Is It Illegal To Run a Background Check on Someone Without Permission?

Background checks are important for the government, employers, and even applicants for job opportunities. While most jobs require a background check, knowing the laws surrounding them is important. Running background checks without permission is never a good idea in employment scenarios because it allows the applicant to file a lawsuit. 

employee background check on a clipboard

However, there are some circumstances where running background checks on strangers or brief acquaintances may be legal.

Overall, there is a lot to learn about the legality of background checks. So if you're asking yourself if it is illegal to do a background check without permission, we're here to help. We'll take you through everything you need to know about their legality and even how to run one.

What Is a Background Check?

Background checks are a common practice for employers and the government. For example, before a company hires someone, they want to verify their information. Background checks will verify someone's identity, search for criminal records, and check their sex offender status. 

While governments and employers are the most common organizations that order background checks, anyone can run a background check with tools like

What Information Is on Background Checks?

Background checks contain a lot of information about people. Some information is personal, like physical and email addresses, while other information may include public records, like criminal records. In many cases, background checks will reveal anything that's a public record about someone.

Below we list the information that will come up on a background check:

  • Full name
  • Date of birth
  • Marriage status
  • Court records
  • Traffic records
  • Sex offender status
  • Email addresses
  • Addresses
  • Phone numbers
  • Dating profiles
  • Social media accounts
  • Criminal records

Depending on the type of background check, more or less information may be available. Therefore, it's important to run a background check on yourself to know what to expect.

How To Check Your Records or Run a Background Check

When you’re preparing for a background check, or you want to run one on someone else, we recommend using Their background check tool will help you perform an in-depth background check on yourself or someone else. All you have to do is enter your name, address, and phone number for the most accurate results. will provide you with the results you're looking for in just a few minutes. You'll find information like:

  • Criminal records
  • Traffic records
  • Bankruptcy records
  • Personal information (name, date of birth, address, phone numbers)
  • Sex offender status
  • Violations and misdemeanors
  • Court records

When you run a background check on yourself or someone else with you'll learn everything there is to learn. If it's a public record, will find it.

Is Running a Background Check Without Consent Legal?

If all of the laws surrounding these checks confuse you, and you're wondering, "is it illegal to do a background check without permission?" The short answer is, in most cases, no, it's not legal to run a background check without consent. Employers shouldn't run a background check on someone without consent because it opens them up to legal actions being taken against them. Background checks without consent are illegal because the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) protects the rights of workers in these cases. The FCRA also protects domestic help, like nannies and gardeners, so you may not conduct a background check on them without their consent.

That said, there are some examples of background checks being legal without consent. People who aren't employers can run background checks on strangers, friends, or family as long as they were never explicitly asked not to. The laws for background checks typically only come into play when it's an employment issue.

What Happens When Background Checks Are Run Without Permission?

Background checks that are run without permission will lead to many problems. First and foremost, the employer is liable for legal action. 

When it comes to background checks, the common type of legal action is a class action lawsuit for financial compensation. Therefore, many companies will lose money if caught running background checks without permission. For this reason, it's not worth it to even try.

How Employers Get Permission for a Background Check

Employers get permission for a background check in a few ways. More often than not, an FCRA form is used to get potential employees to consent to a background check. Once employees consent to the background check, it's easy for employers to find the information they're looking for. 

Employees should be given access to the report when going through the background check process because they're entitled to it. These are the best ways to avoid legal action.

What Happens When Candidates Don't Consent to a Background Check?

Employees can't be forced to undergo a background check. In some cases, employees may not consent to the background check. For these cases, employers will usually remove applicants from the application process. There is no law forcing employees to remain in the background check process. Likewise, employers may rescind employment offers to those who do not submit to a background check.

What Are the Other Rules for Background Checks?

There are also other rules surrounding background checks, according to the FCRA. These rules are important to follow when running background checks on people to avoid legal problems. 

Some other rules to make a note of include:

  • It's not legal to run a background check on domestic help (in-house nurses, caregivers, babysitters)
  • Running a background check on current employees is not allowed
  • Using a background check to stalk someone is illegal

Other than these rules, most types of background checks are legal.

Final Thoughts

The legality of background checks is iffy at best. In some cases, background checks are illegal to run without consent, but in others, your employers may be able to get away with it. The best way to avoid any issues with a background check is to verify your information with Knowing what to expect will take the pressure off of background checks and help you resolve any potential issues.

That said, we always recommend getting permission before you run a background check on someone. Failing to do so will lead to many problems and even legal trouble if it's for employment.