When the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) was formed in 2003 as a professional trade association for the background screening industry, the idea of an accreditation process was a central driving force in order to demonstrate that background screening was a professional endeavor. Currently, NAPBS accreditation is quickly becoming a requirement of many employers when considering a background screening provider since it is the only practical means of third party verification of the professionalism and competency of a particular screening firm. This is Trend Number 5 of the fifth annual ‘Employment Screening Resources (ESR) Top 10 Trends in Background Checks’ for 2012. To view the list of trends, visit http://www.esrcheck.com/ESR-Top-10-Trends-in-Background-Checks-for-2012.php. Continue reading
If jobseekers want to get hired for a job these days, they will probably have to undergo a background check. And if they have to undergo a background check, it would be in their best interest to make sure the information found on the background check is accurate, up-to-date, and complete. As a result, some jobseekers are taking matters in their own hands by proactively conducting “self” background checks on themselves to verify the accuracy of their public information. This is Trend #10 on the list of the fifth annual Employment Screening Resources (ESR) ‘Top 10 Trends in Background Checks’ for 2012. To view the list, visit http://www.esrcheck.com/ESR-Top-10-Trends-in-Background-Checks-for-2012.php. Continue reading
A new class action lawsuit filed in federal court on August 23, 2011 underscores once again the importance of background screening firms following the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). According to the civil complaint for damages, a background screening firm allegedly reported sexual offender data on applicants based solely upon a name match only, without making any effort whatsoever to confirm if the data belonged to the applicant. The suit alleges that such a practice violated the rule contained in FCRA section 607(b) that a screening firm must take reasonable procedure to assure maximum possible accuracy.
Consumers worried about the privacy of their personal information online will be happy to learn a recent posting on social news website Reddit.com – ‘HOW TO: Remove Yourself from ALL background check websites’ – provides a list of top data aggregator websites that collect the personal information of consumers for “background check” purposes and also instructions on how consumers may “opt out” of these websites with removal procedures and direct links. For information on how to “opt out” of data aggregator websites, visit http://www.reddit.com/r/technology/comments/j1mit/how_to_remove_yourself_from_all_background_check/. The “opt out” information is also reprinted in the article ‘How to Remove Yourself From Background Check Sites’ on the website GeekSystem.com at http://www.geekosystem.com/get-off-background-check-sites/.
Users of mobile phone apps and Web sites offering “instant” background checks on anyone at any time with little effort or cost should be aware that while these services are fast, cheap, and easy to use, they may not provide entirely accurate information, according to the white paper ‘Background Check Mobile Phone Apps and Instant Background Check Web Sites: Fast and Easy, But Are They Accurate?’ The complimentary white paper, by Lester Rosen, CEO of Employment Screening Resources (ESR), and Kerstin Bagus, Director of Global Compliance at LexisNexis® Screening Solutions, is available on the ESR website at http://www.esrcheck.com/Download/. Continue reading
By Thomas Ahearn, Employment Screening Resources (ESR) News Editor
A recent article on the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) website – ‘Employers Tread a Minefield’ – warns employers about “tripping over legal potholes in social media” if they choose to fire people over alleged social media infractions as more employees and job applicants access popular social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
While job seekers and employees have been warned that what they post on popular social network sites such as Facebook and Twitter during their private time could come back to haunt their public careers, employers are now increasingly facing questions about their own policies regarding social media usage that outlines what is, and what is not, appropriate.
Due to the fact that these social network sites are a virtual treasure trove of personal information about employees and job applicants, the WSJ article cautions employers about the potential for litigation over social media use of employees, citing several legal cases as examples.
- A National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) judge – in the federal agency’s first ‘social media complaint’ – will soon consider whether a medical transportation company illegally fired a worker in Connecticut after she criticized her boss on Facebook (UPDATE: Connecticut Facebook Firing Settlement Talks in Works).
