All posts by Les Rosen

National Criminal Databases Always Work On TV Crime Dramas, Not Always In Real Life

By Thomas Ahearn, ESR Staff Writer

According to popular TV crime dramas, today’s investigators, along with old fashioned gut instincts,  use all technology at their disposal when it comes to tracking down and arresting the bad guys. One such technological advantage is a centrally located national computer database containing all past criminal records of anyone who ever killed, stole, drove drunk, or even jaywalked. Best of all, these super crime databases are never, ever wrong.

However, the reality is quite different say experts in employment screening, and also recent headlines. The potential for errors in crime databases was evident in the case of a Maryland woman who lost her job after a background check performed through the FBI National Criminal Information Center (NCIC) indicated that she was unsuitable to work on the contract her company had won to handle mail for the Social Security Administration (SSA).

According to the Baltimore Sun, when the SSA performed a routine background check on the woman in July 2009 for low-level security clearance, the results showed she was “unsuitable” to work on the contract. The subsequent SSA letter to her employer did not specify what the background check had uncovered. The employer fired the woman rather than keep her off the contract.

The woman maintained that she had no criminal history, a claim backed by the Baltimore Sun, which only uncovered a civil case possibly involving a suit against her late father’s estate, and also by the SSA itself, which sent a letter to her employer saying as much. The SSA letter said the woman had passed a pre-screening check and could work on the SSA contract pending a final determination. Instead of reinstating her, the woman’s former company told her to re-apply for her job, then that the department was reorganizing, and later that it had no intention of restoring her old position.

The Baltimore Sun reported that the woman has since learned that an unspecified error in the FBI NCIC database,  a repository for criminal records and information on fugitives, stolen property and missing persons fed to the database from local, state. and federal law-enforcement agencies around the country, was the cause for the SSA’s initial determination that she was unsuitabol.

“lthough the NCIC data is the closet thing that exists to a national criminal database, it is not nearly as complete as portrayed in the movies,” ated Les Rosen, Founder and President of Employment Screening Resources (ESR), a nationwide pre-employment screening company. “Many records of crime do not make it into the system because of the chain of events that must happen in multiple jurisdictions in order for a crime to appear in NCIC.”

According to Rosen, author of The Safe Hiring Manual: How To Keep Criminals, Terrorists, and Imposters Out of Your Workplace, employers cannot even access the NCIC unless they are specifically authorized to by law.  There are over 10,000 state and federal courthouses in the United States spread out over some 3,300 jurisdictions, each with its own records file.

“Contrary to popular belief, there is actually no central location for all U.S. criminal records,” says Rosen. “There is simply no national computer database of all criminal records available to private employers.”

A 2005 report sponsored by  the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS), of which Rosen is a past co-chair, reviewed the National Crime Information Center and the Interstate Identification System in order to evaluate its effectiveness in maintaining accurate and complete criminal history records.

Some conclusions from the NAPBS sponsored study were:

  • Many states do not report information concerning dispositions, declinations to prosecute, failure to charge after fingerprints have been submitted, and expungements.
  • Inconsistency in the various state’s reporting requirements and criminal codes impacts the completeness and accuracy of the records.
  • The timeliness of transmission by the local jurisdictions to the state criminal history repositories remains problematic.
  • There are still significant time lags between the time information is transmitted to the state repository and entry into the criminal history records.
  • The process used to linking data to the proper individual and case is still ineffective.
  • Serious problems remain in the process to link dispositional information to the proper case and charge.
  • The format and terminology used by the various states creates problems of interpretation for individuals in other states who are using the information.
  • Even when a criminal record is searched based fingerprints instead of name matches, many of the same issues still exist.

 As the case of the Maryland woman fired from her job  due to an “unspecified error” in the NCIC shows, the FBI database, while still the gold standard for those limited employers authorized by state or federal law to access it, is still more of an arrest databases that is not as accurate or complete as people think.

