Category: Background Checks

Justifacts Answers Your Frequently Asked Questions (Part 2)

Justifacts Frequently Asked Questions Part 2
The background screening process can get confusing at times. With so many different screening searches, law changes, and best practices it’s easy to see how the background check process could stir up many different questions. There are so many questions that this is a part 2 to our frequently asked background screening questions.

Be sure to check out part 1: Justifacts Answers Your Frequently Asked Questions

Below are answers to more of our frequently asked questions:

Why do I have to follow the Fair Credit Reporting Act when I’m not doing credit checks?

A: While the name – Fair Credit Reporting Act or FCRA – may be misleading, it does serve as the primary legislation regulating the background screening industry. Meaning, the FCRA applies when performing various background screening services; including criminal record checks, driving record reports, degree confirmations and employment history verifications…just to name a few. Therefore, when you are engaging the services of a background check provider (or CRA), you will be provided with various FCRA related information and certifications that will be necessary to complete/sign prior to requesting services.
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Why can’t we just conduct a national criminal database search?

A: There are a few components of a criminal background check that will provide you with a comprehensive background search, including the National Criminal Database Search (sometimes referred as a Multi-Jurisdictional Search). While we strongly recommend including the National Criminal Database as part of your background screening package, it does have some drawbacks and should only be relied upon as a “safety net”. One issue with this type of search is that it is limited in the criminal record information that is reported. The source information for each state varies, from as little as the sex offender registry to sources including all criminal cases filed through the states Administrative Office of Courts. Most states sources are very good, however there are others that are more limited.

When conducting the National Criminal Database as a stand-alone search, you may miss criminal records at some point. Additionally, under section 613 of the FCRA, there is a requirement that any public record information be current and up to date. Since most databases are updated on a periodic basis, there can be compliance issues with using a database product without further follow-up searches.

Our recommendation is to conduct a state or county level search, the national criminal database, a federal district court search, along with a social security one trace.

How does a national criminal check differ from a federal criminal record search?

A: It can certainly be confusing to decipher the difference between a national and federal level search…and why it’s important to have both as part of your background screening package. The national criminal database search offers a broad range of information – including criminal record information from across the country along with various sanction lists…and is often referred to as a safety net when used in conjunction with an individual county or state search. However, as we addressed in the question above, there are limitations to the national criminal database search.

What our Federal District Court Search provides is information pertaining to federal crimes…or crimes committed on federal property. And because of the way federal crimes are maintained, these types of crimes are not normally shared with other sources; such as state, county and national searches. While we don’t find as many criminal records at the federal level, as compared to the county level, we do find them…and they tend to be high-level or white-collar crimes in nature.

This is why it is important to conduct both a national and federal search, along with a county and/or state search.

Why is a 2-Letter Adverse Action Process needed?

A: While recently giving a couple of presentations on FCRA compliance, we have found that there is a high percentage of employers who are not using a 2-letter process when initiating adverse action against an applicant. In addition, we have seen dozens of class-action lawsuits against employers for not using a 2-Letter. Section 604(b)(3) of the FCRA requires a “Pre-adverse” letter whenever requesting a report for employment purposes. The purpose of having a 2-Letter process in place is that it gives the applicant an opportunity to dispute or contest any of the information contained in his/her background report. This is properly executed with the Pre-Adverse Action Letter (or first letter) being sent…then followed by an Adverse-Action Letter (or second letter).

Why is it important to work with an Accredited NAPBS company?

A: The National Association of Professional Background Screeners – commonly referred to as the NAPBS – has maintained that there is a strong need for a singular, cohesive standard for the background screening industry. Beginning in 2003, the NAPBS has grown to having over 700 members in its group, with less than 2% being ‘accredited’ by the NAPBS.

To become accredited, consumer reporting agencies must pass a rigorous onsite audit, conducted by an independent auditing firm, of its policies and procedures as they relate to six critical areas: consumer protection, legal compliance, client education, product standards, service standards, and general business practices.

Thus by working with an ‘accredited’ background screening company, you can feel confident that your background check provider (or CRA) is looking out for the best interests of its clients, along with their applicants/employees.

Justifacts was proudly accredited by the NAPBS in September, 2014.

What’s the importance of conducting a Social Security Trace?

