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Aren’t All Background Checks the Same? Nope.

I have heard it said, “A background check… is a background check… is a background check.” The sentiment that background checks are all the same could not be further from the truth. The reality is that there are many fluid pieces to a background check that are contingent on the reason for the check as well as the type of position an individual may be applying for. Let’s take a look at a few of those pieces.

There are many types of searches that a background check may consist of. There are criminal searches, civil searches, employment verification, education verification, credential checks, motor vehicle reports, credit reports, drug screening and so on. One of the most common pieces of a background check is a social security trace or verification. A social security trace is a search that provides information on a subject’s past residencies and jurisdictions by searching credit headers, utility records and even Social Security Administration records. The information in these reports give a picture of the subject’s moving patterns and an idea of where records should be searched for. These reports often include approximate date of issuance of social and date of birth of the subject.

Another common search is the national criminal database search. These types of searches can be misleading. They appear to be a comprehensive national search but usually they are not. The reason is that not all states and counties make their records publicly available online to these types of databases. Furthermore, information on these national databases is often outdated, incomplete or simply wrong. I recommend that any information found on a database search be confirmed at the county or state agency level to remain in compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act standards.

Finally, let’s look at county criminal and state criminal repository searches. These searches will usually yield the most accurate, current and complete information. Many counties and states make their information publically available online usually for a fee. However there are many jurisdictions that require search requests to be made in person via clerk of the court. Final dispositions usually missing from database searches are typically found at this level. For example, a subject’s record was found on a database search but the record was legally expunged by the subject. Generally, that expunged record cannot be reported by the consumer reporting agency to an end user or employer to be used in a hiring decision. If the record was reported the employer and reporting agency could both be exposed to legal action.

If you were hiring someone that would be handling large amounts of cash, you may want to run a credit report. If you were hiring someone to work with children you would certainly want to run a sex offender registry search. There are many types of background checks and it is never really one size fits all. If you are considering using background checks or would like to reevaluate your current process please let me help you today.