Accurate Background Check

Making Sure Your Background Check is Accurate

Pre-employment background checks have become commonplace since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. About 93% of employers now run criminal checks for all applicants, according to the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC), and they are only one group interested in researching your history. It is a known fact that lenders regularly use credit reports to verify identity and establish risk, but they are likewise turning to criminal checks. Landlords and even potential love interests are increasingly turning to background checks to screen the history of individuals.

Around one in four Americans have at least some history with the criminal justice system. This can cause a lack of confidence when approaching the aforementioned groups. Knowing what appears on your background check is the best way to maintain confidence and prepare for otherwise uncomfortable questions on applications and during interviews.

It is important to realize that, like credit reports, background checks can contain inaccurate information. This is especially problematic because, unlike with credit reports, there is no central clearing house of information where inaccuracies can be contested. You will likely have no way of knowing the background check agency being used by the employer, which makes the situation even worse. Still, there are a few steps everyone should take to help ensure the background check is accurate.

Get a Check Beforehand

It won’t prevent every problem, but performing a background check on yourself is the best chance you have of seeing what others will see. A comprehensive service should be chosen for this purpose, because they will report findings from the FBI national criminal database, state databases, and counties of residence listed on the Social Security number report. Some agencies advertise the ability to access state databases, but they actually only have access to a few. It is worthwhile to spend some time looking for one that explicitly advertises the types of information they collect and how it is used to inform the criminal search process.

Another key factor here is the ability to correct inaccurate information. Most agencies simply send a report, but there are a few willing to provide information about who to contact for corrections. This is an important step, though hardly the only one necessary.

Credit Report Verification and Corrections

Criminal background checks are only part of the picture. Employers and others often purchase bulk deals from agencies that include multiple types of checks. Credit reports are commonly a part of this, because they are a low cost way for agencies to include several features at once, including payment history, fraud or bankruptcies, identity verification, and residence verification. The more thorough agencies will even cross-check information appearing on the credit report with what is found via criminal database checks.

Your credit report can be obtained for free annually, and the time investment is worthwhile. Ensure every piece of information on it is accurate. File contesting claims immediately for any inaccurate information. If you have a common name, it is very important to make sure your middle name and any suffixes, such as junior or senior, are present on the report. This may help prevent one of the common problems, false matches, associated with criminal background checks.

Protecting Yourself from Common Check Errors

Besides using the above tactics, there is little an individual can do to protect themselves from inaccurate reports. The best case scenario you can hope for when facing an inaccurate report is that the employer or other individual discusses it with you before making their decision. Several instances of inaccurate reporting and research by the NCLC show why this is the case.

In one instance, a man was denied a job after the potential employer discovered a 1987 rape on his criminal check. This turned out to be a case of mistaken identity, which was made obvious by the applicant being only four years old in 1987. Many others have not been so lucky because of a lack of regulation on the industry. Higher profit margins are sought by agencies who outsource the collection of information. False positive name matches are common, information is routinely unverified, and databases are often not updated to give example of some problem areas.

Until the relevant agencies enact controls over the industry, a process that has started in a few states, the only protections you have are verifying information on personal checks and your credit report. Employers should be aware that mistakes are common with some agencies and information should be cross-verified with applications before making a decision.