A: The Social Security Trace serves as a name and address verification search, thereby we can find out if your applicant has lived outside of their current county or state. By conducting a Social Security Trace, we can also determine if your applicant has an alias or maiden name associated with their social security number.

This is important because of how criminal records are stored in the court systems…meaning we can determine if your applicant has a criminal record history under a different name…or outside of their current residence/jurisdiction.

How can we tell if an applicant received a degree from a diploma mill?

A: By definition, a diploma mill is an organization that issues counterfeit diplomas bearing the name of real universities…and qualifications that aren’t accredited and/or not based on proper academic assessment. These types of diplomas are commonly associated with work or life experience and not actual study. With diploma mills, degrees can be obtained in as little as a few days to a few weeks.

Characteristics include Accreditation (lacking authenticity), Teaching (not based on hard or proven sciences), Facilities (lacking tangibles of a brick and mortal school), and Promotion (primarily used for securing employment by paying a set fee).

Can you speak on deciding factors when reviewing credit check results?

A: The laws applying to credit check reports are significantly different from the laws governing criminal record checks when making a decision whether or not to hire an applicant. Credit checks are more of a “gray area” when companies are using them to determine suitability for hire. One of the most helpful areas of the credit report to review is found in the Profile Summary section, as it provides a summation of the applicant’s overall credit standing/history. Certainly other factors to look at include delinquencies, bankruptcies, liens, etc… With the growing number of states who are limiting the use of credit reports for purpose of employment, it is important to remember to conduct a credit check only on individuals who will have access to financial data, cash, credit cards, etc…and as it pertains to their job responsibilities.

When an employer is located in one state, but the candidate lives in another state that has restrictions not applicable in the employer’s state, do the laws in the employer’s state or the laws in the applicant’s state apply?

A: State laws can vary widely. Some laws are directed at employers while others are protections for consumers. For maximum compliance and to avoid unnecessary litigation, Justifacts suggests using both the applicant location and hiring location to determine which laws apply.

What is the danger of using Social Media Searches to screen applicants?

A: The risk employers need to understand, when using social media as part of their recruiting process, occurs when the process moves from sourcing to screening candidates.

Social media is an ideal way to find and recruit candidates, however the difficulty occurs when information provided on social media sites is used to screen or eliminate a candidate from consideration. This elimination, when based on data found through social media content opens the employer to the potential risks of liability, discrimination claims and non-compliance with regulations.

Given this point, it’s important that companies have policies in place that protect against discriminatory practices and are explicit in how social media information can be used by employers in the hiring process.

Build a Better Criminal Background Search [Infographic]

Build a Better Criminal Record Search Infographic
We’ve all seen the tragic headlines by now about Jared Fogle and his admission to some very serious and disturbing federal offenses. I think we can all agree that most of us would like to keep individuals like Jared Fogle far away from us. In fact, these types of dangerous individuals may be the very reason why we do background checks.

The question is, would your current background screening program catch a criminal like Jared Fogle who has committed a federal offense? You may be surprised to hear that if a federal criminal record search is not part of your current background screening program, the answer is ‘No’. Federal offenses are not included in County, State, or National Criminal database searches.

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To best protect your organization, it is essential to understand the different types of criminal record searches and how they work. Much like a great sandwich, a great criminal record check process is built with layers. Taking the time to learn about each type of criminal record search and matching the appropriate search to the appropriate job position will ensure you hire a hero instead of a zero.

Building A Hero Out of Your Criminal Record Search Infographic
Of course, a healthy criminal background check program needs to be ongoing. Scheduled post hire monitoring helps make sure that your employees are maintaining the safe, responsible conduct you require.

Looking for more information about which criminal record search options are best for your organization? Please contact us at (800) 356-6885 or email us at, we’d love to hear from you!

Are you Gambling with your Hiring Process? 4 Common Myths about Background Screening

4 Common Myths about Background Screening
Finding the ideal candidate can feel a lot like hitting the lottery. An organization’s ability to grow and be successful is dependent on great hires and the talent they bring. Unfortunately, the hiring process requires a lot more than just luck. Every hiring manager is looking for that “Ace” and to find that perfect individual, a hiring manager’s process list can be long and often includes each of the following:

  • Finalizing the job description
  • Promoting the positions
  • Filtering applications
  • Completing ATS requirements
  • Selecting candidates for interviews
  • Scheduling/carrying out interviews
  • Narrowing the list for the right person
There are times, however, when an important item gets left off the list, background screening. A thorough background screening program can give an organization the advantage they need to vastly increase the odds of finding that “perfect fit” candidate. So why do some hiring managers choose to either skip this critical step or not fully utilize the best background checks options?

