All posts by Les Rosen

Nebraska Man Accused of Running Background Check Scam

By Thomas Ahearn, ESR News Staff Writer

A recent news story from Nebraska suggests that the next time you want a background check company to run a background check for you, you may want to run a background check on the background check company first to see if they run real background checks.

According to a report by KMTV Action News 3 in Omaha, NE, federal investigators arrested a Bellevue, NE man and accused him of running a background check scam. FBI agents believe the man — who had previously been indicted on wire and mail fraud charges — formed a background check company that allowed him to dupe consumers into believing he could run FBI and Interpol background checks on people, KMTV reported.

Investigators said the man charged $600 for each phony background check and scammed customers out of a total of $170,000, according to KMTV, which also reported authorities said private citizens are not capable of performing FBI or Interpol background checks.

Background check scams and other unauthorized background checks have become more common with the rapidly spreading use of the Internet. In another story posted on ESR News, an ex-school official in Massachusetts was fined for using his school’s computers to run several hundred unauthorized background checks on athletes, celebrities, and politicians for his own private purposes and in a manner that was not related to his job.

The story from Nebraska also shows the danger of non-reputable background check firms promising FBI-quality background checks to consumers, since FBI background checks and FBI records are not generally available to the public but are only available for certain employers or certain industries where Congress or a state have granted access.

In addition, the actual quality of the information contained in FBI background checks has come into question. The New York Times recently printed a letter from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that responded to an earlier Times editorial that discussed the accuracy of data the FBI relies on when performing criminal background checks.

A federal bill introduced in the House of Representatives — Fairness and Accuracy in Employment Background Checks Act of 2010 (H.R.5300) — would strengthen the accuracy of employment background checks using data from the FBI criminal database.

To help determine if a background check firm is reputable,  visit the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS) website at  An employer should consider only dealing with members of NAPBS since that shows a  commitment to professionalism.  Even then, an employer needs to conduct due diligence. See for example,

For more information about background check scams, unauthorized background checks, FBI criminal databases, and other related topics, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at


Recruiting Russian Roulette: Why Every Placement Has the Potential to Put You Out of Business

By Lester Rosen, President of ESR

(Originally Published on

It’s a sobering thought, but every time a recruiting professional makes a placement, there is the possibility that new hire can put them out of business.

Why? Because if a dangerous, unqualified, unfit, or dishonest candidate is placed in a job and harm occurs, the hiring firm risks a lawsuit for negligent hiring. Perhaps just as importantly, a bad placement can result in loss of business and damage to a professional reputation that may have been years in the making.

The root of the problem, of course, is that some candidates lie on their resumes and applications. Industry statistics suggest that up to 10% of applicants can have criminal records. Fraudulent misrepresentations as to education and employment occur in as much as 40% of the time, according to some studies.

Individual recruiters can, in fact, be sued for negligence if harm occurs, and if she or he knew or should have reasonably foreseen that a bad placement could cause a problem. At that point, the heart of the staffing professional may sink when those dreaded words echo across the courtroom: “Ladies and Gentleman of the Jury.”

Those are words you never want to hear, and a situation in which you never want to be. Your protection and your best defense is to exercise “due diligence,” which means to verify the representations and qualifications of the candidate.

The allegation in a “Negligent Hiring” lawsuit (or “Bad Hire” lawsuit) would be that the staffing professional placed someone that they either knew or, in the exercise of reasonable care, should have known was unfit or dangerous. Of course, since a staffing professional would not intentionally place someone who was dangerous or unfit, the question before the judge or jury is whether the staffing professional reasonably should have known that the placement was bad if they had only exercised a greater degree of care in screening the applicant.

In such a lawsuit, a staffing professional would need to show, for example, whether credentials and education were verified, whether past employment was checked, and whether a criminal background check was done.

Lawsuits occur usually in cases where there is some sort of serious harm either to a business, such as embezzlement, or theft, or to an individual, such as assault, rape, child molestation, identity theft, or even homicide.

A staffing professional who is responsible for a bad placement can be sued by a number of parties, including the business entity that relied upon the professional judgment of the recruiter or staffing firm. Certainly, a co-worker or member of the public who was injured by the bad hire can sue for damages.

The worst case scenario would be that the bad hire resulted in the death of a fellow worker, and the victim’s family is suing for wrongful death. This is just what happened in a highly publicized case in California. A 28-year-old female winery worker was stabbed to death by a co-worker who was a convicted murderer and had been placed at the winery by a temp agency. The agency did NOT conduct a background check. The jury awarded the family $5.5 million.

