When performing an online background check with Hero Searches, you may be unsure of the terminology that appears in the report results. Below, you will find a list of commonly used terms found within our reports that should help you understand exactly what you’re reading.
An arrest record documents an individual’s history of arrests by law enforcement, as well their suspected crimes. Unlike criminal records, arrest records only show the apprehension of the individual. The record does not indicate if they have been convicted of a specific crime or not. However, it reveals the time and location of the arrest, biographical information, criminal classification, monetary restitution, incarceration, and pending litigation.
Arson refers to the intentional burning down of any property. Although it was once used to only specify houses and other residences, the definition now encompasses all properties, such as buildings, structures, vehicles, and forests. Depending on the state where the crime takes place, the punishment may vary. For example, the state of New York has five degrees of arson, while most other states follow three degrees of arson. If any federal property is damaged in the fire, it becomes a federal crime, with a sentencing of up to 20 years in jail. That sentence can be increased to up to 40 years if someone was injured as a result of the crime.
Burglary is defined by an individual trespassing into a building or structure, with the intent to commit a crime, such as theft. While similar to robbery, burglary does not require force or intimidation tactics, as the criminal aims to go undetected. The victim is often not present at the time of the crime. In addition, the crime does not need to be committed successfully to be determined as a burglary. Even if nothing is stolen, it is considered burglary if the criminal broke in and entered with the intent to steal.
A criminal record is a public compilation of an individual’s criminal history. While an arrest record only shows information about their arrests, a criminal record includes the crimes actually committed by the individual. These include both misdemeanors and felonies. Criminal records are commonly used for background checks and security clearance for employment, travel, adoption, housing, the purchase of firearms, loans, and more. However, criminal records are also utilized by authorities for identification and tracking purposes.
Domestic violence is characterized as an individual showing violent and/or abusive behavior towards another person in a domestic setting. Common victims include married couples and families with children. Because these charges may show up on public records, individuals can discover if their partner has previously been guilty of domestic violence. This allows them to stay safe and take the appropriate measures to end the relationship if needed.
Embezzlement is defined by the theft or misrepresentation of a company’s property, funds, or assets. While typically viewed as involving employers and employees, embezzlement can apply to governments and spouses as well. Typical methods of embezzlement include undercharging, payroll fraud, stealing money and/or office supplies, and fake loans. Depending on the details and severity of the crime, it can either be a misdemeanor or a felony.
In the United States, there are two broad categories for crimes. The first is “misdemeanors,” which are classified as crimes that carry a maximum sentence of up to 12 months jail time. This category is reserved for lesser crimes. On the other hand, the second classification of crimes are referred to as “felonies.” Unlike misdemeanors, crimes in this category are much more serious. As such, they carry a minimum sentence of 12 months jail time. In most countries outside the United States, the felony category is reserved for very serious crimes. Furthermore, felonies can be further differentiated into the subcategories “violent” and “nonviolent.”
Since any crime with a sentence longer than twelve months of jail time is referred to as a felony, it stands to reason that many different crimes could be categorized in this way. That being said, there are some crimes that are so severe that they are always categorized as felonies. These crimes include:
Fraud is defined as the act of deceiving another person through false pretenses in order to take from them something of significant value. This can be anything from a physical item to a legal right. In today’s world, there are many different types of fraud. From ponzi/pyramid schemes to identity theft and credit card fraud, there are many different ways an individual could participate in fraudulent behavior. In addition to this, fraud often goes undetected because the victim is unaware of the situation until it’s too late.
Since most fraudulent activities rely on the victim being completely unaware of the perpetrator’s motives, it can be somewhat difficult in most cases to identify a fraudulent scheme. That being said, there are some warning signs to look for if you suspect fraudulent behavior.
Kidnapping is defined as the unlawful taking of another individual without said individual’s expressed consent. In the event that the individual is a minor, the guardian’s consent would be required, even if the minor has already expressed their own.
