- Wide variety of information
- Smartphone support
- Financial data included
- Five-day trial
- Reports take a while
A name can be important. It’s how we recognize people, it’s how a business might stand out from the pack and in the world of background checking services it’s typically how you might find a person that you’re looking for. And when most companies in the industry tend to take themselves way too seriously, a unique and more memorable name can feel like a breath of fresh air. Instant Checkmate is one such example of this, even if an ‘instant’ search is quite a stretch. Nevertheless, the California-based company emphasizes the public record search site’s ability to check criminal records of people you are in touch with. Even so, felony and misdemeanor isn’t the only data you’ll end up with after using the site, since it also pulls data from the subject’s background, social media pages and financial status, all of which are wrapped up in a professionally-structured report.
Don’t let the humble-looking nature of Instant Checkmate fool you, the service keeps several noteworthy features hidden in the background, which helps to keep the focus on the search menu itself. One barely mentioned feature is the downloadable smartphone app for Android and iOS phones, which is strange because Instant Checkmate has made a remarkable effort to present the results in a touch screen-friendly manner by dividing the reports into multiple pages that you can swipe between. Another trick up InstantCheckmate.com’s sleeve is the directory where the names of the U.S. residents are lined up in alphabetic order. Looking for a particular subject in this directory is time-consuming but a good alternative to the regular search if you’re lacking important parts of the search, such as the target’s first name.
The site offers a comprehensive dive into the history of someone you know. Whether that’s a new neighbor or someone close to you, it’s possible to uncover criminal records or check whether they have troubled finances. The site gathers its data from numerous public records, including criminal and arrest records, court dockets, census data, sex offender registration files and so on. The information collected by the search engine is then divided into two categories – standard and premium – which comes down to those who pay and those who don’t.
Regular search results return data that is a mixture of someone’s personal and criminal background, which is commendable since other services tend to place such misdemeanors behind a paywall. Any report provided by Instant Checkmate could detail the subject’s full name and aliases, phone number, address history and family members, all of which can also be discovered for free by other similar search engines. However, looking up someone’s criminal and sex offense records is very tricky without a professional service. In this sense the site does a proper job as it explains every detail about each crime, listing the case number, the description of the offense and even explaining the sentence that was given.
What differentiates a premium report from a standard one is the data that it includes from various permits and discloses financial information including the properties that are owned by the person. Premium reports might also reveal that your subject secretly owns a gun or has an active hunter license. The reports might also tackle extra possessions such as aircraft or watercraft, or whether there are lingering tax liens. Unfortunately, there is very little indication about the availability of this data before the results are purchased.
Launching a search on Instant Checkmate is the easiest thing in the world with the corresponding field featured at the top of the main page. In order to send the algorithm on its way you will need to enter the subject’s full name, because only knowing the family name won’t be enough. That’s the only information you need, however, since info such as city and state are optional, though naturally adding more data about a target’s current residence will narrow down the results.
The fact that this is all that is needed to search for a specific record might seem convenient, but it’s worth pointing out that InstantCheckmate.com lacks any other searching alternative such as looking up the person’s credentials via their email or full address. There is an option for a reverse phone search too, but this option doesn’t receive as much spotlight and is hidden at the bottom of the page.
Ease of Use
In some ways Instant Checkmate’s ease of use is impressive, flaunting a well-organized report format that’s easy to navigate through due to the different tabs on the sidebar. But on the other hand, the site has a habit of dragging out the search time. Whenever the main page is refreshed, a few second of calibration hinders your ability to access the search field.
This would be excusable, but the process of generating the actual reports takes at least five minutes during which users are forced to watch several loading screens. Since other background check services only need a couple of seconds to return with the information, it really leaves you questioning whether Instant Checkmate is using smoke and mirrors to appear more professional or its search engine needs much better optimization.
When looking for information on your subject, the site usually presents a wide list of reports that match the keywords you provided. In this phase only a limited amount of information is displayed, such as the target’s name, age, known addresses, possible relatives and the verification status of the profile, which highlights the trustworthiness of the data by collecting feedback from other users. At this stage you still won’t know just how useful the reports will be, and unfortunately this situation doesn’t change until you open your wallet.
Security & Privacy
Instant Checkmate places a huge emphasis on data security. During the creation of your custom background report, a message pops up telling you that the channel being used is protected by 128-bit encryption key, which is strong enough to withstand most hacking attempts. As for user privacy, the site admits that it collects user information in order to tell you apart from frauds, but it also mentions that it shares some of your data with advertisers and third-party companies.
As an added note, it’s important to remember that Instant Checkmate doesn’t qualify as a professional employee screening tool, nor is it recommended for any other screening for work or insurance eligibility.
At first glance, Instant Checkmate seems like a free-to-use service as it is possible to go through the whole background check process without ever facing a paywall. However, once the system is finished with the painstakingly drawn-out data gathering process you’ll then be asked to subscribe to the standard membership in order to actually see your results. Doing so costs $34.78 per month and is automatically renewed every 30 days until you cancel by calling customer support. There is also a discounted offer for subscribing to the quarterly plan, in which case it’s a charge of $83.47 every three months.
Interestingly, even though there is no option to pay a one-time fee for a single report, you can utilize the limited-time money-back guarantee to achieve the same results. For only $1 there is an option to start a five-day trial that offers unlimited access to standard results, but be sure to opt out before the time is up otherwise the system will automatically deduct the cost of the first month of service. When it comes to one-time fees, however, accessing premium data – such as owned properties, liens and civil judgements – requires an upgrade to premium for an extra fee of $19.95 with each premium report on top of the monthly subscription.
Instant Checkmate has earned a stellar A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau, despite the negative reviews that it has received from some of its customers. To the company’s credit, the help team offered remedies for most of these complaints. When it comes to contacting customer support, the staff is available via telephone or email during working hours each day of the week. The knowledgebase and the FAQ are rather limited, providing answers intended to sell the service rather than answering your questions. Instant Checkmate does keep up a busy social media life, though, with Facebook and Twitter doubling as alternative troubleshooting platforms should you fail to receive an answer any other way.
Ranking Instant Checkmate is a real challenge since the service has many ups and downs. Launching a search is like sitting on a public record-themed tour bus: at first you are bamboozled by the professional look of the engine, which throws up helpful descriptions or highlights the capacity and possible results of the process. However, after several repeated search attempts you’ll realize just how long it takes to reach actual results. First-time users might also be fooled into thinking the service is free, only to discover a paywall after sitting through five minutes of data gathering.
The reports feel like tossing a dice too. There is no guarantee that the algorithm will return with useful information or if it actually finds anything more than common data that you already know. Still, it’s reassuring that the standard membership covers court records and doesn’t associate them with the likes of gun permits and liens that are restricted to premium reports. The ability to launch a search from your smartphone or port the results to a PDF file is also reassuring.
Unfortunately, the pricing is the Achilles heel of the site. Instant Checkmark charges a huge $34.78 per month for a standard membership, which still lacks several key pieces of info and even requires an additional $19.95 every time you wish to see any premium content. The five-day trial solves the issue to a degree, but only if you stay on your toes and opt out for a full subscription in time. Overall, the depth of the background reports warrants testing the service, but it’s recommended to first trial the service during a special discount period.