Private Investigators In Virginia

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Background Investigations–Cheap, Legal?

Posted by Bill on November 24, 2007

Background Investigations Cheap 

I wrote about national criminal background record checks a few posts back, and how there is no easy, single computer “national criminal records” check.  But what about general background investigations?  Is there an easy, single computer method to conduct a background investigation?  The answer is no!  There are many types of background investigations, some very sophisticated and costly, some very simple and cheap.  Today, many employers, parents and dating partners conduct a simple, essentially free, background investigation using search engines like Google and Yahoo.  These background checks are cheap and easy.  But, do they serve your purpose?  If you are “googling” a person, you are using information supplied by them.  Is this information accurate?  Are the results of your search accurate?  The higher level of trust you have in someone should govern the level of your background investigation.  Computer research for background investigations is a starting point only.  Information should be verified through third party sources.  Public records should be reserched and actual files reviewed.  If knowing about the background of a person is important to you, go to a professional investigator to have a background investigation done. 


There are legal aspects of doing a background investigation that everyone should know.  Some investigative techniques may violate federal or state laws.  We are not giving legal advice here, but consider how you get your information.  Several federal laws govern obtaining financial, consumer, computer or telephone records.  Various state laws may apply to other situations making some methods to gather information illegal.  Federal laws passed over the last few years make it a crime to use a pretext or false or deceptive methods to gather financial information, telephone records, collect debts and consumer information.  It is a federal offense to get someones telephone records from a telecommunications company by pretending to be someone else or use an fraudulent tactics—  “Telephone Records and Privacy Protection Act.”  The “Gramm-Leach Bliley Act” prohibits the use of false or fraudulent statements or documents to get customer information from a financial institution or directly from the customer—a felony folks.  The “Fair Credit Reporting Act” prohibits individuals from “knowingly and willfully” obtaining information about a “consumer” from a “consumer-reporting agency” under false pretenses.  The “Fair Debt Collection Practices Act” prohibits debt collectors from obtaining consumer debt information or collecting or attempting to collect a debt using false or deceptive methods.  The “Computer Fraud and Abuse Act” prohibits someone from accessing a computer without authorization.  Virginia state laws also prohibit accessing computers, but I will save this for a later post.

So, if you do your own background investigations, keep in mind the legal aspects above.  Professional investigators should know the legalities of the information collection law. 

Bill Lowrance

President PIAVA

president at


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