If a recruiter is sued, it may well be an uphill battle to win in court. The jury will hear evidence that the recruiter recruited, recommended, or placed the offender. In most cases, the staffing professional probably makes representations about the quality of their services. The staffing professional’s website and sales literature may suggest that they provide only the best candidates who are carefully screened. However, in the world of recruiting, “screening” really only means that resumes have been reviewed to determine a good fit as opposed to “background screening” for criminal records and verification of facts represented on the resume.

The employer, hoping to lay the blame onto someone else, will of course claim that they relied upon the professional abilities of the staffing professional to send them qualified and safe candidates. There would likely be evidence that the recruiting or staffing firm made a fee on the placement. In the end, the attorney for the injured or deceased employee would ask jury members, “Didn’t the staffing professional have not only the resources and opportunity, but also the duty to conduct employee screening on the potential employee before approving their introduction into the workplace?”

In this scenario, it is not likely that the jury members will have much sympathy for the hiring firm or staffing professional.

Some recruiting professionals have resisted the idea of background checks because they feel that with their years of experience, they are good judges of people. That is no longer a defensible position, nor is it even accurate. A growing body of scientific evidence suggests that even the most experienced recruiters cannot eliminate potential bad hires by detecting lies and evasions at the interview. Studies show that even though people believe they can detect liars, most people have only a 50-50 chance at best of detecting a liar. According to one recent study, even trained law enforcement officers are only right a little over half the time. The traditional means of reading body language, for instance, to screen out liars are useless against an accomplished con artist who can tell stories very convincingly.

Some recruiters may be concerned that background checks add to the cost of their services or hinder placement with unneeded delays while screening results are obtained. However, in today’s litigious world, recruiters and staffing professionals need to make a risk-management assessment: Is saving a few dollars and a little time worth playing Russian Roulette with each candidate you send out? Which one of these candidates will land you in court, or on the front page of the newspaper? Will your professional reputation be tarnished forever, perhaps beyond repair?

The bottom line is that due diligence and background checks go to the very integrity of the product being sold by recruiting and staffing professionals — workers who are qualified and fit for the job. Selling staffing services without knowing who you are sending to a client’s business would be like selling medicine with no idea of what is in the bottle.

Staffing and Search professionals have traditionally focused on Sourcing and Sales. It is worth noting that at some recruiting conferences, there are a large number of sessions devoted to making money through finding candidates and selling services. However, there are few sessions, if any, on the subject of how to ensure the integrity of the very product being sold. Recruiting and staffing professionals can protect their own business, their clients, and the public by shifting their focus from just Sourcing and Sales to Sourcing, Verifying and Sales.

For more information on employment screening and background checks for recruiters, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at


How Recruiters Can Speed up the Background Check Process

By Lester Rosen, President of ESR

(Originally published on

Part of the on boarding process for most in-house recruiters is the completion of the pre-employment background check.  The challenge for in-house recruiters is that they are typically under intense time pressure to complete the hiring process quickly and to get the new person started.  On the other hand, it is mission critical that employers exercise due diligence in their hiring.  If an employer hires someone who turns out to be dangerous, unfit or unqualified and some harm occurs where it was foreseeable that a bad hire could cause damage, then the firm can be on the hook for a negligent hiring lawsuit, not to mention all of the other costs, workplace problems and negative publicity associated with a bad hire. Of course, a bad hire does not reflect well on a recruiter either.

In a perfect world, a recruiter would like to be able to go to a web site that has an accurate and up-to-date database so the employer can get an immediate thumbs up or down.  However, no such web site exists because much of the data needed to do a background check is not gathered and databased ahead of time.  There is not even a comprehensive national criminal records database that reveals an accurate criminal history. Most private employers do not have access to the FBI criminal database, and even that database is subject to numerous sources of errors.

As a result, background checks are conducted by actually calling up schools and past employers and going to courthouses.  A background check will typically take three days, and that is assuming the universe is cooperating and there are no delays out of anyone’s control.  However, there can be delays if an employer has gone out of business or refuses to call back, or a school is closed for a holiday or requires a release or check sent by mail.  Further delays can occur if there are potential criminal record matches, and the court clerk delays producing the file so a screening firm can confirm identifiers to determine if the record applies to the applicant and whether the case can even be reported under complex federal and state rules.