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Let’s look at some of the most common myths surrounding background screening:

Myth #1: If someone were a problem, I would know.

This is particularly common myth in the small business crowd and it is particularly troubling because statistics show small businesses are hit much harder by poor hiring decisions than larger organizations. In fact, employee theft leads to the failure of 30 percent of small businesses. Furthermore, due diligence doesn’t end after the hire date, and just because you have been working side by side with someone each day, doesn’t mean you know what happens in their life after hours. Depending on an individual’s job position, ongoing criminal record checks, MVR checks and drug screening help to add an additional layer of protection to your workplace.

The truth is: Don’t underestimate someone’s poker face.

Myth #2: Doing a background check is risky legally; I might get sued.

With Ban the Box legislation increasing and FCRA Class Action lawsuits on the rise, it’s understandable that organizations are feeling a little jittery about their background screening processes. The fact is that just because these types of lawsuits have gone up in recent years, doesn’t mean negligence lawsuits have gone away. The U.S. Department of Labor states that roughly 2 million American workers report workplace violence each year. The best way for an organization to stay out of the courtroom is to develop a legally compliant program. Fortunately the task is not as daunting as it seems. To ensure you stay compliant, ask your Background Screening Partner if they have an in house Compliance Department and whether or not they offer additional automated adverse action services to help protect your organization.

To learn how to protect YOUR organization from an FCRA lawsuit, download our Guide to Understanding the FCRA

The truth: You can’t avoid the hassles of legislation, but partnering with the right Background Screening Company makes it a lot easier to play the hand your dealt.

Myth #3: Background checks are too expensive for my organization.

Bad hires can cost employers much more than company morale and team productivity. A survey states that nearly one-in-four employers reported a bad hire cost them more than $50,000. Bad hires can lead to increased costs associated with recruiting and training, lower productivity and morale among current team members, and additional overtime/temporary worker costs. ( The Staggering Cost of a Bad Hire Infographic.)

Curious to find out how much bad hires are costing you? HR World created a Bad Hire Calculator to estimate the cost of a bad hire. These bad hire’s hide between the balance sheets line items and can be a silent killer to bottom line.

The truth: The payoff for a good hire exceeds the cost of a background check

Myth #4: I run a national criminal check on all of my applicants, which gives me all the information I need instantly.

We all know that if something is instant and cheap, it is probably not high quality. Unfortunately, many organizations still opt for the fastest, cheapest background screening option. Let me tell you why that doesn’t work. First, there is no such thing as a comprehensive nationwide criminal search. National criminal database searches can be a very useful tool as a part of a criminal record check process; however they should never be used alone. Databases are only as good as the information that is provided to them. There are occasions where database information may be incomplete or outdated, adding additional searches such as a county criminal record check, helps to ensure that you are getting complete information.

Make sure you hedge your bets, a good background check is not instant nor is it one dimensional. If you want a better candidate, expand your search.

By performing a due diligent background screening on your candidate, you are able to paint a picture of your candidate’s characteristics beyond resume and the ATS grading scale. A thorough background check program delivers a higher quality candidate, that’s a sure win for your organization.

Hope you hit the jackpot with your next hire!

2014: Year in Review

2014 Year in Review
It felt like the fun was just beginning, but in a very short time 2014 will be coming to an end. This year we learned about Ban the Box and Big Data. We dumped buckets of icy water on our heads, and when no one was looking, we danced our hearts out to Pharrell’s “Happy”. We protected ourselves from FCRA class action lawsuits and we got smarter about using social media in both the hiring and marketing processes. We listened to every little girl we know sing “Let it Go” and we liked warm hugs. Most importantly, as the economy improved, we celebrated with our client’s as they experienced growth and truly got back to hiring again.

For Justifacts, 2014 was filled with innovation, and inspiration. For that reason, it seems appropriate to take a look back at the things we’ve accomplished, the fun we’ve had, and sneak a peek at what’s around the corner in 2015.

