Cautionary Tale Shows Consequences of Not Performing Background Checks on Temporary Workers

Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

Do you think temporary workers – or “temps” – do not need to undergo background checks because they will not be with a company long enough to cause a problem? Think again. A cautionary tale from the second installment of the new CNBC Make It series HR Confidential shows how hiring a temporary worker without a background check led to identity theft for the worker’s colleagues at one company.

In the HR Confidential story “I hired him without performing a background check. Then he stole his colleagues’ identities,” a New York-based human resources (HR) professional with nearly 30 years of experience told CNBC reporter Ruth Umoh about the consequences of not performing a background check on a temporary worker who was hired through an outside agency to work in the company’s file room.

The HR professional worked as a senior HR manager at a foreign banking company and did not think anything was wrong when an employee said someone had stolen his identity – until a second employee and then a third one also fell victim to identity theft. Then the banking company knew it “had an internal problem because it’s too coincidental for three employees to have identity theft within a three-week span.”

The company hired investigators who specialized in fraud. After they requested “the name, photo, and address of everyone who has ever touched our employee files,” the investigators returned one week later with the postmaster general and postal police officers armed with guns. They asked for the newly hired temporary worker to be brought in from the file room and he was “in handcuffs in less than five minutes.”

The identity thief was a temporary worker hired through an outside agency to work in the file room “to clean up each person’s file, add information to them, and put them away” but “he was going into these files, taking people’s social security numbers and stealing all of their information.” The post office had the man under investigation for other credit card fraud. The HR professional explained the aftermath:

For the employees who had their identity stolen, this was such a nightmare. It took some of them more than a year to get this solved. I also felt somewhat responsible because I’m the one who hired the temp and this happened under my watch. I did the best I could in providing support. As a company, we did feel obligated to offer help and paid the service fees to help them clean up their records. I felt terrible.

One of the lessons the HR professional learned after the incident was “to always perform background checks for temp employees (just like you would for a full-time employee), especially if the person is handling sensitive information. In fact, performing background checks for temp workers is even more important because they aren’t invested in the company and, as a result, pose more of a risk.”

The HR professional explained the company changed its hiring strategy with temporary workers, restricted access to confidential information, and became very careful about who handles the information and how that information is stored. HR Confidential is a new series focusing on the issues HR managers face and their most memorable workplace stories. HR professionals may email their stories to ruth.umoh@nbcuni.com.

ESR Performs Background Checks on Temporary Workers

A temporary worker with access to a company’s office and data should undergo the same type of background check as a full-time employee. Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – a leading global background check provider – performs background screening services that include background checks for temporary workers. To learn more about solutions from ESR, please visit www.esrcheck.com.

NOTE: Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) does not provide or offer legal services or legal advice of any kind or nature. Any information on this website is for educational purposes only.

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