Do I need to do background checks?

The simple answer is that unless you are required by federal or state law or by contract to conduct background checks, you don’t have to. But why wouldn’t you want to? Why wouldn’t you want to confirm the information provided to you by your applicant? Why wouldn’t you want to know if there are any issues in the applicant’s background that could affect the health, safety and well being of your firm, your staff and those whom you serve? Why wouldn’t you want to protect yourself against expensive litigation resulting from your failure to perform your “due diligence”? You should want to. And we can help you make that happen.

 Back to questions

What is FCRA?

FCRA stands for Fair Credit Reporting Act, a federal law that governs background checks and mandates that certain procedures must be followed to insure the rights of applicants. Violations of the FCRA carry substantial penalties.

 Back to questions

Do I need an applicant’s permission to conduct a background check?

Yes. If the background check is for employment purposes, the applicant must provide authorization in writing, per the FCRA.

 Back to questions

I’m not ordering a Credit Report, why do I need to be concerned about the FCRA?

The Fair Credit Reporting Act governs all background checks— not just credit reports. The Act defines permissible purposes, how the information is handled, and what procedures and documentation must be followed. It also defines the procedures to be followed when an applicant is denied a job based on the results. All Human Resource and Loss Prevention personnel should be familiar with the provisions of the FCRA. The full text is available by clicking on this link: (FCRA attachment).

 Back to questions

We ordered a criminal records search, but we gave you the wrong spelling of the applicant’s name, and nothing was found. However, the Social Security Number that we provided was correct. That means that the applicant is okay, right?

With few exceptions, court records are always searched using the name that you provide. If we are able to obtain a name match with a defendant in court records, we then attempt to confirm the identity of the defendant by matching the date of birth that you provide. The SSN is very helpful for many searches, but it is rarely used in criminal records searches. Remember that most courts throughout the United States have stripped SSNs from their records in an attempt to prevent identity theft. You should also consider using our SSN Verification which can provide us with alternate names and spellings that an applicant may have used, as well as an extensive residence history.

 Back to questions

We have an applicant who has lived in several states. Where should we check for criminal and/or civil records?

There is an old adage that 90% of automobile accidents occur within four blocks of the driver’s home. In the same vein, 90% of all criminal acts or civil wrongs occur within the jurisdiction in which the applicant has lived or worked. Most criminal acts or civil wrongs are not well planned schemes, but are acts of passion and/or opportunity, and are most likely to occur where the applicant spends most of his or her time – home or work. Therefore, we suggest that all jurisdictions of residency and employment within the past seven years be searched. Just searching the current residence jurisdiction could lead to a false sense of security.

 Back to questions

Some online companies offer nationwide criminal records searches with a very fast turnaround time. Do you offer that also?

Our USA Criminal Screen is a multi-jurisdiction database containing millions of criminal records contributed by, and gathered from, hundreds of jurisdictions and law enforcement entities across the US. It is a wonderful tool that complements the on-site criminal records searches done at county and federal courts and statewide repositories. However, the USA Criminal Screen and what other companies promote as “nationwide” database searches are not meant to be used individually, but should be used in tandem with targeted criminal records searches. The USA Criminal Screen, like all database searches, is not compliant with the FCRA. Any derogatory information provided by the USA Criminal Screen, should be confirmed by a standard criminal records search in the jurisdiction where the offense occurred.

 Back to questions

Which searches should I request?

The searches that you request should be predicated on the position for which the applicant has applied, and should not only be appropriate for that position, but should be requested on all applicants for that position. Please feel free to call us so that we can discuss your needs and recommend searches that would be appropriate for your company and the particular positions within your firm.

 Back to questions

County searches, statewide searches, federal searches and the USA Criminal Screen? I’m confused. Isn’t there just a plain criminal records search?

First, there are two separate and distinct court systems in the United States. Federal courts hear cases involving violations of federal laws, while state and county courts hear cases involving violations of state and local laws. A search of the records in a federal court will not find any trace or mention of a case filed in a state court— and vice versa.