- Workers in New Jersey sued a restaurant company when they were dismissed after managers accessed a private Myspace page the employees set up to chat about work.
- A Silicon Valley company was sued twice for comments an anonymous blogger (who was also an attorney for the company at the time) made about two lawyers and their patent-infringement suit against the company.
- A former Georgia high school teacher has sued the local school district claiming that she was forced to resign her position over photos on Facebook that showed her drinking alcohol during a vacation in Europe.
While information about job applicants and employees found on social media may seem tempting to employers, viewing such information could lead to issues of discrimination, privacy, and authenticity and accuracy if a person is a victim of “cyber slamming.”
Yet, despite these dangers, employers seem intent on using social media for screening. A 2009 survey of more than 2,600 hiring managers conducted by leading job networking site CareerBuilder.com found nearly half of employers – 45 percent – used social networking sites to research candidates. The survey also revealed that 35 percent of employers rejected job applicants based on what was uncovered on social networking sites. Of these 35 percent:
- 53 percent cited provocative/inappropriate photographs or information.
- 44 percent cited content about drinking or using drugs.
- 35 percent cited bad-mouthing of previous employers, co-workers or clients.
- 29 percent cited poor communication skills.
- 26 percent cited discriminatory comments.
- 24 percent cited misrepresentation of qualifications.
- 20 percent cited sharing confidential information from a previous employer.
Experts quoted in the WSJ article say the best defense against legal action for employers is to establish a social media policy and train employees about the policy, something that experts estimate that fewer than half of U.S. companies have done. In the meantime, the amount of legal action resulting from employer missteps in social media is likely to rise.
The issue of using social network sites such as Facebook to screen job candidates increasing the legal risk for employers was the Number 6 Background Screening Trend for 2011 for 2011. For a complete list of the Employment Screening Resources (ESR) Fourth Annual ‘Top Ten Trends in Background Screening’ for 2011, visit http://www.esrcheck.com/Top-Ten-Trends-In-Background-Screening-2011.php.
In addition, Lester Rosen, safe hiring expert and founder and President of Employment Screening Resources (ESR), a background check company accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS), recently participated in a podcast on BackInfoSecurity.com, ‘Background Checks: Beware Social Media,’ and talked about how employers use, and sometimes abuse, social media for background checks. For more information, visit http://www.bankinfosecurity.com/podcasts.php?podcastID=951.
Founded in 1996 in the San Francisco area, Employment Screening Resources (ESR) wrote the book on background checks with ‘The Safe Hiring Manual’ by ESR founder and President Lester Rosen and is accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) . To learn more about Employment Screening Resources, visit http://www.ESRcheck.com or contact Jared Callahan, ESR Director of Client Relations, at 415.898.0044 or jcallahan@ESRcheck.com.
According to an age old platitude, “If something looks too good to be true, it probably is,” so employers should be wary of fast and cheap online criminal background checks that promise accurate and legal information on job applicants at the click of a mouse or the touch of a screen.
The need for accurate and reliable information should be obvious to anyone dealing with background checks. Even so, numerous internet sites have sprung up recently promising cheap, almost instant background checks that deliver criminal information to anyone, anywhere, and in seconds. These sites utilize a so-called “national criminal database” and vendors of such databases typically claim to have compiled millions of records from every state so users can know instantly if someone is a criminal at a very low price.
Although a multi-state records database can be a powerful tool when used by a qualified employment screening firm as part of an overall background check, employers who think they are getting a real criminal background check can be in for a rude awaking when they discover that such searches are far from the real thing. Applicants with criminal records can easily be missed, while people without records can be incorrectly identified as criminals. Both results carry negative financial and legal implications for employers.
Employers using these databases for employment purposes need to understand the limitations and legal exposure associated with using them or risk finding themselves embroiled in litigation. Employers are quickly discovering that fast and cheap online background checks using criminal databases not always accurate or legal.
