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How can I do a background check on someone?

The obvious free method to check on someone is by entering his/her name with a search engine on the Internet. 
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you can use a Consumer Reporting Agency. A CRA has to maintain certain standards for data protection.
You can also hire a professional service. You can find dozens of background check agencies online.  You will need to watch out for scam companies. Look around at several companies to find the average price for a background check and avoid any companies that are too low or too high.