New White Paper Examines Accuracy of Instant Background Checks Offered by Phone Apps and Websites

According to a new white paper – ‘Background Check Mobile Phone Apps and Instant Background Check Web Sites: Fast and Easy, But Are They Accurate?’ – users of mobile phone apps and Web sites offering so-called “instant” background checks should be aware that while these services are cheap and easy to use, they may not provide entirely accurate information. Co-written by Attorney Lester Rosen, CEO of Employment Screening Resources (ESR), a nationwide background check provider accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS), and Kerstin Bagus, Director of Global Compliance at LexisNexis® Screening Solutions, the complimentary white paper is available at http://www.esrcheck.com/Download/.

“Employers and volunteer agencies with tight budgets who are trying to find competent employees and volunteers have read about low-cost background screening applications available for smart phones and instant online background checks,” says Rosen, author of ‘The Safe Hiring Manual,’ the first comprehensive guide to employment screening. “But can these services help them effectively screen applicants with accurate information?”

In the white paper, Rosen and Bagus examine background check mobile phone apps and instant background check Web sites run independently of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), a federal law that regulates the collection, dissemination, and use of consumer information. These apps and web sites allow users to perform instant background checks on anyone anytime from their mobile phones and computers by searching publicly available records and checking social networking sites such as Facebook, YouTube, MySpace, Twitter and LinkedIn. However, while this kind of information is viewed as a lead source for further review by professional investigators or researchers, in the hands of the average person the data can lead to hasty and dangerous conclusions.

According to Rosen and Bagus, some of the dangers of using instant background checks offered by mobile phone apps and web sites include:

  • Reporting inaccurate information that can include outdated results or can show no criminal history when one actually does exist.
  • Returning information for the wrong person with the same name since these services do not generally require identifiers such as dates of birth.
  • Creating a false sense of security when a “clear” background check result assumes the person being searched has no criminal record.
  • Privacy issues for the person being checked since the average person is not knowledgeable about proper usage of public records and there are no privacy controls in place.
  • Reputational injuries to the individual being searched if the information is not correct.
  • Misuse of information for employment purposes since employers who use results from these sites can find themselves in a legal and financial nightmare due to intense legal regulation surrounding the use of information for employment purposes from the FCRA as well as numerous state laws.

The white paper also notes that unsuspecting users of background check apps or Web sites may not understand that it is not easy to get a complete picture of an individual’s background, particularly their criminal history, due to the following considerations:

  • No nationwide criminal record database exists that contains all criminal record convictions in the United States.
  • If criminal information is found on an individual, it does not mean that the information is current, the criminal record resulted in a conviction, or the information belongs to the person being searched.
  • If no criminal record is found, it does not mean the person being searched does not have a record since the app or Web site can easily miss a criminal record.
  • Some of the information returned is based upon a “data dump” of billions of public records.
  • The information pulled from social networking sites can be wildly inaccurate.

The complimentary white paper ‘Background Check Mobile Phone Apps and Instant Background Check Web Sites: Fast and Easy, But Are They Accurate?’ also discusses how to select apps, social networking data, criminal record databases, and special issues for employers and volunteer agencies. The white paper is available from Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at: http://www.esrcheck.com/Download/.

About Employment Screening Resources (ESR): Founded in 1997 in the San Francisco area with a mission to help employers and employees maintain safe workplaces, Employment Screening Resources (ESR) is accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) and provides industry leading technology, legal compliance, service, turnaround, and accuracy. ESR also wrote the book on background checks with ‘The Safe Hiring Manual’ by founder and President Lester Rosen. For more information, visit http://www.ESRcheck.com.