Here are just some of the issues with these databases:
- Multi-jurisdictional databases are NOT official FBI database searches. FBI records are only available to certain employers or industries where Congress or a state has granted access. Searches offered by “fast and cheap” web sites are drawn from government data that is commercially available or has been made public.
- So-called national criminal searches are a research tool only and are not a substitute for a hands-on criminal record search at the county level by researchers. The best use for these databases is to indicate additional places for a background check firm to search.
- Many states have very limited database information available for employers. Examples of states where databases may have limited value are California, New York, and Texas.
- Databases in each state are compiled from sources that may not be accurate or complete and can contain results that are “false positives” or “false negatives.” A person’s name in a database is not an indication that person is criminal any more than the absence of that person’s name shows the person is not a criminal.
- Database searches can be inaccurate due to searches often being based upon matching last name, the date of birth, and the first three letters of the first name to eliminate computer matches that are not applicable. However, in some states, there is limited or no date of birth information or a person may have been arrested under a different first name.
- There are also significant legal complications for employers since any search from an internet site for employment is subject to the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) which highly regulates employment background checks. There are some “instant criminal check sites” that do not bother to make that clear or mention it only in the “fine print.”
Accurate background checks are important because inaccurate or “stale” (not current) information on background checks can disrupt the lives and careers of employees and job seekers alike and as the following examples from ESR News indicate:
- Inaccurate Criminal Background Check Information Leaves Innocent Man Jobless
- Background Checks Using Only Internet Search Engines Like Google Can Misinform Employers about Job Candidates
- Error in Criminal Database Search during Background Check Falsely Labels Candidate a Crook
In addition, in some cases “fast and cheap” can be a code word a background check scam. With so many people looking for work in the current economy and willing to do just about anything to land a decent job, background check scams were unfortunately a commonplace occurrence in 2010. Instances of falsified or outright fake background check investigations for employment purposes are on the rise, as indicated by these reports on ESR News:
- Ohio Business Owner Ordered to Repay Nearly $750,000 for Forging Employee Criminal Background Checks
- Former College Basketball Star Indicted for Alleged Background Check and Jobs Scam
- Nebraska Man Accused of Running Background Check Scam
- Better Business Bureau Warns Jobseekers of Job Scams Involving Background Checks and Credit Reports
With the unemployment rate just under 10 percent and approximately 15 million Americans unemployed, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) issued a warning to jobseekers about scammers taking advantage of the current weak economy by targeting unemployed people desperate to work, scams including false background checks and unnecessary credit report checks. The BBB has identified the following job scam “red flags” to help jobseekers to protect themselves while they search for a job:
- The employer asks for money upfront for a background check or training: The BBB has heard about jobseekers that paid phony employers upfront fees for supposedly required background checks or training for jobs that didn’t exist.
- The employer requires check of a credit report: The BBB warns that employers that ask job applicants to check their credit reports before they get work may be attempting to get the jobseekers to divulge sensitive financial information.
- The employer offers the opportunity to become rich without leaving home: The BBB advises jobseekers to be use extreme caution when considering a work-at-home offer and always research the company with BBB at http://www.bbb.org.
- The employer offers salary and benefits that seem too-good-to-be-true: The BBB uses an old adage – “If the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” – to demonstrate how phony employers lure unsuspecting job hunters into their scam.
- The employer’s e-mails have many errors in grammar and spelling: The BBB warns that online fraud is often done by scammers outside the U.S. and English is not their first language, as evidenced by poor grammar and misspelling of common words.
- The employer asks for personal information too quickly: The BBB warns that job applicants should never give out their Social Security Numbers or bank account information over the phone or by email until they confirm the job is legitimate.
- The employer requires money wire transactions or dealing of goods: The BBB also warns jobseekers about cashing checks sent by companies and wiring a portion of the money to another entity or receiving and mailing suspicious goods.