Those time requirements for a background check can conflict with the time pressure a recruiter is under.  The good news is that a recruiter can be pro-active in speeding up background checks in several ways:

  • Recruiters must understand the process can be delayed if screening firms are sent incomplete information, or supplied with forms that are illegible or incomplete. For example, screening firms often face difficulty in deciphering an applicant’s past employers or social security number. Since a screening firm is not expected to read hieroglyphics or be a mind reader, the screening firm has to contact the recruiter to clarify the information. Some screening firms will make their best guess and if they are wrong, the report is delayed even further, proving the old adage that no good deed goes unpunished. Recruiters who review all applications for completeness, legibility and accuracy with the candidates before sending the applications to a screening firm will find their work is completed much faster.
  • An in-house recruiter needs to communicate with hiring managers to eliminate unrealistic expectations. A hiring manager may not understand, for example, that criminal records are searched at each relevant courthouse, or that delays can occur if there is a potential match and the court needs to bring files from storage. Hiring managers must also be advised that employment and education verifications can be delayed for a number of reasons, such as schools that are on vacation or that require a check or release to be mailed, or employers that are closed, merged or refuse to cooperate. If there is a delay in receiving a completed screening report, the recruiter should examine the source of the delay.
  • If a recruiter is working with a screening firm that has an online ordering system, the process is considerably faster. Not only does this ensure accuracy, which makes the process faster, but it also avoids delays caused by sending a request to a screening firm and waiting for the firm to do manual data entry.
  • Finally, there are times when a recruiter should determine that even though the screening firm has not been successful in obtaining all of the information, enough data is available to make a hiring decision. This typically happens in the area of verifying previous employment. When conducting employment verifications, often times the earliest employment is the most difficult to obtain. However, it may also be the least relevant. If the applicant, for example, worked in a fast food restaurant six years ago after getting out of school and the fast food place will not call back, then there may be no reason to delay the hiring decision, especially if the screening firm has obtained the most recent, and presumably more relevant, job verifications.

Experienced recruiters understand that background checks are not only a critical part of the hiring process, but are a great deal more complicated than merely putting a name in a database. A competent background checking process requires specialized knowledge, resources and experience. This is particularly true since employment screening is a highly regulated area. The best way to speed up the process is to understand exactly what is involved in facilitating the smooth flow of accurate data.

For more information on how background checks for recruiters, please visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at


Staffing Vendors, Co-employment, Background Checks, and Lawsuits

By Lester S. Rosen, President of ESR

(First published on

As the recession begins to slowly turn around, employers are naturally cautious about increasing the size of the workforce until it becomes clear that hiring additional full-time workers is justified. The solution traditionally has been to hire through staffing agencies so that an employer had flexibility to adjust to the ups and downs of the recovery. 

However, the notion that just because workers are on someone else’s payroll that they are not a businesses’ responsibility or problem is simply not true.

It is clear, in fact, that when a business hires temporary workers, the business assumes much of the same liability as when workers are hired directly. Although staffing agencies still have duties to pay wages and handle such items as reporting to appropriate agencies and workers compensation insurance, there are a host of potential employment law liabilities that are still the responsibility of the employer.

An employer can still be sued for sexual harassment, or for having a hostile workplace, or for discrimination regardless of whether the worker gets paid by the company, or paid through a staffing firm. That is because the temporary worker is still under the control and direction of the workplace. This falls under the legal doctrine of co-employment, where both the staffing vendor and the business have duties and obligations. 

For employers, the scope of their co-employment responsibility can even extend to liability for negligent hiring and negligent retention. The law is absolutely clear that if a temporary employee harms a member of the public or a co-worker, the employer can be just as liable as if the person were on the employer’s payroll.  Many employers have found out the hard way that unscreened or inadequately workers from a Professional Employer Organization (PEO) or staffing vendor can also cause damage. A business can be liable if, in the exercise of reasonable care, the business should have known that a temporary worker was dangerous, unqualified, or otherwise unfit for employment. An employer has an absolute obligation to exercise due diligence not only in whom they hire on payroll, but in whom they allow on premises to perform work.

No employer would dream of walking down the street and handing the keys to the business to a total stranger, yet many employers across America essentially do exactly that every day when engaging the services of vendors and temporary workers.

Part of the problem is that the word “screening” is used differently by staffing vendors and employers.  A staffing vendor will “screen” applicants to determine whether a candidate’s resume is a match for the job description.  For employers concerned with due diligence, and risk-management, “screening” means having a background check performed to determine whether the person is safe and qualified. 

