Instant Checkmate Review: Is It Legit or Just Hype?

By Lydia Noyes
HighYa Staff
Updated on: Jul 29, 2020

Instant Checkmate is an online public records search service that promises to let you search anyone in the United States and pull up detailed information on them.

It’s designed to help you reconnect with lost contacts and to identify any red flags in those around you.

The site claims to operate by aggregating public records such as arrest records, addresses, census data, and social media accounts. It then presents this information in comprehensive reports.

Instant Checkmate doesn’t offer true background reports. Rather, this site and all similar ones pull information from the public domain. What you’re paying for is the convenience of getting all this information in one place.

Should you sign up? I’ll go through the details of what you can expect, along with my assessment of whether this service is worth it.

Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Easy to browse and navigate the site
  • Information is often more accurate than similar sites
  • Detailed sexual offender reports
  • Report information sorted in clear categories for easy searching
Cons
  • All information is publicly available for free elsewhere
  • Confusing pricing strategies
  • Reports may be inaccurate
  • Some customers struggled to cancel their accounts
  • You can’t legally act on the information you learn

Details and Features

Instant Checkmate makes it simple to search anyone in the United States by name, location, phone number, or email address.

Here’s a summary of the information you’ll get, depending on your search:

  • Background Report: Search based on the person’s name, gender, and location to learn their date of birth, current contact information, location history, potential relatives, criminal record, DEA licenses, and more.

  • Reverse Phone Lookup: Seach any 10 digit phone number to learn information such as the owner’s full name, phone information, age, gender, job history, location history, and social media profiles.

  • Email Report: Search any email to learn information such as the owner’s full name, online aliases, location history, employment history, social media profiles, possible connections, and more.

As with all public records services, Instant Checkmate is meant to be used to look up publicly available information on people like your family members, new neighbors, friends you lost contact with, and more.

However, it’s strictly prohibited to use any of the information in ways that go against the Fair Credit Reporting Act:

  • Pre-employment background checks
  • Screen any household workers
  • Assign or terminate leases
  • Assess individuals for professional services
  • Determine qualifications for educational programs or grants
  • Make credit or insurance eligibility decisions

It’s also against the site’s terms of service to the information to stalk, blackmail, or otherwise harass the person in the report.

My Experience Using Instant Checkmate

I started using Instant Checkmate by searching myself by first and last name and current location. I was asked to confirm my age and relationship to my husband before getting a preview of my report.

This included my full name (including maiden name), age, possible relatives, and locations. Three out of six locations were correct for me, as were five out of the 14 listed “relatives.”

Once I confirmed this was me, Instant Checkmate began loading my full report, asking me questions along the way related to my potential criminal history, social media accounts, and more.

I also needed to confirm I wouldn’t use the report’s information in discriminatory ways.

After approximately ten minutes of loading time, I reached a screen where I could activate my account to unlock the report. At this stage, I was finally shown the pricing information. Two plans were offered:

  • One-month of unlimited reports: $34.78/month
  • Three months of unlimited reports: $83.47 ($27.82/month)

Here’s an insider tip—if you stay on the payment screen long enough, Instant Checkmate may offer you a five-day full access trial membership for $1. Unless you cancel before the end of the trial, you’ll then be enrolled at $34.78/month.

Upon signing up, I was immediately shown an offer to download my report as a PDF. The small font at the bottom of the screen indicates this would be a one-time $2.99 administration charge—sneaky! You can skip this step if not interested.

Looking at Instant Checkmate Reports

Finally, I was ready to see my report. It began with my full name, age, date of birth, and current Facebook profile picture—all accurate so far.

Next came my educational and professional background information, which was clearly pulled directly from my public LinkedIn profile.

The site displayed two phone numbers and emails associated with me, 50% of which were accurate. This accuracy level stayed consistent for my known addresses as well, as three out of five were accurate.

My criminal records section came up blank, as did the finances section, which covers bankruptcies, liens, judgments, evictions, and UCC filings.

The social section pulled up my Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest profile, though not my Instagram, personal blog, or other places where I spend more time online. I also wasn’t linked to any businesses or licenses, although my home was a listed asset.

Overall, this report seemed comprehensive at first glance because of all the sections it contained, but many were blank, inaccurate, or included only obscure information that wasn’t necessarily valuable.

Someone searching me could have discovered where I lived and would have a 50% chance of contacting me through the correct email or phone number, but they would have learned little else about me that couldn’t be found on my Facebook or LinkedIn account.

And in many cases—as with my probable relatives—the information was completely inaccurate.

This level of accuracy seems consistent for most accounts, as I found similar results when I searched my spouse, friends, and family members.