The recent surge in scams involving background checks underscores the need for employers to make sure that they are dealing with legitimate screening firms when outsourcing background checks. At a bare minimum, the background check firm should belong to the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS). In addition, NAPBS has announced a Background Screening Agency Accreditation Program (BSAAP) that will also help employers locate professional and legitimate suppliers of background checks.
These stories are proof positive why employers cannot rely only on cheap and quick searches using Internet databases or search engines like Google check in place of “real” background checks from companies like Employment Screening Resources (ESR), which is accredited by the NAPBS Background Screening Credentialing Council (BSCC). ESR uses trained background check specialists that research criminal and civil court records, driving records, credit checks, social security number traces, employment references, educational verifications, and more.
Hiring (and firing) decisions made by employers must be based on timely and accurate background check information. Erroneous and out of date background check information exposes employers not only to bad hiring decisions but also to potential litigation from those people harmed by such data. In fact, the subject of database information accuracy gained national attention when the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) came under fire for “flawed” information used in government background checks. As reported in ESR News:
- NY Times Editorial Focuses On Flawed FBI Background Checks
- FBI Letter Responds To NY Times Editorial on Flawed Criminal Background Checks
- Bill Would Strengthen Accuracy of Employment Background Checks Using FBI Criminal Database
- National Criminal Databases Always Work On TV Crime Dramas, Not Always In Real Life
For more information on databases searches, read ‘Criminal Databases & Pre-Employment Screening: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly’ by ESR founder and President Lester Rosen, which investigates all aspects of criminal database searches:
- The Good: Criminal records database searches are valuable because they cover a much larger geographical area than traditional searches, which are run at the county level. Since there are more than 3,200 jurisdictions in America, not all courts can be checked on-site.
- The Bad: Despite their value, criminal records databases have serious flaws, including incomplete records, name variations, and untimely information. Also keep in mind that database checks by private screening firms are NOT FBI records.
- The Ugly: Inaccuracy is only one pitfall of national criminal database searches. They also make employers vulnerable to a number of legal landmines, especially when it comes to confirming if the record is current and accurate and even belongs to the applicant.
For more information about “real” background checks, background check scams, FBI criminal databases, and how employers can find the most accurate and current data about job candidates, visit the Employment Screening Resources (ESR) website at http://www.ESRcheck.com.
Employment Screening Resources (ESR) is releasing the ESR Fourth Annual ‘Top Ten Trends in Pre-Employment Background Screening’ for 2011 throughout December. This is the Third of the Top Ten Trends ESR will be tracking in 2011. To see an updated list of ESR’s ‘Top Ten Trends in Pre-Employment Background Screening’ for 2011, visit: http://www.esrcheck.com/Top-Ten-Trends-In-Background-Screening-2011.php.
Founded in 1996 in the San Francisco Bay area, Employment Screening Resources (ESR) is the company that wrote the book on background checks with ‘The Safe Hiring Manual’ by ESR founder and President Lester Rosen. Employment Screening Resources is accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) Background Screening Credentialing Council (BSCC) for proving compliance with the Background Screening Agency Accreditation Program (BSAAP). ESR was the third U.S. background check firm to be ‘Safe Harbor’ Certified for data privacy protection. To learn more about ESR’s Leadership, Resources, and Solutions, visit http://www.ESRcheck.com or contact Jared Callahan, ESR Director of Client Relations, at 415.898.0044 or jcallahan@ESRcheck.com.
A case decided by a federal district court demonstrates the need for background screening firms to exercise reasonable procedures for maximum possible accuracy in order to avoid lawsuits for punitive damages.
In that case, the plaintiff alleged among other things that his background report unnecessarily repeated information about a single criminal incident multiple times, so that the criminal record appeared much more serous then it was. The case was brought on behalf of not only the plaintiff, but on also on behalf of “the thousands of employment applicants throughout the country who have purportedly been the subject of prejudicial, misleading and inaccurate background reports performed by Defendant and sold to employers.”