Of course, in the event of a lawsuit where an employer is sued, the employer would likely turn around and blame the staffing vendor or PEO. However, the employer will still need to justify its own due diligence in how it selected and supervised the staffing vendor.

The PEO or staffing firm would likely blame the employer for failure to specify what was required. Although the eventual outcomes will depend upon specific facts, employers and staffing vendors can avoid these difficulties in the first place by clearly addressing who has what duties.

These are some of the issues that should be clarified when an employer and staffing vendor work together: 

  • Which party is going to perform the background check — the staffing vendor or the employer?
  • What is the screening protocol to be used? Ideally, employers should require a staffing vendor to utilize the same criteria used for their own W-2 employees.
  • What Background Screening firm will be used? The employer needs to ensure that the staffing vendor utilizes a background screening agency that is experienced and qualified for the assignment and follows best practices, such as not offshoring data, not using home based operators, and not substituting cheap database checks instead of real criminal searches.
  • Whose responsibility is it to actually review the Background Screening report?  There have been cases where staffing firms have found negative information but no one read the report or acted on it.  The negative information typically comes to light when the employer decides to make the worker permanent, and performs its own background check, only to discover that a crime or resume fraud was missed or not acted upon.
  • In the event derogatorily or negative information is found, how are decisions to be made?  The use of automated pass/fail criteria by the staffing vendor are increasingly becoming a potential Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issue, since it can have the affect of discrimination against protected classes of applicants.  Another solution is to send anything of a negative nature to the business for a final decision on whether they want that person on the premises.  Some staffing vendors, however, take the position that since it is their employee, it is their decision.  The critical point is to work out the protocol in advance.
  • Do the consent and disclosure forms for background checks reflect the roles of the parties?  Under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), a business can request that the background release extend to the business so it can review the background report. However the background release must also clarify that the staffing vendor is the employer of record.
  • Who is going to pay for the background checks? 
  • Who is going to send out the required adverse action notices or conduct a re-investigation? 

The bottom-line: staffing vendors can avoid a great deal of difficulty if these issues are addressed and documented upfront so that everyone is clear on who has what responsibly when it comes to safe hiring.

For more information on background checks staffing vendors, co-employment, background checks, and lawsuits, please visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at


New York Raising Fees for Statewide Criminal History Record Searches Effective July 1

By Thomas Ahearn, ESR News Staff Writer

The New York State Office of Court Administration (OCA), which provides a New York Statewide Criminal History Record Search (CHRS), will raise fees for each CHRS to $65.00 from $55.00 effective July 1, 2010, according to information on

As explained on, the OCA’s CHRS criteria “is strictly based on exact match of Name and DOB (variations of Name or DOB are not reported.) The search results are public records relating to open/pending and convictions of criminal cases originating from County/Supreme, City, Town and Village courts of all 62 counties. Sealed records are not disclosed. Town & Village criminal disposition data is limited.”

The website also provides a Criminal History Record Search FAQ page that answers many questions about the OCA’s CHRS including the following:

  • How many counties are included in the New York Statewide search? All of the State’s 62 counties. Individual electronic county searches are not provided.
  • What kind of information is included in the statewide search? The CHRS search process is based on locating an exact match of both the Name and DOB. The search results are public records relating to pending and disposed criminal cases originating from County/Supreme, City, Town and Village courts of all 62 counties. Sealed records are not disclosed. As of July 20, 2007, data relating to non-criminal offenses (e.g., violations, infractions) will no longer appear as part of the CHRS report.
  • Why does OCA not provide information on violations and infractions?
    As a result of a recent case filed in a New York court, the Unified Court System has reviewed its policy regarding the contents of criminal history summaries that it provides to individuals and businesses upon their request and for a fee. The review has resulted in a change of policy to the extent that the summaries provided will report only convictions on charges that New York State law regards as crimes. Crimes are defined by New York State law as including misdemeanors and felonies only. Convictions on offenses

For more information and FAQs about the OCA’s CHRS, visit and

For more information about employment screening and background checks, as well as the latest updates on changes in fees for criminal records searches, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at


County in Washington to Require E-Verify Use for Contractors

By Thomas Ahearn, ESR NEWS Staff Writer

According to a report on, (The Daily News Online), officials in Lewis County, Washington have approved a resolution requiring all contractors hired by the county for $100,000 or above to verify the employment eligibility of their workers through the government’s E-Verify Electronic Employment Eligibility Verification system.