Like many other crimes in the United States, kidnapping is defined in terms of degrees. In this case, there are several factors that would differentiate a first-degree kidnapping from a second-degree kidnapping.
A lawsuit typically consists of one party (the plaintiff) suing another party (the defendant) for some unlawful act that resulted in a loss on behalf of the suing party. In terms of lawsuits, a party does not have to involve a group of people. Individuals, government agencies, and businesses are all considered to be parties in a court of law.
Larceny, also referred to as theft in some areas, describes an individual’s unlawful taking of another’s personal goods or property with no intent of returning it to the rightful owner. One key factor that differentiates larceny from other similar crimes, such as robbery, is the fact that larceny does not account for violence or the threat of violence.
A charge of larceny is usually broken up into two distinct categories; grand larceny and petty larceny. As their names suggest, the difference between these two classifications of larceny is in the amount stolen. If an individual’s actions constitute a charge of larceny and the value of the items stolen is greater than $500, then a charge of grand larceny will be given. On the other hand, if the value of the items stolen is less than $500, then a charge of petty larceny will be imposed instead.
Manslaughter refers to the unlawful killing of another person without the premeditation or malice associated with homicide and murder. A sentence of manslaughter usually carries a lesser punishment when compared to similar crimes that result in loss of life, such as the aforementioned homicide and murder.
There are two separate classifications of manslaughter: voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter. Voluntary manslaughter is the more severe crime of the two and is most similar to other first-degree offenses. A voluntary manslaughter sentence means that the perpetrator intentionally took the life of the victim in a heat of passion or under provocation. An involuntary manslaughter sentence on the other hand is generally regarded as a second- or even third- degree offense. A sentencing of this nature means the loss of life was non-intentional, most commonly due to negligence or an accident.
A misdemeanor refers to a crime that is less serious than a felony and thus results in less of a punishment. The amount of jail time associated with a misdemeanor is less than 12 months, and in some cases, jail time can even be avoided in favor of a fine. Misdemeanors are broken down into three separate categories based on severity:
A gross misdemeanor’s sentence comes with a minimum of six months jail time, an ordinary misdemeanor comes with a jail time of 30 days to six months, while a petty misdemeanor comes with either a fine or less than 30 days of jail time.
Murder refers to the premeditated killing of another individual. In just about all countries, including the United States, murder is considered one of the most serious crimes, and as such, comes with the most severe punishments. It’s not uncommon for an individual convicted of murder to receive a life sentence, or in regions that support it, the death penalty. A murder sentence is commonly broken down into two categories:
First-degree murder is defined as the killing of an individual with premeditation. This means that the perpetrator planned on killing the individual. Second-degree murder, on the other hand, is somewhat similar to voluntary manslaughter, given that the perpetrator did not plan on killing the individual but did intend to in the heat of the moment or after provocation. Second-degree murder comes with a more lenient sentence when compared to first-degree murder, however, the punishment is still severe in most cases.
Prostitution is defined as the act of performing sexual favors in exchange for money. It is illegal in 49 of the 50 states within the United States, except for Nevada (where it is strictly regulated). There are several layers and elements to prostitution, but it is typically considered a misdemeanor. Other crimes such as human trafficking, pimping, operating unlicensed brothels, and exploiting minors are punishable by law at a higher degree.
Public records are any non-confidential files created by government officials that are allowed to be accessed, inspected, analyzed, and accessed by any person. All of the information accumulated by Hero Searches and delivered in purchased reports is in compliance with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which enables individuals to access certain local, state, and federal documents and records.
Whereas burglary is not necessarily violent or forceful in nature, robbery, on the other hand, is. When you hear the word, you may think of or visualize a bank robbery. However, that is not always the case, and robberies can occur even when people are not directly involved in the theft. Although it is considered a violent crime, a weapon is not required to categorize a crime as a robbery.