Sources: (Contains letter to the Department of Justice by Employment Screening Resources  on FBI records as well as report sponosred by NAPBS) (DOJ report on FBI criminal records database and criminal background checks)

DOL March 2010 Jobs Report Shows Economy Posted Strongest Job Gains of Past Three Years

By Thomas Ahearn, ESR Staff Writer

Possibly a sign that the down economy may finally be looking up, the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that U.S. payrolls posted their strongest monthly job gains of the past three years in March of 2010.

The Labor Department’s report – Employment Situation Summary, March 2010 – showed that the nation added 162,000 non-farm payroll jobs last month, a figure that included 48,000 temporary census workers.

However, despite the growth in jobs, the unemployment rate remained steady at just under 10 percent (9.7%), while the number of unemployed people also changed little and stayed at 15.0 million.

According to the report, job growth continued in temporary help services (40,000) – where employment has risen by 313,000 since September 2009 – and health care (27,000), with the largest gains occurring in ambulatory health care services (16,000) and in nursing and residential care facilities (9,000). Employment in federal government was also up over the month, reflecting the hiring of 48,000 temporary workers for Census 2010.

Other sectors of the economy also showed positive signs in March 2010:

  • Manufacturing: Employment trended up in March 2010 (17,000), with job gains in the industry concentrated in fabricated metal products (9,000) and in machinery (6,000). Overall, 45,000 jobs were added in the first 3 months of 2010.
  • Construction: Employment held steady in March (15,000), a good sign for an industry that had lost an average of 72,000 jobs per month in the prior 12 months.
  • Mining: Employment increased by 8,000, and monthly job gains in the industry have averaged 6,000 over the past 5 months.

On the negative side, job losses continued in financial activities (-21,000) – with the largest losses occurring in insurance carriers and related activities (-9,000) – and in the information industry (-12,000).

With hiring seemingly on the upswing, the need for employment screening should also rise. Employers planning to add employers – even temporary workers – should implement an extensive pre-employment screening process that includes criminal background checks and reference background checks.

A series of recent surveys of HR professionals by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reveals that approximately three out of four U.S. businesses currently perform pre-employment screening programs on job candidates that include reference background checks (76 percent) and criminal background checks (73 percent).

Companies such as Employment Screening Resources (ESR) can help employers use a safe hiring program that will ensure a less dangerous and more productive workplace. For information of implementing a pre-employment screening program that includes criminal background checks and reference background checks, visit


New Oregon Law Prohibits Use of Credit History of Job Applicants for Employment Screening

By Thomas Ahearn, ESR Staff Writer

A newly signed law in Oregon prevents employers — with limited exceptions — from using the credit histories of job applicants in making employment-related decisions.

Senate Bill (SB) 1045 — recently signed into law by Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski — prohibits the use of credit history for employment purposes including hiring, discharge, promotion, and compensation. The new Oregon law, originally set to take effect July 1, 2010, has been declared by the governor to be effective immediately.

The new law establishes any violation as an unlawful employment practice, enforceable through the Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) and civil action. However, SB 1045 provides exceptions for financial institutions, public safety offices, and other employment if credit history is job-related and use is disclosed to applicant or employee.

The exceptions to the new law include the following circumstances:

  • Employers that are federally insured banks or credit unions;
  • Employers that are required by state or federal law to use Individual credit history for employment purposes;
  • The employment of a public safety officer, or
  • Employers that can demonstrate that the information in a credit report is “substantially job-related AND the employer’s reasons for the use of such information are disclosed to the employee or prospective employee in writing.

Oregon now joins Washington and Hawaii as states placing limits on the use of credit reports for employment purposes by enacting bans on workplace credit checks. In 2007, Washington passed a law stating employers could not obtain a credit report as part of a background check unless the information was substantially job related and the employer’s reasons for the use of such information were disclosed to the consumer in writing. In 2009, Hawaii also placed limits on credit reports by making it an unlawful discriminatory practice for any employer to make an employment decision based upon an individual’s credit history or credit report, unless the information directly relates to an occupational qualification. 

