Background Investigations: When Peace of Mind Rests on Getting Below the Surface

By Olivia G. Robinson

Clients often ask us if we do “background checks.”

The short answer is no. We do background investigations.

While the terms are often used interchangeably, if you’re interested in vetting someone’s background—whether it’s a prospective joint venture partner, a potential board member or a business bully who’s just filed a lawsuit against you—it’s vital to know the difference. It’s more than just semantics.

Background checks are typically performed by law enforcement agencies and by companies specializing in pre-employment screening, which are often set up to do hundreds of checks a day and comply with the many laws and regulations governing what information employers can seek about potential hires. If you need to screen the work and criminal history of a potential employee, it’s wise to go to an expert in standard pre-employment checks.

Tailoring an investigation to your needs

Background investigations, on the other hand, are never standard. They’re tailored to a precise area of inquiry whose scope is defined by the client. At Background Intelligence, we might be vetting a prospective business partner. Or, checking out a future son-in-law before the wedding. Or, looking into the background of someone making a legal claim in order to determine their history and whether they’ve made similar claims in the past.

No, it’s not a Google search

As we delve into someone’s background, we use multiple proprietary databases, as well as doing extensive court record searches and looking at social media sources. This is far more than a Google search. In complex cases, we also interview sources in person or use “blind” techniques. We use surveillance to identify sources and accomplices, verify addresses, determine and document patterns of behavior, including illicit activity.

Our team pursues every anomaly. If something doesn’t make sense, we try to get an answer. We verify details from multiple sources. We get corroborating evidence to support suspicions, or we state that they remain unverified.

We tell you what we know—and what we don’t

Finally, we prepare a written report, detailing the findings as initially defined in a written engagement letter. If questions remain, or further inquiry is necessary, we spell that out. There’s no lingering question about how comprehensive the investigation was or how reliable the results might be.

Clients come away not just with facts, but with absolute transparency about what’s not known. That’s the kind of clarity we all want when the stakes are high.