondhand information at face value.

Money well spent

The internet makes it possible for people to perform their own background research. However, when there’s so much at stake, it’s usually advisable to let a professional research company do the work. There are many search firms that provide this important service for a manageable fee, and while it’s good to know what costs are involved, you can rest assured that it’s a worthwhile investment. A bad hire can cost a small business tens of thousands of dollars, while the harmful effects of bringing an abusive babysitter or caregiver into your home is incalculable. Money spent on a background search is money well spent.

The cost of not doing a background check

According to the US Department of Labor, the price of a bad hire is about 30 percent of their first year’s earnings. Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh once said bad hires had cost the online retailer more than $100 million. Those are staggering numbers, and for small companies with little room for error, it can be disastrous. For people who fail to check up on a babysitter or caregiver, the results may be catastrophic. In 2012, a Massachusetts man was convicted of abusing children who had been enrolled in his wife’s daycare facility (which later proved to be unlicensed). If you’re a landlord, you may come under scrutiny for failing to properly vet a tenant who harms another tenant or damages their property. At a cost of $15 to $30, a background check is a no-brainer. It’s a necessary investment in your tenants’ safety and the security of your business interests — an invaluable tool considering the severity of the consequences. 

As little or as much background checking as you need

The cost of a background check depends on the extent of the information being searched. A simple criminal background search may cost you less than $20. For a full-fledged search that includes financial, criminal, employment and personal background information, you can expect to pay about $100. 

It may not seem like much money, but if you need to run checks on multiple individuals at a time (which landlords and human resource managers often do), it can add up quickly. Fortunately, search companies often offer volume pricing. Checking on a babysitter can cost you less than $20 if you go through the website Criminal Watchdog, or a simple check with your state’s child protective services office can tell you what you need to know and give you peace of mind for as little as $12.95.

See what others see Online

If you’re concerned about what information might be in your background, you can run a personal check that shows you the same thing others are seeing. It’s helpful to know, because employers and landlords could be acting on bad information. A personal background check, which will cost you about $20, can help you correct false information that could be harming your chances at a good job or a lease where you want to live.

The cost of not doing a background check on someone you need to trust is too risky, especially when you can find out what you need to know without spending a lot of money. It’s a safe way to gain the knowledge you need in order to steer you away from making a potentially costly mistake.