Sexual offenses range in severity and type, but are considered a serious and severe crime. They will last on a person’s record and in the sexual offender database for a lifetime. These offenses entail sexual misconduct, oftentimes by inappropriate conduct or lack of consent, and are prohibited by law on a state level, as well as a federal level.
Suspicion, or “reasonable suspicion,” is a Supreme Court standard which involves detaining or investigating somebody who is considered a suspect of a crime (not to be confused with probable cause). If somebody is considered a suspect, this means that an officer or government official believes he or she meets the requirements of “suspicious activity.” This means that he or she appears as a threat and/or has committed, is about to commit, or will commit a crime -- but this must come with rational and factual evidence.
A traffic violation occurs when a driver of a vehicle violates one or more of a state’s traffic laws. Traffic violations are divided into two different categories: moving violations and non-moving violations. Moving violations occur while the vehicle is in motion, whereas a non-moving violation occurs when the vehicle is not. Moving violations are more serious offenses than non-moving violations in most cases.
Vandalism is the act of destroying, damaging, or defacing somebody else’s public or private property. The most popular form of vandalism is graffiti, which entails writing or drawing on surfaces (such as walls or dumpsters) with spray paint, markers, paint, or other materials. Although this may be the most common, vandalism comes in many acts and forms, and can be committed by people of all ages.
An individual is acquitted when, in the eyes of the law, they are released from the charges against them. The declaration of “not guilty,” determining that they are innocent, precedes the acquittal. However, “not guilty” does not always result in an acquittal, as the individual may be found guilty of other charges in the same case.
In an advance-fee scam, the scammer usually promises the victim a large sum of money, such as a portion of lottery winnings or an inheritance. This is in exchange for a small initial payment, which the scammer tries to pass off as a one-time fee. In almost every case, the victim never hears from the scammer again and doesn’t receive the reward they were promised. One common variant of this scam happens to be the 419 scam. This is where a scammer will claim that a large sum of money needs to be transferred out of Nigeria, either from the government or a private bank account. The victim can receive a percentage of this money, if they pay an up-front fee. Just like other advance-fee scams, the victim never sees this reward.
Animal cruelty encompasses both the intentional and unintentional (neglect) harming of animals by humans. Examples include purposely hurting animals for entertainment purposes, cruel methods of slaughter, killing animals for their fur, and neglecting animals in breeding facilities. The Animal Welfare Act of 1966 is the only federal law that governs how animals are treated. In addition, many states have their own anti-cruelty laws. Depending on the state, animal cruelty can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony.
A “can you hear me?” scam is a phone call initiated by a chatbot, simply asking, “Can you hear me?” The scammer behind the chatbot will be recording the call. If the victim answers “yes,” the scammer will use that recording to authorize charges under their name. Usually, the scammer already has the victim’s financial information before they make the call.
The Internet has opened up a multitude of doors for online communication and shopping. Unfortunately, there are scammers out there who want to take advantage of that. Counterfeit websites are sites run by scammers that are created to look exactly like an existing site. They trick people into making their purchases on them instead of the legitimate ones. The victims then either have their money stolen or receive fake goods in the mail.
Have you ever received an automated phone call saying that you’ve won a free vacation? In this day and age, it’s all too common of an occurrence. Scammers use this tactic to lure their victims in, and then ask them to pay a one-time fee or tax (usually $200-$300) to receive their vacation. Of course, the victim never receives their prize and or their money back. Some variations of this scam include attending a live presentation, where the victim is presented with vacation or timeshare packages that most likely don’t even exist.
Human trafficking is defined as a modern form of slavery. It involves the trade and sale of humans, both within a country and internationally. Most commonly, human trafficking involves sexual slavery or forced labor. The victim also does not necessarily have to be moved from place to place. In the United States, Atlanta, GA is considered to be the largest hub for human trafficking. This is due to the size of the city itself, as well as its airport. Although human trafficking is a federal crime, most states have established their own laws to prevent it from happening within their borders.
