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Date ArticleType
3/7/2016 Other
Pitfalls in Background Screening

by Mark Harmon, President/CEO, VeriScreen  

More changes have been made in the background screening industry in the last 5 years than the prior 20 years altogether.  Several background screening companies have frequently been in the news lately for missing or not properly reporting prior records.  The most recent was the shooting in Charleston where the gunman had a felony record and should never have been sold a gun.  It has gotten so bad that 35 of the largest companies filed for bankruptcy in February 2015 due to the massive fines levied by government agencies for missing prior records.  Does Edward Snowden come to mind?  The bad news is  it is only going to get worse because criminals are figuring out the system.  The first thing to clear up is to answer the question:  How are criminal records maintained?  Aren’t they like a credit report?  That is the biggest misconception in our industry.  All criminal records are maintained by name and DOB ONLY!  Let’s take a moment and think about that.  With over 12,000 jurisdictions in the US, are the only identifiers name and DOB?  The first thing that might come to mind is what if there is a typo somewhere in the system.  Another question that should be asked: What if the criminal is not totally honest when they are arrested and don’t give the arresting officer the correct information to begin with.  Finally, what if the criminal does not give the correct information on a job application.  Criminals have been known to lie.

To complicate things President Obama formed the CFPB (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) in 2008 to protect consumers from wrongful reporting by CRAs (Consumer Reporting Agencies).  The CFPB started with banks and credit card companies and are just now getting around to seriously looking at background screening companies and their customers.  One of their emphasis will be “are applicants getting denied a job for a record that is not theirs” (FALSE POSITIVES).  So the question now becomes “are CRAs and their customers properly identifying applicants” (even though the applicant may be intentionally trying to get through the cracks.  The FCRA laws and regulations that are now being administered and monitored by the CFPB apply even if you are not running credit reports on your applicants.  The massive fines that are coming down the pike are going to be centered around applicants’ rights if they are refused employment and was there a reasonable attempt at identifying the applicant. 

There is a big movement by a France based company to promote finger printing as the only way of doing a proper background check.  This involves an expensive and time consuming process where you are eventually checking your applicants’ fingerprints against the FBI criminal database that includes 50-80 million arrest records many times with no dispositions.  Compare that to the type of background checks that a reputable CRA performs which consists of 551 million court records with dispositions that can be properly completed in 2-3 days.  Is it worth sacrificing a proper background check performed by CRAs just to avoid the risk of not properly identifying an applicant?  The only advantage to a fingerprint background check is positive identification. 

Another piece of the puzzle that is not widely known is the fact that 38 states have stopped updating to criminal databases altogether.  The problem stems around CRAs reporting expunged records.  Most states have also initiated second chance laws that prohibit CRAs and their customers from using expunged records to make a hiring decision.

VeriScreen has trademarked their Person Search Plus™ product that uses a multitude of databases that go back up to 30 years to look for all the identities and DOBs that an applicant has used in the past.  We don’t rely on what the applicant tells us or an inexpensive credit bureau name and DOB search.  We have found in our 20 plus years of business that criminals are not completing credit applicants while in prison.   VeriScreen also identifies the states that have stopped reporting data to their criminal databases and personally hires expert researchers to go county by county to obtain up to date and correct data while using our Person Search Plus product to give you exact, real time criminal data exactly when you need it.

Don't miss Mark's session on Pitfalls in Performing Background Checks at the Regional Spring Conference!