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
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
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/.
According to a new white paper – ‘Background Check Mobile Phone Apps and Instant Background Check Web Sites: Fast and Easy, But Are They Accurate?’ – users of mobile phone apps and Web sites offering so-called “instant” background checks should be aware that while these services are cheap and easy to use, they may not provide entirely accurate information. Co-written by Attorney Lester Rosen, CEO of Employment Screening Resources (ESR), a nationwide background check provider accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS), and Kerstin Bagus, Director of Global Compliance at LexisNexis® Screening Solutions, the complimentary white paper is available at http://www.esrcheck.com/Download/.
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
Just in time for Saint Valentine’s Day, new technology such as online dating background checks can supposedly help users find out the answer to the question above in mere seconds and with little effort or cost. However, while these new online dating background check services appear extremely fast and easy to use, the information provided by them may not be wholly accurate or complete. Continue reading
By Thomas Ahearn, Employment Screening Resources (ESR) News Editor
A story about a student in Florida who searched his name using the search engine Google and found out he was wanted for murder shows why employers should not just depend solely on Google – or any other Internet search engine – to take the place of “real” pre-employment background checks when screening for information about job candidates.
According the a report from ABC News, the 18-year-old University of Florida student, Zachary Garcia, searched for himself online using the massively popular search engine Google and discovered that his name and photograph were connected to a felony murder that took place in September.
Officers with the Polk County (FL) Sheriff’s Office said Zachary Garcia was charged with murder in a news release, but the real murder suspect was named Zachery (spelled with an ‘e’) Garcia. The story was reported by several media outlets that also broadcast a driver’s license photo of the wrong Garcia (Zachary, with an ‘a’) in connection with the alleged murder, ABC News reports. In another strange twist, a spokesman with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office said the two men with very similar names also happened to share the same day of birth, although they were born one year apart.
ABC News also reports that the Polk County sheriff sent the student a formal letter apologizing for the error and vowed to correct the misinformation. The sheriff also said that while the news release named the wrong Garcia, official booking documents never contained the same error.
In the story, Zachary Garcia, a freshman, said he hopes the search engine screw-up does not affect his future since employers may background check his name online and may not hire him because of the mix-up. He said he is speaking out about what happened to him because he wants others to know that it could happen to them: “The Internet is not always right.”
This story is proof positive why employers cannot rely only on cheap, quick, and convenient Internet searches using Google or other search engines in place of “real” background checks from companies like Employment Screening Resources (ESR), which is accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (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.
For more information about “real” background checks, and how employers can find the most accurate and current data about job candidates, visit the Employment Screening Resources website at http://www.ESRcheck.com.
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). For more information about Employment Screening Resources, visit http://www.ESRcheck.com or contact Jared Callahan, ESR Director of Client Relations and Business Development, at 415.898.0044 or jcallahan@ESRcheck.com.
By Lester Rosen, ESR President
Numerous internet sites have sprung up in recent years promising cheap or instant background checks that deliver criminal information on anyone. 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 if someone is a criminal at the click of a button. These databases appear to offer employers an instant criminal check 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, anyone who thinks they are getting a real criminal 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, and people without reportable records can be incorrectly identified as criminals, both results carrying negative financial and legal implications for employers.
Anyone using these databases, especially for employment purposes, needs to understand the limitations and legal exposure associated with using them. If they don’t, employers may find themselves embroiled in litigation. Here are just some of the issues:
- Multi-jurisdictional database 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 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 search at the county level under any circumstances (or the functional equivalent of a county level search). The best use for these databases is to indicate additional places for a background firm to search in case a record is found in a jurisdiction that was not searched at the county court level.
- In addition, many states have very limited database information that is available to employers. Examples of states where such databases may have very limited value are California and New York. Texas is another state where database information can be wildly inaccurate.
- Databases in each state are compiled from a number of sources. There are a number of reasons that database information may not be accurate or complete. Because of the nature of databases, the appearance of a person’s name on a database is not an indication the person is criminal any more than the absence of a name shows he/she is not a criminal. In other words, these databases can contain results that are a “false positive,” or a “false negative.” Any lack of a match is not the same as a person being “cleared.”
- Another reason a database search can be inaccurate is the technical nature of how searches are performed. Searches are often based upon matching last name, the date of birth and the first three letters of the first name in order to eliminate computer matches that are not applicable. In some states, there is no or limited date of birth information which means a search of that state will have little or no value. Or, a person may have been arrested under a different first name.
- There are also significant legal complications for employers. Any search from an internet site for employment is subject to the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) an often times state laws, which highly regulates employment background checks. There are some instant “criminal sites” that do not bother to make that clear or mention it only in the “fine print.”
In addition, before relying on a database search for employment, FCRA Section 613 must be followed. That section requires that if a criminal matter is found that can adversely affect employment, then a letter should be sent to the applicant by the agency providing the information, which many web sites certainly do not do for employers. This option is not even allowed under California law. The other option is to reconfirm all “hits” at the county court level to insure that the information is accurate, complete and up to date at the time it is reported.
Also, keep in mind that a criminal record should not be used to automatically disqualify an applicant, without taking into account the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) rules as to what is a job-related criminal offense. Otherwise, an employer may find themselves facing allegations of discrimination. In addition, the use of criminal records for employment is also intensely regulated by many states, and without professional guidance, employers may use information that is impermissible, again exposing an employer
The bottom-line: These do it yourself “criminal “searches are not always as advertised. Unless you are a professional, such a search can easily lead an employer astray or get them into legal hot water. Even for non-employers that want to check out someone, such as someone that wants to screen a potential “date,” it is critical to understand that these sites are NOT the real thing when it comes to criminal checks, since in many instances the search can have holes in them the seize of Texas.