Instant Checkmate often had correct information listed, but it was sandwiched with details that were out of date or totally wrong.

In a few cases, the report completely omitted businesses owned by my friends and relatives that had come up on other background check services I’ve used.

It was also hit or miss on reporting traffic violations.

Pricing and How to Cancel Your Membership

Here’s a detailed look at Instant Checkmate’s different pricing options and what’s included with them:

5-Day Trial Monthly Membership Three-Month Membership Reverse Phone Search Membership Reverse Email Search Membership
Cost $1 $34.78 per month $27.82 per month ($83.47 total) $4.99 per month $7.99 per month
Basic Background Check Yes Yes Yes No No
Location Search Yes Yes Yes No No
Reverse Phone Lookup No No No Yes No
Email Search No No No No Yes

All Instant Checkmate purchases enroll you in a membership (recurring subscription).

You can cancel your membership at any time from your Membership Settings page or by contacting the company directly at (800) 222-8985.

There is also an option to purchase a Premium Background Report for $19.99 per person.

This gives you supplemental data beyond the standard report that may include information on the person’s civil judgments, corporate affiliations, voter registration, hunting/fishing permits, tax liens, foreclosures, and more.

These purchases are non-refundable.

Analysis of Customer Reviews

More than 500 Instant Checkmate users have left reviews on our website, that average out to 3.4-stars. Here are the main takeaways:

Common Compliments:

  • Site is simple to use
  • Easy to track down pertinent information
  • Works well for reconnecting with people you lost touch with
  • More detailed information than competitors

Common Complaints:

  • Occasionally inaccurate information, including false criminal records
  • Some people received charges after canceling their membership, had to cancel their credit cards
  • Some people struggled to pull their personal information off the site

Popular Alternatives to Instant Checkmate

There are several other popular public information services available, including Truthfinder, SpyFly, and BeenVerified. Here’s how they compare:

Instant Checkmate Truthfinder SpyFly BeenVerified
Monthly Subscription Cost $34.78 $27.78 $29.97 $26.89
Trial Cost $1 for five days $1 for five days $2 for seven days NA
HighYa Review Average 3.4-stars, 62% recommend 3.8-stars, 73% recommend 2.0-stars, 31% recommend 1.3-stars, 5% recommend
Sex Offender Information Detailed reports include photos and current location Tells you if offenders are nearby Possible to search for offenders by address or zip code Possible to search for offenders by address or zip code

Of these four sites, Truthfinder and Instant Checkmate have the best online reviews on HighYa. Many customers found both of these sites to be easy to navigate, though they often found the information to be incorrect.

When I did a personal search on Instant Checkmate and TruthFinder, I found Instant Checkmate shared more comprehensive information about my career and educational background, and that the site had the most up-to-date contact information for me.

It also listed fewer incorrect addresses and social media profiles (though there were still plenty!).

SpyFly and BeenVerified earned a less positive response from HighYa reviews. Some common complaints included that the information within the reports was extremely inaccurate and outdated and that the monthly subscription costs were too expensive to be worthwhile.

Others wrote that they were continuously billed for these services even after they had canceled their subscription.

A public records search company can’t take the place of a traditional background check, and even the best services only earn mediocre reviews from users.

However, Instant Checkmate and Truthfinder both have higher reviews and share more detailed information in the reports.

Based on my personal experience of using these platforms, I believe that Instant Checkmate has the edge when it comes to accuracy.

The Bottom Line

As far as public records search services go, Instant Checkmate seems to stand out from the competition.

It’s easy to sign up for the service and navigate the site, and the $1 five-day free trial offer will likely give you enough time to learn what you need to know.

My personal experience and an analysis of customer reviews also show that this service seems to have a slight edge over the others regarding accuracy and relevancy.

However, Instant Checkmate (and all similar services) shouldn’t be confused for a traditional background check.

The information this site provides is all publicly available, and there’s no guarantee that it is accurate. It’s also illegal to act on these results as if they were from a verified background check service.

Instant Checkmate makes sense for anyone who wants to reconnect with lost friends or family members, verify information about online dates, learn more about a neighborhood before moving in, or see whether there are sex offenders nearby.

The online phone and email lookup can also be used as a way to avoid scams.

However, the service isn’t suited for anyone who wants to perform employment or tenant screening or who wants to make other decisions about eligibility for scholarships, credit, or insurance policies.

Here’s my advice. Start your background search process on Google.

Searching someone’s full name, location, and emails or phone numbers can pull up a lot of public domain information similar to what you’d get in a standard Instant Checkmate report.

