Excerpted from an AOL Blog by Pete Grieve

Conducting a background check on yourself isn’t always necessary if you’re concerned about identity theft, but there are situations when it can be a good idea.

Identity theft has been rampant since 2020. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has now received more than a million reports of ID theft for the fourth consecutive year, and the levels are about 60% higher than before the pandemic.

While a straightforward credit report can reveal credit card fraud — the most prevalent form of identity theft — background checks can help you figure out what’s going on in more rare cases of criminal identity theft or employment identity theft.

When you conduct a self-background check, the idea is to see what a potential employer or landlord would see, like criminal records, address history and previous jobs. If there are mistakes, that’s an indication that you may be a victim of identity theft.

When should you run a background check on yourself?

By running a background check on yourself with an online service, you can get access to employment records that may indicate if someone has been illegally using your Social Security number to earn income. More than 30,000 Americans reported this kind of identity theft to the FTC last year — a more than 50% jump from 2019.

That activity would not show up on a credit report but could show up on a background check that includes employment records. (Alternatively, to investigate this on your own, you can get a free copy of your Social Security Statement, which shows your earnings history.)

There are also rare cases when stolen identities are illegally used for police or court records, sometimes unbeknownst to the individual. A background check could help if you suspect you’ve been a victim of this type of crime.

“Background checks could be useful in cases of criminal identity theft where someone gives another individual’s personal identifying information at the time that they’re arrested, and then the arrest record or the warrant is issued in the victim’s name, not the person who actually committed the crime,” says Axton Betz-Hamilton, an identity theft expert and an assistant professor at South Dakota State University.

Background check services can perform database searches and scan criminal records from all over the country to help you find out if your name appears in any criminal records. These services generally charge fees, and they’re only worth using for identity theft purposes if you suspect something serious.

Keep in mind that these online services aren’t comprehensive, considering that there are thousands of cities and counties and many types of records, including police records, sheriff’s records and court records.

Other types of background checks that can reveal ID theft

There are background checks for many different purposes, ranging from firearms permits to government employment to banking, explains Adam Levin, host of the podcast “What the Hack with Adam Levin.” Each type of background check involves different records, he notes.

Beyond the type of background check that you can run online, identity theft can also sometimes be uncovered when employers do background checks on new hires or when landlords are screening rental applicants, experts say.

For the full story, please click here.