The accuracy of background checks has come under greater scrutiny after several reported cases of falsified investigations. The Federal Times reports the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) – which oversees background investigations for the government – is investigating a growing list of cases involving the alleged falsifying of security clearance background checks while a “consistent backlog” of similar cases awaits investigation due to a lack of resources. The complete story is available at http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20130707/ACQUISITION03/307070009/Backlog-bogus-background-checks-grows. Continue reading
A former contractor who was hired to perform background checks on U.S. government workers filed a 2006 report with results of his investigation in which he claimed to have interviewed a person who had been dead for more than ten years, according to a report from Bloomberg Businessweek. The full story is available at http://www.businessweek.com/news/2013-07-08/dead-interviewed-as-investigators-falsify-u-dot-s-dot-background-checks. Continue reading
A bipartisan group of Senators has introduced legislation – the Security Clearance Oversight and Reform Enhancement (SCORE) Act – to increase oversight as to how the United States government conducts background investigations and awards security clearances. The SCORE Act would also hold government employees and contractors more accountable for falsifying background investigations. A copy of the SCORE Act is available at http://www.scribd.com/doc/152980145/Tester-s-bipartisan-SCORE-Act. Continue reading
In a story demonstrating the importance of accreditation standards for private background screening firms, the Federal Times reports that the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) – which oversees background investigations for the government – is investigating a growing list of cases involving the alleged falsifying of security clearance background checks while a “consistent backlog” of similar cases awaits investigation. The complete story is available on the Federal Times website at http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20130707/ACQUISITION03/307070009/Backlog-bogus-background-checks-grows. Continue reading
The private contractor responsible for the security clearance screening of Edward Snowden – who later leaked classified documents to the media that revealed a secret surveillance program by the National Security Agency (NSA) – is under investigation by the federal government for allegedly conducting inadequate background checks, according to a report by The Charlotte Observer. The full story is available at http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2013/06/20/4119462/contractor-responsible-for-snowdens.html. Continue reading
In response to a government investigation that revealed more than nine out of ten nursing homes hired criminals, San Francisco, California-area Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – a background screening company accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS) – has released background check toolkit for nursing homes and home health care to help them avoid “bad hires” too unqualified, unfit, or dangerous to work with vulnerable populations such as the elderly and infirmed. Continue reading
The United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released a report to the Chairman, Committee on Education and Labor, House of Representatives that revealed high rates of employees in all sorts of positions at both public and private schools – including teachers, volunteers, aides, support staff, and contractors – who had records of inappropriate sexual conduct and convictions for sex-related crimes.
The GAO report dated December 2010 – ‘K-12 EDUCATION – Selected Cases of Public and Private Schools That Hired or Retained Individuals with Histories of Sexual Misconduct’ – examined 15 cases that showed that individuals with histories of sexual misconduct were hired or retained by public and private schools as teachers, support staff, volunteers, and contractors. At least 11 of these 15 cases involved sex offenders who previously targeted children, and at least 6 cases involved offenders who used their new positions as school employees or volunteers to abuse more children.
The GAO report revealed that the following factors contributed to hiring or retention of sex offenders:
- School officials allowed teachers who had engaged in sexual misconduct toward students to resign rather than face disciplinary action, often providing subsequent employers with positive references;
- Schools did not perform pre-employment criminal history checks;
- Even if schools did perform pre-employment criminal history checks, they may have been inadequate in that they were not national, fingerprint-based, or recurring; and
- Schools failed to inquire into troubling information regarding criminal histories on employment applications.
Some examples of cases from around the United States that the GAO examined for the report include:
- Ohio: A teacher forced to resign because of inappropriate conduct with female students received a letter of recommendation from the school superintendent calling him an “outstanding teacher.” After being subsequently hired at a neighboring district, he was convicted for sexual battery against a sixth grade girl.
- Louisiana: A teacher and registered sex offender whose Texas teaching certificate had been revoked was hired by several Louisiana schools without receiving a criminal history check. A warrant is currently out for his arrest on charges of engaging in sexual conversations with a student at one of these schools.
- Arizona: A school rushing to fill a position did not conduct a criminal history check before hiring a teacher who had been convicted for sexually abusing a minor, even though he disclosed on his application that he had committed a dangerous crime against a child. He was later convicted for having sexual contact with a young female student.
- California: A sex offender was convicted for molesting a minor in 2000 and the school where he worked was aware of his conviction but did not fire him. After the GAO referred the case to the California Attorney General, officials placed the sex offender, who has since resigned, on administrative leave.
