Are you familiar with public records? Many people don’t fully realize or understand the power of public records and aren’t aware that anyone — even you — can access this type of information easily and online.
So what is a public record?
The Freedom of Information Act is the backbone of public records. This Act was signed into law by President Lyndon B Johnson on July 4th, 1966. According to the federal website:
“Since 1967, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) has provided the public the right to request access to records from any federal agency. It is often described as the law that keeps citizens in the know about their government. Federal agencies are required to disclose any information requested under the FOIA unless it falls under one of nine exemptions that protect interests such as personal privacy, national security, and law enforcement.”
Although it was designed to provide greater transparency to government institutions, public records can be used by almost anyone who want to know more about the people in their lives. It can be a useful tool for keeping you and your loved ones safe.
To access public records from county, state, and federal databases, all you have to do is visit Instant Checkmate and enter someone’s first and last name, and the last place you think they lived. This service will then cross reference that information with millions of records, and deliver results in one easy-to-read report.
A public record report on someone might include information like:
- Full names, aliases, and maiden names
- Date of birth
- Marriage and divorce records
- Family and relative records and information
- Criminal records
- Arrest records
- Traffic violations and misdemeanors
- Property, vehicle, watercraft, and aircraft assets
- Bankruptcy records
- Financial liens
- Business affiliations
- Social media accounts
- Past and current addresses and locations
- Phone numbers
- Email addresses
- Possible photographs
- And much more
So how can this information help you in every day life? There are limitless possibilities for using public records to help you stay safe and stay informed. Here are some of the ways public records can help you lead a better and safer life.
1. Screen Dates
In 2014, Navy Lieutenant Sean Banks was sentenced to 37 years to life in prison without parole for raping two women that he had met on ChristianMingle.com and Match.com respectively. “He has so much hatred toward women,” Judge Daniel Goldstein said when delivering the verdict. Banks showed no remorse for his actions.
Banks had met the women respectively on a dating app, and had attacked them both on the first date. Sean Banks had used online dating to find his victims and was described by the prosecution as a “very dangerous internet predator” who almost managed to get away with his crimes by using pseudo names on the dating sites.
“Sean Banks is an example of why it is very important for women to know who they are going out with,” the deputy district attorney who worked on the case said.
Unfortunately, there are hundreds of stories like this when it comes to online dating. One report from Vice in the UK stated that incidents of rape had skyrocketed by 400% due to online dating. While meeting someone online can be a fun way to meet people you wouldn’t usually connect with, it’s also a dangerous tool that is used by predators to find their victims.
If you meet someone online, enter their name into a public record search to find out more about them. If you can’t find their name in a public registry, it’s possible that you’re talking to a catfish. If you find someone’s information, but they have a long and disturbing rap sheet for violent crimes, stalking, or harassment, you’ll know that you shouldn’t meet up with this person face-to-face.
2. Screen Online Sellers
Recently a married couple in Colorado were murdered after they arranged to meet an online seller in person to buy a car. The parents of 5 saw a classified ad for a used vehicle and travelled to a strip mall carrying over $1000 dollars in cash to purchase what they thought was the deal of a lifetime.
Instead, the seller attempted to rob them at gunpoint and when the couple attempted to escape, he shot them both fatally.
Again, these stories are not uncommon in the news. For a criminal, placing an ad for an expensive item in Craigslist or LetGo is an easy way to bring a victim right into your hands. A criminal essentially asks someone to come carrying thousands of dollars in cash, and they can arrange to meet you in a sketchy location where you could easily be mugged.
Don’t believe everything you read. If a deal looks to be good true, think twice before meeting up. If you can get a name or phone number from a seller, you can easily look them up before you arrange to meet. Additionally, always organize to sell or buy goods from a designated safe zone. A safe zone is often outside a police station or precinct and is a safe place to buy or sell goods. A criminal is much less likely to want to meet up with you when you’re literally outside a police station.
3. Do Parental Due Diligence
The topic of sleepovers has become contraversial in recent years. Letting your child sleepover at someone else’s house rightfully has many parents on edge. If you don’t know your children’s friend’s parents, it’s not a good idea to let them have a sleepover.
Afterall, you have no idea what could happen. Someone in the house could be a dangerous predator, or just plain irresponsible. If you’re on the fence about a sleepover, running a quick background check on the parents is a smart move.
Do they have multiple DUI’s? Have they been charged with anything disturbing? Is their property located in a safe neighborhood or not?
When it comes to the safety of your children, nothing else is as important.
Even when your children are grown up, you can still use public records to keep them safe. Are they going to college or moving in with a friend? Make sure you background check any prospective roommates first. Likewise, is your adult daughter dating some sketchy? A background check might offer you the peace of mind you need — or the proof you’ll need to show her that this guy is bad news.