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  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,

For more information about background check scams, unauthorized background checks, FBI criminal databases, and other related topics, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at