Tag Archives: FBI

GAO Releases Report on Criminal History Records


Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) – the “congressional watchdog” investigating how the federal government spends taxpayer dollars – has released a report on the use of criminal background checks titled ‘Criminal History Records: Additional Actions Could Enhance the Completeness of Records Used For Employment-Related Background Checks (GAO-15-162).’ The complete report from the GAO is available at http://www.esrcheck.com/file/GAO-Criminal-History-Records-Report.pdf. Continue reading

Use of Commercial Criminal Databases Becoming More Controversial as Employers Face More Risk when Screening

The use of commercial criminal databases and cheap “do it yourself” background check web sites will be the focus of increased scrutiny and controversy in 2014 as employers face more risk when screening job applicants as the demand for accuracy in background check reports rises. This is Trend Number Three of the 7th Annual Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) ‘Top Ten Background Check Trends’ for 2014. For more information about the trends, please visit http://www.esrcheck.com/ESR-Top-Ten-Background-Check-Trends. Continue reading

Congressional Briefing on Consequences of Inaccurate Background Checks for Employment Scheduled for October 1

A Congressional Briefing entitled ‘The Consequences of Inaccurate Employment Background Checks’ that should feature a report from the National Law Employment Project (NELP) – ‘Wanted: Accurate FBI Background Checks for Employment’ – that examines the accuracy of Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) background checks will take place Tuesday, October 1, 2013 at 4:00 PM in Room 121 of the Cannon House Office Building (CHOB) in Washington D.C. The report from NELP is available at http://www.nelp.org/accurateFBIrecords. Continue reading

House Bill 2865 Seeks to Provide Fairness and Accuracy in FBI Criminal Background Checks for Employment

A bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives – ‘H.R. 2865 – Fairness and Accuracy in Employment Background Checks Act of 2013’ – seeks to provide safeguards with respect to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) criminal background checks prepared for employment purposes. The complete text of H.R. 2865 is available at http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/113/hr2865/text. Continue reading

Report Finds Many FBI Criminal Background Checks for Employment Contain Inaccurate Information

The National Employment Law Project (NELP) has released a report – ‘Wanted: Accurate FBI Background Checks for Employment’ – that estimates 1.8 million workers a year are subjected to Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) background checks that contain “faulty or incomplete information” and that as many as 600,000 of those workers “may be prejudiced in their job search” because of inaccurate FBI records. The complete report is available at http://nelp.3cdn.net/bd23dee1b42cff073c_8im6va8d2.pdf. Continue reading

FBI Background Checks for Employment Containing Inaccurate Information Can Cost Applicants Jobs

Employers that use Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) criminal databases to background check job applicants could be basing employment decisions on inaccurate information that can cost applicants job opportunities, according to an article in The Washington Post available at http://wapo.st/17cC0Kn. Continue reading

News Reports about Bank Firing Employee for 40 Year Old Shoplifting Charge Do Not Tell Entire Story

Recent news reports about how an employee of Wells Fargo in Milwaukee, Wisconsin was fired after a background check uncovered two 40-year-old shoplifting arrests from 1972 when she was 18 do not tell the entire story, according to one safe hiring expert, since there are two avenues that allow applicants and employees with minor offenses to work at banks. A Wells Fargo spokesman said the 58-year-old woman, who worked in customer service in the Home Mortgage department for five years and received numerous recognition awards, was terminated because Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) law prohibits the bank “from hiring or continuing the employment of any person who we know has a criminal record involving dishonesty or breach of trust.” Continue reading

Employers Discover Fast and Cheap Online Background Checks Using Criminal Databases Not Always Accurate or Legal

By Lester Rosen, Employment Screening Resources (ESR) President & Thomas Ahearn, ESR News Editor

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.

This is Trend #3 in Employment Screening Resources (ESR) Fourth Annual ‘Top Ten Trends in Background Screening’ for 2011.

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:

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:

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:

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.

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 http://www.napbs.com.  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, http://www.esrcheck.com/ESRadvantage.php

For more information about background check scams, unauthorized background checks, FBI criminal databases, and other related topics, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at http://www.esrcheck.com.



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 http://www.esrcheck.com.