99% of all criminal and civil cases are filed in, and resolved in state and local courts. The law of averages suggests that would be the logical first place to look for court records. However, the remaining 1% of cases that involve violations of federal law and are filed in federal courts are typically very serious cases, and can involve charges and issues such as bank fraud, bribery, embezzlement, job and sexual discrimination, and more.

We suggest a search of county courts as the primary search because the records in those courts are the most current, and proper identification and dispositions are almost always available at the county level. Whenever statewide searches are available that provide the same quality of information that is available at the county level and do not cost more than the search of a single county, we will automatically conduct a statewide search in lieu of the county search. We currently conduct default statewide searches in 18 states, plus the District of Columbia.

The USA Criminal Screen offers the broad geographical coverage, at a very low cost, with lightening fast turnaround and makes a fabulous supplement to county, statewide and federal searches. It is the broad net that sometimes catches activity that might have been missed during a more focused search.

 Back to questions

Are Driving Records (MVR’s – Motor Vehicle Records) considered to be public records?

No. MVRs are governed by the DPPA (Driver’s Privacy Protection Act), and you must have a permissible purpose for obtaining the driving record history. Some states require proof of permissible purpose with release forms, and each state establishes its own level of information and the length of reportable data.

 Back to questions

I would like to use Credit Reports as part of my background screening process. What do I need to do?

Before you can obtain access to personal credit reports you must undergo an on-site physical inspection and be approved by the credit bureau. The on-site inspection is done to determine if you are a legitimate business and have a permissible purpose for requesting and obtaining credit reports. Once the inspection has been completed and the approval granted, you can order your credit reports through your secure web account. If you would like access to personal credit reports, please contact us and we will provide you with the necessary forms to begin the inspection and approval process.

 Back to questions

We submitted a search request, but the applicant has notified us that they are no longer interested in the position. How do we cancel the search?

Contact us immediately via email or phone contact us. Cancellations will be honored subject to our ability to cancel the search or searches that may already be in progress. If the search is in process, or has been transmitted to a researcher, it is generally not possible to halt the search, and we have no option other than to bill as ordered.

 Back to questions

We accidentally submitted a duplicate order. What do we do?

If you are using our secure online system, the system will alert you (based on name and SSN) if you have previously entered that subject for research. You may choose to override that alert and enter the subject again for research. We also do our best to spot duplicate orders, and if we do so, will contact you for authorization to proceed with the second order. However, spotting duplicate orders is not our responsibility and we have no alternative than to bill for orders that you request.

 Back to questions

We ordered a Driving Record (MVR) and it came back as “Record Not Found”. Are we charged for that?

Unfortunately, each state charges us whether a driving record matching the number you entered is located or not. If you entered the correct license number, and the state found no record of that number, please make a clear and legible photocopy of the candidate’s license and send it to us. We will then forward that copy to the state for a manual review.

 Back to questions

What do you charge for Driving Records (MVR’s)?

Our charge is $3.00, plus the applicable court fee. Each state determines the fee that they charge for each driving record requested, and those fees are subject to change without notification.

 Back to questions

Based on the information that you discovered and provided to us, we don’t want to hire the applicant. What do we have to do?

The FCRA mandates a two-part process that you must follow.

First, you must send the applicant a Pre-Adverse Action Letter, along with a copy of our report and a summary of their rights under the Fair Credit Report Act. The Pre-Adverse Action letter serves as notice that there is information in our report, which would prevent you from hiring them, and also provides them with a time period in which they can contact us to dispute the report if they believe it to be inaccurate. We suggest that the time period be a minimum of 5 business days.

Second, I you have not received a revised report from us within the period of time that you specified in the Pre-Adverse Action letter, then you are legally able to send an Adverse Action Letter informing the applicant that you have declined their application for employment based upon the information provided in our report.

 Back to questions