Private employers in Oregon will need to carefully review their justification for a credit report and be prepared to state those reasons in writing to an applicant before a credit report is requested or obtained.

The use of credit reports for the purposes of employment screening is a controversial subject, and critics who question the accuracy, relevance, and fairness of credit reports argue that a credit history has no relationship to the ability to perform the job and may result in unlawful discrimination.

In addition, applicants with financial situations severely impacted by the ongoing recession may be victimized again when a negative credit report makes it even harder to get a job, creating a ‘Catch-22′ situation in which applicants have bad credit because they cannot get jobs and cannot get jobs because they have bad credit.

However, others believe the use of credit reports for employment purposes is critical to preventing embezzlement or other problems where someone is hired to a position with access to cash or assets. Contrary to popular belief, employers do not see the credit scores — such as the widely used three-digit FICO model — and thus cannot use them for employment decisions.

Furthermore, the use of credit reports by employers may not be as common as some people think. A recent survey by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that only 13 percent of organizations performed credit background checks on all candidates, while 40 percent did not conduct any credit background checks and 47 percent performed them on selected job candidates. 

Many background screening firms — including Employment Screening Resources (ESR) — recommend that credit reports be reserved only for positions where there is a clear business justification, and to keep in mind that credit reports may contain information that is incorrect or not relevant to the job.


Related ESR NEWS story:

Study Finds Identity Theft and Fraud Increased 12 Percent in 2009, Affecting Over 11 Million Americans

By Thomas Ahearn, ESR Staff Writer

As further proof that identity theft and fraud is a fast-growing crime that shows no sign of slowing down, a recent survey found that the number of identity theft and fraud victims in the United States increased 12 percent to affect 11.1 million adults in 2009, while the total annual fraud amount in the country increased by 12.5 percent to $54 billion.

The recently released 2010 Identity Fraud Survey Report — independently produced by Javelin Strategy & Research for the past seven consecutive years — also found that protection of data by consumers and businesses helped identity theft victims decrease the time needed to resolve fraud while also reducing or eliminating costs for consumers.

According to the survey, the average fraud resolution time dropped 30 percent to 21 hours. In addition, nearly half of identity theft and fraud victims filed police reports, which doubled the reported arrests, tripled the prosecutions, and doubled the percentage of convictions associated with identity theft and fraud in 2009.

Other key survey findings included the following:

  • Small business owners should exercise caution since they suffered identity fraud at one-and-a-half times the rate of other adults, mostly due to the fact that small office and home office business owners use personal accounts when making business transactions and make more transactions than typical adults.
  • Javelin believes the 12 percent increase in the number of identity fraud incidents from 2008 to 2009 — the highest level since the survey started in 2003 — may be due to the recent Great Recession since, historically, higher rates of fraud occur during tough economic times.
  • Data breaches continued to compromise personal information, with the Full Name (63 percent) and Physical Address (37 percent) continuing to be the identification most likely to be compromised in a data breach. Health Insurance Information, with a year-over-year increase of 4 percent, is increasingly being targeted.
  • Consumers between the ages of 18 and 24 (also known as “Millennials”) are the slowest to detect identity theft and fraud, taking nearly twice as many days to detect identity theft and fraud compared to other age groups. They are also the least likely to monitor their accounts and are victims for longer periods of time.

Overall, the number of identity theft and fraud victims in the U.S. in 2009 grew to nearly 5 percent of the population. Since businesses are helping to prevent identity theft, protect consumer identities, and respond to fraud incidents, consumers are benefitting as a result and out of pocket costs reached an all-time low of $373 in 2009, according to the survey.