Identity theft is the wrongful obtainment and use of another individual’s identity, data, or assets. Most commonly, this crime is committed for economic gain or other similar benefits. Criminals can obtain someone’s personal information by “shoulder surfing,” which is watching the victim put in their PIN number or listening in on their phone conversations. They can also take their data from discarded snail mail, scam emails, spyware, and other methods.
Internet fraud is a blanket term used to describe various forms of fraud on the Internet, including but not limited to spam emails, online scams, data breaches, malware/ransomware, and phishing. According to the FBI, Internet fraud tactics successfully steal millions of dollars every year from unsuspecting victims.
IRS scams are performed by scammers who impersonate IRS agents, either by phone, fax, email, or regular mail. These scammers strike fear into the hearts of their victims with threats of lawsuits, police arrests, deportation, and more if they do not immediately pay the tax amount they “owe.” In such a panicked state, victims willingly pay the exorbitant amount that’s requested. More often than not, the scammer requests that the fee is paid by wire transfer, prepaid debit cards, money order, or iTunes gift cards. These are all signs that they are not actually with the IRS.
Numerous scams involve victims paying over the phone for phony taxes, family emergencies, bail, various bills, and more with iTunes gift cards. These gift cards are untraceable and work almost the same as cash, making them ideal for scammers. When the victim reads the 16-digit code on the back of the gift card over the phone, the scammer immediately drains the amount of money that was loaded onto it. This can leave the victim out of thousands of dollars. Unless you’re looking to purchase something from Apple’s online stores, there is no need to purchase an iTunes gift card.
While money orders and wire transfers are legitimate forms of sending money, scammers have taken advantage of them. They use these methods to send fake money orders and receive wired funds from the victims they trick.
If an individual is selling an item online, sometimes a scammer will send them a money order for the amount. This money order can either be fake or written for an excess amount, which the seller will be told to refund or send to someone in another country. Even if the money order is successfully deposited and the victim withdraws the money, that’s not the end of it. It can take several weeks to process a money order, and if it turns out to be fake, the bank will subtract the amount from the victim’s bank account.
Western Union and MoneyGram allow people to send money quickly and efficiently. However, when wiring money, unlike using a purchase protection service such as PayPal, there’s no way to obtain a refund. Once the money is wired, there’s no way to get it back. Scammers use fake job, apartment/home, and classified ad listings to lure victims into wiring them money. Often, they ask for a fee or tax that needs to be wired to them. In some cases, a scammer will pose as a buyer and send a counterfeit check for a larger amount than the transaction total. They will then ask for the victim to send the difference via wire transfer.
The popularity of online shopping continues to grow every year, so it’s no wonder that scammers see it as an easy way to steal. They use avenues such as eBay, Craigslist, and Amazon’s marketplace to take advantage of unsuspecting buyers and sellers. Some scammers will purchase and receive items, then tell the seller that they never got them in the mail. Other scammers will sell their items online and never send them out, or might even just mail out an empty box. They can also threaten to blackmail their victims if they don’t leave positive feedback for them.
A phishing scam is an attempt to trick someone into giving up their personal information, such as passwords or credit card/bank account numbers. Phishers accomplish this by pretending to be from reputable companies or organizations. The most common phishing scam is where the scammer sends their victim an email or a text message from a source that looks legitimate, such as Google or Microsoft, and asks them to send them money, personal information, or to click on a link. If they follow the link, they will be sent to a fake page with malicious software on it that will steal their information or potentially lock them out of their computer until they pay a ransom.
Postal fraud is a type of scam that uses the postal system to defraud another individual out of their money, property, or personal information. While the amount of scammers using the postal system has certainly gone down due to the popularity and efficiency of emailing, one could argue that this makes postal fraud even more dangerous than it was before. This is because the vast majority of government agencies use the postal system as a first point of contact. Knowing this, in addition to the decreasing popularity of postal scams, a potential scammer could pose as a government agency and trick an unsuspecting victim into sending them personal information.