If you want to expand your search after that, then it’s time to consider signing up for a membership.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Instant Checkmate Legit?

Yes. Public records search services, like Instant Checkmate, only display information that is in the public domain. The company makes no guarantee about the accuracy of the information it displays.

Is Instant Checkmate free?

No. Monthly subscriptions start at $27.82, though a $1 five-day free trial is available.

Is Instant Checkmate a Recurring Subscription?

Yes. The subscription can be canceled at any time.

How Do You Cancel Your Subscription?

Cancel your membership online through the Membership Settings page or by calling the company at (800) 222-8985.

Can You Remove Your Personal Information from Instant Checkmate?

Yes. Instant Checkmate allows all subscribers to remove specific information or their full profile from the database.

You can start by searching for your name and finding your profile. Once you do, you can select the report you want to be removed. You will then receive an email asking you to confirm this decision. If you approve it, Instant Checkmate will delete your profile within 48 hours.

Note that this doesn’t remove your information from the databases that Instant Checkmate pulled it from. You also might need to make multiple requests to customer service before all your personal information is removed.

Does Instant Checkmate Notify the Person You Are Searching For?

No, all searches are anonymous and those being searched are not aware that the process is taking place.


Customer Reviews

Start your review of Instant Checkmate:
  • 536 Customer Reviews
  • 62% Recommend This Service
3.4 out of 5
5 star: 50% 4 star: 10% 3 star: 4% 2 star: 3% 1 star: 31%

 Our Promise to You

To safeguard you and ensure helpfulness and relevance, our compliance team manually assess every customer review before it goes live.

We have a zero-tolerance policy for fake reviews, and companies cannot control or alter any reviews at any time.

Sort reviews by:

  • This company is actively collecting reviews from its customers. All reviews submitted are subject to moderation and approval to ensure they meet our Review Guidelines.
  • Faulty, inaccurate details

    • By Justin Case,
    • Lincoln, Neb.,
    • Feb 26, 2015
    • Verified Reviewer
    Overall Experience:

    Yet another email that floods spam folders, trying to scare you into a subscription. The name alone sounds generic and they nickel and dime you for EVERYTHING. Info is outdated, recycled, or faulty and Instant Checkmate does all it can to bill as much money off customers as possible with inferior services. If it pops up in the spam folder, it's a good bet it rhymes with spam. Don't be suckered into a subscription thinking you'll find up-to-date info, everything I ever found on there (if anything at all), was ancient history. Instant Checkmate is a shady, crooked business.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend


  • This company is a rip-off and rude to boot.

    Overall Experience:

    I would give a minus zero rating, if that existed. 

    First of all they had information for my mother as if she were still living. She died in 1991.

    Second, I got the $1.00 trial plus $1.99 for a .pdf, which is bunk. When I tried to use my trial, I didn't find further information, only pop-ups trying to force me to upgrade constantly.

    Third, I found a $29.63 charge on my credit card for a month membership.

    I explained to the human robot I got on the phone that I had a medical emergency and had been hospitalized during the five day period. He couldn't seem to grasp how this might keep me from calling to cancel and just keep repeating his speel like a recording.

    I asked to speak to a manager or supervisor and was told, after being put on hold, that none was available. I told him that was bunk.

    In addition, the company did not send me any sort of a receipt via email to indicate my purchases or charges to my credit card. That is a big red flag.

    After threatening the company with contacting Master charge and the VA Attorney General, he finally agreed to remove the charges except for the $1.00 trial fee.

    We shall see. If I don't get an email and have the charges removed by early next week, I will contact the above.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend


  • Con people

    Overall Experience:

    Do not use this site. To check if I'm going to have real information, I did research on a person I know. And got mix of real and fake information about this person. Never got my money back.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend


  • Consumer

    • By Lisa,
    • California,
    • Feb 28, 2015
    • Verified Reviewer
    Overall Experience:

    This is a total scam. They suck you in telling you they have juicy details about the person you're searching. Then they tell you it will be $22+ to access the juicy details. What they give you is absolutely nothing. Then they tell you they have the really juicy stuff (criminal records, etc.), but you have to upgrade to the premium service for an additional $20.