Along with businesses, consumers can play a key role in preventing, detecting, and resolving identity theft and fraud committed against them. Recommendations for prevention, detection, and resolution of identity theft and fraud include:

  • Preventing criminal access to paper documents;
  • Preventing high-tech criminal access to information online;
  • Detecting unauthorized activity in existing information;
  • Detecting fraudulent establishment of new accounts, and;
  • Reporting problems immediately and taking advantage of loss protection offers.

For more information about the fast-growing problem of identity theft and fraud, visit to read the latest news on the subject. Employment Screening Resources (ESR) will post additional information in the future on how to prevent and protect against identity theft and fraud.


New CO Law Gives Ex-Convicts More of a Chance to Find Jobs and Employers Less of a Chance of Liability from Negligent Hiring

By Thomas Ahearn, ESR Staff Writer

A recent article in the Denver Business Journal reveals details about a little-known bill that may have a big impact on the business community in Colorado with regards to employer liability from negligent hiring.

House Bill 10-1023 ‘Employer Liability Negligent Hiring’, recently signed into law by Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, prohibits the criminal history of an employee from being part of a lawsuit against the employee’s business unless that criminal history has direct applicability to the legal action.

According to the article, the bill was sponsored by Rep. Mark Waller (R-Colorado Springs) after he learned that businesses often do not hire applicants with criminal backgrounds no matter how long the ex-convicts have been clean or how unrelated their criminal histories are to the jobs for which they applied.

Since employers fear being sued for negligent hiring if workers they hire with criminal backgrounds do anything wrong, Waller wanted to help protect businesses from negligent hiring lawsuits while also giving ex-convicts a chance to find work. The resulting bill prohibits information concerning the criminal history of an employee from being introduced in civil actions if:

  • The employee’s record is sealed;
  • The employee received a pardon;
  • The criminal history isn’t related to the facts of the case, or;
  • The employee’s record is from an arrest or charge that did not result in a criminal conviction.

However, businesses still would be held liable for negligent hiring if they hired employees with criminal backgrounds unsuitable for their jobs, the example given the article being a person convicted of breaking and entering hired to install alarms in homes who then subsequently robs one or more of those homes. As usual, employers must use common sense in these matters.

With new laws like the one recently passed in Colorado, employers will want as much information as possible upon which to base their hiring decisions. Criminal background checks are a safe and effective way to reveal the criminal pasts of applicants and to help employers make future choices about which workers they want to hire.

For more information on criminal background checks, other methods of a safe hiring program, and the latest legal updates regarding negligent hiring, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at


Employment Screening Resources Announces Free Employer Background Check Tools

By Jared Callahan, Employment Screening Resources

Employment Screening Resources (ESR), a leading national employment screening firm based in the San Francisco area, announced today that free tools available at the ESR Resources Center to help employers hire safe, honest, and qualified applicants.

The ESR Resources Center provides employers with “All Things Background Checks.”   Employers can find among other tools:

  • A free web based interview guide generator to help employers build printed interview forms for any position. The tool allows employers to select from generic interview questions, or to create their own questions, and then create a printed form that can be saved or modified in order to conduct structured and consistent interviews.
  • The tools necessary for an employer to determine if a school is legitimate or a diploma mill.
  • An internal safe hiring audit that employers can use to measure the effectiveness of their hiring programs.
  • A summary of the letters issued by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that interprets federal law controlling background checks. 

The features are part of a commitment to provide a centralized location for employers to keep current on the critical task of hiring a workforce that is safe, qualified, and honest.  The site also allows Employers, Human Resources Leaders, Security Professionals, Recruiters, and Job Applicants to locate resources on employee screening in one place and to keep current on evolving issues affecting hiring.

Employment Screening Resources (ESR) is the firm that literally wrote the book on background checks, The Safe Hiring Manual, and provides pre-employment screening services and drug testing internationally.  The firm specializes in legal compliance expertise and industry leading technology, service, accuracy, and turnaround.

“Background screening is a critical part of the process in identifying the best employees and with these tools on the ESR Resource Center, employers are empowered to select the best candidates,” commented Jared Callahan, Director of Marketing, and a national speaker on topics related to safe hiring.  “We are very pleased to have the opportunity to provide these free tools to employers and consumers.” 

