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Rip-Off Alert: Background checks need not be expensive to protect your interests

Background Checks (MGN Online)

Do you have concerns that a business partner, love interest or employee may have some skeletons in their closet?

A background check by a private investigator can cost you hundreds of dollars. But there's good news. But many of the tools used by private eyes are also available to the public.

"You might want to look into somebody's background to determine if there's any potential criminal history," says Brian Willingham, a private investigator with Diligentia Group.

It’s advice that might have come in handy for two men who went into business with James Henrikson, a promising young go-getter at the height of the North Dakota oil boom.

In a story told on CNBC's “American Greed,” both men wound up dead.

Henrikson's past was tainted by crime — felony assault, burglary and theft — which a little bit of due diligence could have turned up. Things you can do yourself without hiring a professional.

Willingham says to check court records for criminal history at local courthouses or online.

Look through newspaper archives. Many local libraries offer free access to extensive databases.

Seek out valuable human intelligence and try and find your own references instead of just the ones the subject provides.

"When you catch people who are not waiting for a phone call for a reference, they'll give you a more unvarnished opinion," Willingham said.

And don't forget social media accounts where people's lives are an open book, as long as you take the time to look.

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