E-Verify — a free, Internet-based system used to determine if employees are legally eligible to work in the county — compares the names of workers with their Social Security numbers and verifies information on the Employment Eligibility Verification forms (I-9 forms) employees must fill out against Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Social Security Administration (SSA) databases. reports that Lewis County was already using E-Verify for contractors paid with federal funding, as mandated by a federal ruling, and also that the county auditor recently began using E-Verify to check the citizenship status of new county workers.

However, some critics felt the $100,000 threshold mandating E-Verify usage was too high, saying contractors using illegal workers would still be able to bid up to $99,999 on county projects without having to use the E-Verify Electronic Employment Eligibility Verification system, reported.

With over 200,000 employers currently using E-Verify and many believing that E-Verify should be mandatory, E-Verify Designated Agents are helping businesses with in the employment eligibility verification process. Employment Screening Resources (ESR) — a leading national background check provider and authorized E-Verify Designated Agent — can help employers virtually eliminate errors, improve the accuracy of their reporting, protect jobs for authorized workers, and help maintain a legal workforce.

For more information about the E-Verify Electronic Employment Eligibility Verification system, visit


Employment Screening Expert Lester Rosen to Present Session on Background Checks at SHRM Annual Conference

By ESR News Staff

Employment Screening Expert Lester Rosen, President of Employment Screening Resources (ESR), a leading employment screening firm headquartered in the San Francisco area, will present a session on background checks at the SHRM Annual Conference and Exhibition on June 30, 2010, in San Diego, California.

The annual event — the world’s largest human resources conference — is sponsored by the world’s largest human resources association, the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), and features top HR and business experts sharing their perspectives, strategies, tools, and tips for growing a company’s talent.

The session to be presented by Rosen — Negligent Hiring and Background Checks: Best Practices and Legal Compliance — will help human resources professionals avoid employee problems by identifying potentially problematic applicants through legally complaint due diligence tools.  The session addresses new trends and legal challenges facing employers, and will also cover issues such as the use of social networking sites, international background checks, and concerns over the use of credit reports and criminal records.

“I am very pleased to have the opportunity to review cutting-edge applicant selection topics that can help employers select the best candidates,” commented Rosen. “Exercising due diligence and staying out of court is mission critical for businesses of all sizes, and this presentation is aimed at identifying for  employers and recruiters the latest trends, tools, and legal developments.”

Rosen, a nationally recognized expert on employment screening background checks, is a writer and speaker on the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), pre-employment screening, and safe hiring issues. In addition, Rosen authored the first comprehensive book on employment screening — The Safe Hiring Manual: The Complete Guide to Keeping Criminals, Imposters, and Terrorists Out of Your Workplace — and also wrote The Safe Hiring Audit.

In addition, Rosen was the chairperson of the steering committee that founded the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS), the professional trade organization for the employment screening industry, and served as its first co-chairman in 2004.

For more information about the SHRM Annual Conference and Exhibition, visit For more information about background checks and employment screening, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at


Letter Claims Minnesota Case Illustrates National Problem with Background Checks for Child Care Providers

by Thomas Ahearn, ESR News Staff Writer

A letter to Austin (MN) Daily Herald sheds light on a national problem of lack of background checks for child care providers, so claims the author.

In her letter, Linda K. Smith, Executive Director, National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies, was “deeply troubled” after reading that a Plymouth, Minnesota man who was charged with possession and distribution of child pornography had worked and volunteered in a number of child care facilities in Minnesota. She was concerned that an individual charged with a horrible crime  had numerous opportunities to be in contact with small children.

Smith wrote that since the state of Minnesota does not require child care providers to undergo a comprehensive background check, including fingerprints, no one knows if the accused individual has a criminal past, and no one can know the full criminal history of the providers currently caring for Minnesota’s children.

Smith also added that while many parents assume child care providers in licensed care have had a background check, “the reality is that only half of states require a fingerprint check and only 16 require a check of the sex offender registry.”

Smith believes “the best way to ensure children are safe and protected from predators and felons in child care is to require comprehensive background checks of child care providers. A comprehensive background check means a check of federal and state fingerprints, as well as checks of the child abuse and sex offender registries.”

She urges the state ensure the safety and well-being of Minnesota’s children in child care by enacting legislation that will require comprehensive background checks of child care providers.