About Employment Screening Resources: Employment Screening Resources (ESR)  is a safe hiring partner and provides REAL background checks, not cheap database shortcuts or off-shoring that endangers privacy. ESR specializes in legal compliance and provides industry leading technology, service, accuracy, and turnaround.  For additional information, contact Jared Callahan by calling 415-898-0044 or emailing

New DHS Initiative Targets E-Verify Misuse and Discrimination by Employers

By Thomas Ahearn, ESR Staff Writer

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced three new initiatives to strengthen the efficiency and accuracy of the E-Verify employment eligibility verification system, including a new agreement with the Department of Justice (DOJ) that will make it easier to investigate E-Verify misuse and discrimination by participating employers.

Under the DHS and Justice Department agreement, both agencies will share information about potential abuses of the E-Verify system that employers are supposed to use only once they have hired an employee and not as a screening tool.  To ensure that E-Verify is used fairly by employers, the initiative will streamline the adjudication process to take action against employers violating civil rights laws, while also protecting the individuals authorized to work in the U.S. from national origin or citizenship-status discrimination.

E-Verify — a free, Web-based system that enhances the paper-based I-9 form — is operated in partnership by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Social Security Administration (SSA) and allows employers to electronically verify the employment eligibility of newly-hired employees against information contained in government databases. More than 192,000 employers nationwide currently use E-Verify, and the system has processed more than six million queries since October of 2009.

While E-Verify participation is voluntary for most employers, the federal government requires its contractors to use the system and several states have passed laws requiring the use of E-Verify for state contractors and private employers. Those who wish to avoid potential cases of E-Verify misuse or discrimination need to maintain compliant with new DHS initiatives, which also include an informational telephone hotline for workers and new training videos focusing on E-Verify employee rights and employer responsibilities.

Because the I-9 form is an important part of a comprehensive safe hiring strategy, employers using E-Verify may choose a third-party provider to maintain compliance. Employment Screening Resources (ESR), an authorized E-Verify Designated Agent, can help employers virtually eliminate SSA mismatch letters, improve the accuracy of wage and tax reporting, protect jobs for authorized workers, and help maintain a legal workforce. For more information, please visit


California Case Protects Constitutional Right of Background Screening Firm to Report Sex Offender Registration

A California Court of Appeals decision filed March 23, 2010 held that a background screening firm has a constitutional right to report that an applicant has appeared on the Megan’s Law website (MLW) as a registered sex offender.  The Court further held that under the California law, the prohibition on the use of such information for employment does not apply where there is a person at risk. Continue reading

SHRM Surveys Reveal 3 Out Of 4 Businesses Conduct Reference Background Checks and Criminal Background Checks

By Thomas Ahearn, ESR Staff Writer

A series of recent surveys from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reveals that when it comes to reference background checks and criminal background checks, approximately three out of four U.S. businesses perform these two types of background checks as part of their pre-employment screening programs.

According to surveys conducted in November and December of 2009 and comprised from a sample of over 400 randomly selected Human Resources professionals from SHRM’s membership, 76 percent of organizations conducted reference background checks for all job candidates, while 73 percent of organizations conducted criminal background checks for all job candidates by reviewing consumer reports of candidates.

Surprisingly, despite recent controversy surrounding the use of credit background checks in pre-employment screening, the survey found that only 13 percent of organizations performed credit background checks on all candidates, while 40 percent did not conduct any credit background checks and 47 percent performed them on selected job candidates.

As for which job categories that organizations chose to conduct background checks on, the survey revealed candidates for positions with fiduciary and financial responsibility (handling cash, banking, and accounting) led in both credit background checks (91 percent) and criminal background checks (78 percent), while 76% of job candidates who would have access to confidential employee information had reference background checks conducted that included verifying information provided by the job applicant or communicating with people regarding the job applicant such as former co-workers.