    I think it's a bait and switch. Do not fall for it. It's worthless. I wasn't willing to waste another $20 to find out if they really had any criminal records. They'd probably want another $20.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend


  • Don't Waste Your Money

    • By Debbie,
    • Greensboro, NC,
    • Mar 15, 2015
    • Verified Reviewer
    Overall Experience:

    The information provided for a basic one month membership of almost $23.00 was simple public record info such as a list of aliases and address histories. Anything more beyond that you had to upgrade and pay more money for. I was continuously lead through several pages that lead me to believe I would get criminal background info. In the end, I felt like I wish I had made a donation to a worthy cause and not to line the pockets of a company that is dishonest and misleading.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend


  • Bait and Switch SCAM? Possibly

    Overall Experience:

    I paid 22.86 plus 1.99 for PDF for 1 month of (BAIT) "UNLIMITED" Reports. To determine accuracy of site my first requested report was on myself. I received name, address and phone number, less than a Google search. More reports were offered (SWITCH), but each and every other report would require an additional 19.99 per Report. I was informed by PayPal that although I had signed up for one month, recurring charges had been setup. I never leave negative reviews unless to WARN others.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend


  • Beware of any site offering you "unlimited" everything for a low fee

    Overall Experience:

    Instant Checkmate is yet another of the many online companies who offer, for a fee, the ability to search databases for personal information.

    Some of the databases are free and could be found with a bit of searching. Many are not; they're professional databases that companies who routinely conduct background checks (i.e. banks) subscribe to and/or other companies and individuals (i.e. Human Resources at a company, the landlord) may either subscribe to or pay a per-use fee (which is why there's a background check fee some places when applying to rent an apartment).

    When a reputable site like Intelius charges you $40 for a complete background check, they do so because it's costing them money, too. Professional databases aren't cheap; they require a subscription and/or per-use fee. Intelius may be paying $20 or so (pro-rated) for that report.

    For that reason alone, any site that tells you that you can have unlimited data on anybody, "unlimited" meaning criminal, marriage/divorce, etc., for $20 per month is full of baloney. To get a comprehensive background report, you're going to have to pay additional money. Instant Checkmate is somewhat deceptive in what it offers for the monthly fee.

    Once you pay that money, you won't always get the correct information or complete information. Some sites cut corners by subscribing to somewhat-outdated databases. Instant Checkmate appears to be one of those sites.

    For these and other reasons, I don't recommend Instant Checkmate. If you must have a thorough background check and need to do so online, go with a reputable site such as Intelius, but expect to pay $40 or more for the information.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend


  • Instant Checkmate is Garbage

    • By Leo Spitz,
    • Washington, D.C.,
    • Mar 17, 2015
    • Verified Reviewer
    Overall Experience:

    The information contained in Instant Checkmate is minimal and often non-existent. What a waste of time.

    I signed up for a one month subscription, but they continued to charge my credit card after the month was over. The guy at customer service said that the Terms of Agreement explained everything. They immediately canceled my subscription at my request on the phone, no problem there, but this is whole deal is garbage. Don't spend your money on them.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend


  • Instant Checkmate is a rip off.

    • By Matthew,
    • Sacramento, WA,
    • Jul 17, 2015
    • Verified Reviewer
    Overall Experience:

    I ordered and reviewed information on an old friend of mine. Instant checkmate is a horrible service. Never use it. The information is inaccurate and contains no marriage or divorce certificates nor criminal records. The only accurate thing was a location from years ago. They have all kinds of hidden fees for basic PDFs and charge $20 for a premium report even after gouging you for the service and PDF download. They don't make it clear how to cancel the service after trial membership. They charge you for the month to month membership as soon as the trial is up and refuse to issue a full refund even just being four hours passed the trial expiration. They're a bunch of crooks in my opinion.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend


  • Don't waste your money

    • By Chuck,
    • Chicago,
    • Mar 28, 2015
    • Verified Reviewer
    Overall Experience:

    All the information provided is generic and at best a guess, but really nothing that is worth paying money for.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend


  • Total scam.

    • By Peter Tierno,
    • New Jersey,
    • Jul 18, 2015
    • Verified Reviewer
    Overall Experience:

    I chose this site because the hype on the website led me to believe this would provide criminal and arrest records of my father who passed some 14 years ago. I know he in fact was arrested several times in my childhood, but was never sure of any of the particulars.

    After recently reconnecting with a still surviving sibling (his sister), I was prompted to do some research on my own. After paying for a monthly subscription of 22 plus dollars, I was asked for an additional $19.95 for a premium upgrade and then another $1.95 for a PDF format. Well, here's what info was revealed: No arrests records of any kind were found, no marriage licenses were found (my parents were married in Brooklyn in a catholic church and were married quite legally for 55 years, and there is no relation to me (a son).

    I canceled my subscription immediately. I was informed by Julio that unfortunately I should have read the fine print telling me some information might not be available or even accurate. This was a complete waste of time and money and I will try to dispute all charges from this fly-by-night operation.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend


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