Minnesota is not alone in dealing with problems concerning background checks of child care providers. Recently, the Governor of Florida signed a new law strengthening background checks for caregivers. Starting August 1, the law will require workers who care for children, the elderly, and the disabled in the state of Florida to undergo stricter background checks.

The law follows a 2009 series by the Sun-Sentinel newspaper that exposed gaps in Florida’s background check system. A six-month investigation by the newspaper found convicted felons with records for rape, child abuse, and murder had been hired as employees of day care centers, assisted living facilities, and home health care agencies.

For more information on background checks, please visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at


Mandatory Once-A-Month California Court Closures May End in July

By Thomas Ahearn, ESR News Staff Writer

After almost a year of mandated closures for all superior courts statewide in California on the third Wednesday of each month, the mandatory once-a-month court closures are slated to end on Wednesday, June 16, 2010 before the start of the new 2010-2011 fiscal year on July 1.

For employers performing background checks involving California screening of criminal records, the closures lead to occasional delays.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the San Diego Superior Court and the 4th District Court of Appeal will no longer close for one day each month and will be open on the third Wednesday of the month, at least in July and August. However, officials warn that court employees still may be required to take one unpaid day off per month and that the court closures could resume later in the year, the Union-Tribune reported.

For fiscal year 2009-2010, the Judicial Council of California recommended closing all courts throughout the state for one business day per month for 10 months of the fiscal year in an effort to save over $80 million dollars for the cash-strapped state. The closures were treated as court holidays, meaning that:

  • The court closure days would not affect statutory deadlines for trials and other hearings.
  • The court closure days would not affect computing the time to file documents.

Meanwhile, the San Bernardino Sun reports court closure days in courts across San Bernardino County could end this month after $100 million was restored to the state judiciary’s budget but that court officials won’t know for sure whether the closure days are completely finished until the state’s budget is passed by the California Legislature.

Elements of the 2010-2011 judicial budget are currently being reviewed and the state’s budget is usually not adopted before the next fiscal year begins July 1, the Sun reports.

To stay informed about the latest news on the California court closures, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at


FBI Letter Responds To NY Times Editorial on Flawed Criminal Background Checks

By Thomas Ahearn, ESR News Staff Writer

The New York Times recently printed a letter from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) responding to an earlier Times editorial — Check It Again — that discussed the accuracy of data the FBI relies on when performing criminal background checks. The text of the letter, titled Reliability of F.B.I. Data, is as follows:

To the Editor:

The F.B.I. takes its role as a central repository for criminal justice information very seriously, but must rely on the voluntary submissions of criminal history records supplied by local, state, tribal and federal law enforcement agencies, and the courts, for the overwhelming majority of its information.

While the F.B.I. appreciates this support, vital data often fails to get to the bureau in a timely way because of the time lag in criminal prosecutions. To help find ways to capture this information more efficiently, the F.B.I. formed an interagency task force to identify problem areas in states disposition reporting and methods to improve the system. The F.B.I. also oversees another task force to improve the flow of criminal history information from the courts to the state repositories and then to the F.B.I.

The F.B.I. is also working on internal improvements, including the Next Generation Identification program, an upgrade to the existing fingerprint identification system, which will improve disposition reporting, while a related initiative will enable efficient electronic updates.

Through advances in technology and the continued cooperation of our partners, the F.B.I. hopes to clear the way for additional improvements in the completeness of the background check information we provide.

Daniel D. Roberts
Assistant Director, Criminal Justice
Information Services Division, F.B.I.
Washington, June 2, 2010

The letter confirms that the FBI only gets what criminal background check information local jurisdictions and states will give it, and admits that “vital data often fails to get to the bureau in a timely way” meaning the criminal database is not completely accurate.

The accuracy of the FBI database used for criminal background checks has become a hot topic for job applicants, employers, and even politicians. Recently, the Chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security introduced a bill to strengthen the accuracy of FBI criminal background checks in response to a June 2006 report from the attorney general that showed nearly 50 percent of criminal records maintained in the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database failed to note court decisions to dismiss arrests.

Since employers rely on the database to conduct background checks on potential hires, the 2010 Fairness and Accuracy in Employment Background Checks Act (H.R. 5300) would strengthen the accuracy of the FBI’s criminal database by requiring the U.S. Attorney General’s Office to verify that crime data used for background checks is up to date, find out the outcome of arrests whenever an employer requests a background check, and update that record in the NCIC database.

For more information about background checks, and how some FBI background checks may use inaccurate or incomplete information, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at