In general, organizations responding to the surveys from SHRM indicated that the following policies and procedures were in place for conducting reference, credit, and/or criminal background checks on job candidates as of 2009:

  • 95% had notified candidates that any false or intentionally misleading information provided in the application process was grounds for retracting job offers;
  • 91% had policies that no criminal background checks were conducted without signed consent from the candidates;
  • 89% had policies that only designated personnel would have access to reference, credit, and/or criminal background check information;
  • 79% had written policies for employees to follow regarding conducting reference background checks; and
  •  78% had standardized questions for the person conducting the reference background check on behalf of the organization, and written policies for employees to follow regarding conducting criminal background checks.

When asked if the number of reference, credit, and/or criminal background checks that their organizations conducted on job applicants increased, decreased, or remained the same as a result of the economic downturn, approximately three out of four respondents replied that the number had remained the same for reference background checks (74 percent), criminal background checks (73 percent), and credit background checks (71 percent). 

For more information on how employers can conduct an effective background check program, contact Employment Screening Resources (ESR).


Unrecognized, Fake and Dubious Online College Accrediting Agencies

As mentioned in earlier blogs by Employment Screening Resources (ESR), diploma mills and degree mills have created fake accreditation agencies to try to make fake degrees legitimate. According to one source, the following represents a listing of 30- plus agencies that employers may want to look at in more detail. This list is reprinted with the kind permission of which is responsible for its content:

Here is a list of 30-plus agencies that claim to accredit a variety of online and distance learning college degree programs.

NONE of these accrediting agencies are recognized as college accreditors in the U.S. by the Council on Higher Education Accreditation or the U.S. Department of Education. As such, colleges claiming ‘accreditation’ by these agencies are not widely accepted as valid providers of higher education online and should be approached with great caution if online college credibility is important to you.

  • Accreditation Council for Distance Education (ACTDE)
  • Accreditation Panel for Online Colleges and Universities (APTEC)
  • Accrediting Commission International (ACI)
  • American Accrediting Association of Theological Institutions
  • American Council of Private Colleges and Universities
  • American Association of Drugless Practitioners (ADP)
  • Association of Accredited Bible Schools
  • Association of Distance Learning Programs (ADLP)
  • Association of Private Colleges and Universities
  • Association for Online Academic Accreditation
  • Association for Online Excellence
  • Association for Online Academic Excellence
  • Board of Online Universities Accreditation (BOUA)
  • Council for Distance Education
  • Council of Online Higher Education
  • Central States Consortium of Colleges & Schools
  • International Commission for Higher Education
  • International Accreditation Agency for Online Universities (IAAOU)
  • International Accreditation Association for Online Education (IAAFOE)
  • International Accreditation Organization (IAO)
  • International Education Ministry Accreditation Association
  • International Online Education Accrediting Board (IOEAB)
  • National Academy of Higher Education
  • National Board of Education (NBOE)
  • National College Accreditation Council
  • National Commission of Accredited Schools
  • National Distance Learning Accreditation Council (NDLAC)
  • New Millenium Accrediting Partnership for Educators Worldwide
  • Organization for Online Learning Accreditation (OKOLA)
  • Transworld Accrediting Commission Intl. (TAC)
  • Universal Council for Online Education Accreditation (UCOEA)
  • United Nations Council
  • United States Distance Education & Training Council of Nevada (NOTE: A similarly titled agency, the Distance Education & Training Council (DETC), of Washington, D.C. – – is a VALID and RECOGNIZED online learning accreditation agency)
  • World Association for Online Education
  • World Association of Universities and Colleges (WAUC)
  • World Online Education Accrediting Commission (WOEAC)
  • World-Wide Accreditation Commission of Christian Educational Institutions (WWAC) 

Source:, a consumer advocacy group that reviews, rates
and ranks screened, accredited online universities:

More information on this topic is available at: