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Background Checks A Risky Business for Consumers

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RALEIGH — Curiosity or concern might make you want to run a background check on someone you know -- someone who cares for your children or an elderly parent. Youcanrun a check on someone, but it'll cost you. And with some companies, it could cost you more than you realize.

There are certain ads in local publications that promise a statewide criminal record search, at a cost. The ads look innocent enough, but some people say the background checks may be a waste of money, or worse.

The ads appeal to a person's fear of being a victim. They claim you can obtain someone's statewide criminal record for just $14.95 charged to your Mastercard or Visa.

The record is supposed to include felonies, misdemeanors, and traffic violations over the past seven years.

But private businesses do not have access to state records held by the State Bureau of Investigation.

B.R. Turner, Deputy Director of the City-County Bureau of Identification, is skeptical. "I really don't know how they can substantiate what they're saying they can produce for the general public," he says.

Turner also says he'd be leery of a business that only takes Mastercard or Visa, not cash or checks.

In addition, the system is automated. So if you do decide to purchase the service, you're asked to leave your credit card number on an answering machine, which means your number could fall into the wrong person's hands.

WRAL could not ask anyone associated with the ad about these issues because there's no way to access a live person through the phone number provided. There's also no company name listed in the ad.

Official records can be obtained from the CCBI, or the Clerk of Court, but that information would just be county-wide. To conduct your own statewide check, 100 counties would have to be contacted individually.

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Lynda Loveland, Reporter
Lynn French, Photographer
Julie Moos, Web Editor

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