The GAO report also found no federal laws regulating the employment of sex offenders in public or private schools and varying laws at the state level. While some states required a national, fingerprint-based criminal history checks for school employment, others states did not. State laws also varied as to whether past convictions would result in termination from school employment, revocation of a teaching license, or refusal to hire.
GAO performed the study after a 2004 Department of Education report estimated that millions of students are subjected to sexual misconduct by a school employee at some time between kindergarten and the twelfth grade (K-12). GAO was asked to:
- Examine the circumstances surrounding cases where K-12 schools hired or retained individuals with histories of sexual misconduct and determine the factors contributing to such employment actions and
- Provide an overview of selected federal and state laws related to the employment of convicted sex offenders in K-12 schools.
To identify case studies, the GAO compared recent data in employment databases from 19 states and the District of Columbia to the National Sex Offender Registry and also searched public records to identify cases where sexual misconduct by school employees resulted in a criminal conviction. GAO ultimately selected 15 cases from 11 states for further investigation.
Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – a leading background check provider accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS) performs sexual offender searches as well as criminal record searches around the United States supplemented by a national multi-jurisdictional search. Although no one search is perfect, ESR recommends a series of overlapping tools that must also include checking professional licenses and verifying past employment, especially looking for unexplained gaps in employment where an offender may try to hide past negative information.
For more information on background checks, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at http://www.ESRcheck.com.
By Thomas Ahearn, Employment Screening Resources (ESR) News Editor
A member of the U.S. House of Representatives responding to an editorial in the Washington Post wrote that the E-Verify electronic employment eligibility verification system helps employers check the immigration status of workers and maintain a legal workforce, and also that E-Verify can only be used on new hires and not for screening job applicants.
The January 22 Washington Post editorial, ‘The limits of immigration enforcement,’ focused on one of the world’s largest food processing firms that recently received a federal seal of approval for its hiring practices from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after officials from the agency checked employment records for just about every one of the more than 100,000 workers employed by the company. Although roughly a quarter of a million companies have enrolled in E-Verify – which is described as “a federal program that screens potential new hires for employment eligibility” in the 1/22 editorial – most companies seem reluctant to have existing workforces checked since the U.S. labor force contains an estimated 6 to 7 million undocumented immigrants.
The following response appeared in the Washington Post on January 27, in part to support use of E-Verify but also to remind employers that E-Verify can only be used after a job applicant is hired and should not be used as a method of background screening:
Helping employers check workers’ immigration status
Contrary to the Jan. 22 editorial “The limits of immigration enforcement,” the E-Verify federal program is not used on potential hires, as the editorial stated. It can be used only for newly hired employees. In order to prevent discrimination, the Web-based E-Verify program, administered by the Department of Homeland Security, prohibits employers from using E-Verify to screen potential hires. Rather, E-Verify is a tool to confirm that the information given on an I-9 form, which is required for every new employee, is correct.
As a former small-business owner in the restaurant industry, I found it frustrating that employers were expected to hire legal workers but were given no tools to do so. Since employers cannot be expected to be document experts, when I became a member of Congress I created E-Verify as a way to provide employers a simple, free and easy way to check the information provided on the I-9. Fifteen years later, E-Verify has exceeded expectations through the use of biometric data for non-citizens, is 99.6 percent accurate and continues to improve, expand and evolve.
Ken Calvert, Washington
The writer, a California Republican, is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Recently, a story in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) ‘Crackdown on Illegal Workers Grow’ told how ICE had announced that it was cracking down on larger companies that may employ undocumented workers. ICE conducted audits of more than 2,740 companies in the fiscal year 2010, nearly twice as many as the previous fiscal year, and levied a record $7 million in civil fines on businesses employing illegal workers, according to the WSJ.
Because of this, U.S. businesses are getting their employment records, particularly the Employment Eligibility Verification Form (“I-9 form”), in order. Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – a background check firm accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS) – is also a Designated E-Verify Employer Agent that can help employers virtually eliminate I-9 form errors, improve the accuracy of their reporting, protect jobs for authorized workers, and maintain a legal workforce.
For more information on E-Verify Service from Employment Screening Resources (ESR), visit http://www.esrcheck.com/formi9.php.
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.
In a case pitting individual privacy rights of citizens against national security concerns of a country, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously overturned a ruling limiting government inquiries about contract workers at a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) laboratory and ruled the federal government can ask employees about their drug treatment, medical conditions, or other personal matters during background checks and that the questions did not violate the constitutional privacy rights of employees. Continue reading
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.