One of the most common scams out there, the tech support scam targets people who aren’t particularly well-versed in technology. It’s characterized by cold calls made to victims, where the scammer poses as a member of a company’s tech support department, typically Microsoft or Apple. The scammer then goes on to say that they’ve detected a virus or some other problem with one of the victim’s electronic devices. When the victim allows them remote access to their computer, the scammer will use the opportunity to steal their personal data and credit card information. Following this, they may ask the victim to pay for an “antivirus software,” which is really just malware that will infect their computer and collect their information.
Generally, blackmail is an act where a criminal threatens their victim, usually with exposing their personal information, until a certain demand is met. This demand is either for a gain for the criminal or a loss for the victim. While extortion involves obtaining property or money from a victim through coercion, blackmail specifically threatens them with revealing information they’d rather keep secret.
In recent years, with the rise of online dating, sextortion has become prominent. Sextortion is a type of sexual exploitation where the criminal aims to acquire financial or sexual favors from their victim. This includes asking for compromising photos, then threatening to post them on social media if the victim does not give them money. Afraid to damage their reputation, many victims give in and send the money to their sextortionist.
A term originally coined in the 2010 documentary Catfish, catfishing is the act of creating a fake social media profile or online persona for the purpose of tricking someone else. These online identities usually include photos that are stolen from actual social media profiles, as well as fabricated personal information. One common reason why people choose to catfish others is because they wish they had their persona’s confidence and good qualities. Meanwhile, other people do it because they think it’s fun to trick potential partners. Catfishing can also occur in an online dating / romance scam, where the scammer assumes a fake persona to steal money from their chosen victim(s).
Gaslighting is a manipulation tactic that someone will use in a relationship to make their partner question their own perception and recollection of events. They accomplish this through lying, downplaying their partner’s feelings, and deception. The gaslighter’s goal is to make their partner feel unstable, insecure, and ultimately more dependent on them. In online dating, gaslighting can occur in more than just legitimate relationships. A scammer can use this kind of manipulation in a romance scam, all so they can steal money from their victims.
Love bombing is used by manipulators to initially shower their victim with affection for the purpose of influencing them later on. This includes constant phone calls and texts, frequent visits, and numerous presents in a short period of time. This phase disappears just as quickly as it came. Love bombers then use their victim’s easily earned affection and trust to control them and their actions. Romance scammers often use love bombing so their victims will be more than willing to give them money for any fake, tragic story they create.
Marriage and divorce records are not always designated as public records. Some states allow them to either be marked as confidential or public. However, when you’re thinking about a serious relationship with someone you met on a dating website, it’s worthwhile to look into these records. The person on the other end could be lying, either outright or by omission, about their marital or relationship status.
Scammers often pose as other people, but in a medical emergency scam, they pretend to be the victim’s relative, friend, or other loved one. They’re able to pull off the scam by learning about the victim’s loved one from social media or even hacking their email account. The scammer uses this information to claim that they’ve experienced some sort of emergency, like a car accident, and need money as soon as possible. Because they’re panicking and worried about their “loved one,” the victim quickly sends over the requested amount of money. These scams can be conducted over the phone, email, or social media.
While most people use dating websites to find love, scammers use them to look for their next victim. First, they create fake profiles on popular sites such as Tinder and OKCupid. These profiles often use stolen pictures. Then, when they’re successfully matched with someone, they do everything they can to earn their victim’s trust, affection, and intimacy. After some time, usually a few weeks, the criminal starts asking for financial favors with fabricated stories. These stories can range from medical emergencies to being stranded at an airport in a foreign country. Because the victim has come to trust their “lover” at this point, they’re often more than willing to send over the money.
A reverse image search is a quick and helpful way to confirm an online stranger’s identity. Too many people out there use fake photos, or ones of other people, on their dating website profiles. Fortunately, Google Images and TinEye are both search engines you can use to find the actual source of someone’s photo.