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Some of the stats that reflect the excitement of the past year include:

62,400………. Numbers of hours Justifacts’ wonderful Account Manager, Cathie Bruce has shown up for work, give or take a sick day… (Cathie celebrated 30 years with Justifacts in 2014)
5250………….Number on the street address of the Justifacts’ building we purchased this year
2514………….Number of dollars Justifacts’ staff raised this year for United Way
2110+……….. Number of hits on our latest LinkedIn article
186……………Number of countries Justifacts performs background screening services in. (Our international processes were streamlined in 2014, making it easier than ever to search applicants worldwide.)
140……………Number of pizzas consumed by our staff at Justifacts’ pizza parties
75……………..Number of toys our staff donated to Toys for Tots this Christmas
53……………..Number of CRAs accredited by NAPBS (Justifacts joined the short list of CRAs accredited by the NAPBS this year)
32……………..Number of years Justifacts has been providing background screening services
24……………..Number of hours per day you can receive help thanks to our new digital support system
23……………..Number of new Justifacts’ employees
17……………..Percent growth Justifacts experienced this year
12……………..Number of CRAs on Workforce Magazine’s Hot List (Of course, Justifacts is one of them!)
9……………….Number of gallons of ice cream scooped up by Justifacts’ staff in 2014
4/5…………….Average number of stars clients gave Justifacts on client surveys
1………………Number of people from Justifacts’ team that were nominated for EY Entrepreneur of the Year. (We celebrated as our CEO, Jeanette Spofford, was honored this year)
<0.01………….Percent of Justifacts’ reports that were disputed this year

With a year like that, needless to say we’re pretty jazzed for 2015. It continues to amaze me what we can accomplish with the “Get it Done” attitude that resounds in the halls here at Justifacts. Some of the things we are looking forward to in 2015 include:

  • Advanced Security – Justifacts is continuing to stay proactive when it comes to keeping our client’s and their applicant’s information safe and secure. When it comes to data security, there can be no compromise and our IT department is leaving no stone unturned.
  • New Search Offerings – Stay tuned for some of the exciting new search offerings we are preparing to offer our clients in the New Year
  • Supporting a Sharing Economy – Justifacts is expanding our ability to provide services that encourage a safer sharing community
  • Expanded Integration Offerings – Expect Justifacts to add more integrations in 2015 which will provide a faster, more streamlined process for our clients
  • Improved Candidate Experience – With an applicant dispute rate of less than .01%, Justifacts is already doing pretty well at keeping our clients applicants happy. We want to build on that in 2015 by adding to our online knowledgebase so that your applicants will be able to log on 24/7 and have access to answers for any frequently asked questions they may have.

Proceed with Caution: 5 Steps to Help Avoid an FCRA Class Action Lawsuit

5 Steps to Avoid FCRA Lawsuit
My family recently returned from a trip to the beautiful Indiana Dunes State Park. One of the features of the park is a rugged, self guided, 1.5 mile trail over three of the largest sand dunes in the park. This trail is referred to as the “Three Dune Challenge”. The start of the trail includes a warning that the Three Dune Challenge is the most difficult in the park and is intended only for experienced, physically-fit hikers. Hikers are warned to be realistic about their hiking ability and proceed with caution.

Proceed with caution

These words of wisdom could certainly be applied to the current challenges faced by organizations in regards to their background screening programs today. We are just a little more than halfway through the year and already there have been at least 27 FCRA class action lawsuits filed against employers, with twelve class action suits being filed in the months of June and July alone. (Littler Report August 2014) Employers are currently facing difficulties unheard of in past years. From retailers to trucking companies, no industry appears to be exempt and with fines of up to $1,000 per violation, employers are faced with the potential of having to pay millions of dollars in damages. Unquestionably, now is the time to take a realistic look at your FCRA policies and make sure they are one hundred percent compliant. Thankfully, protecting your company is certainly not an insurmountable task.

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Just stay on the path & don’t fall into the same traps as these other employers

The FCRA lays out a pretty clear path that employers MUST abide by. Following these five steps will help to protect your organization:
  • 1. Disclosure – A stand alone disclosure form stating that you are going to be performing a background check on an applicant must be provided prior to conducting any background screening. Companies have been found in violation of the FCRA because they included “extraneous” language on disclosures. The courts have ruled against employers who include disclosures within job applications or who have included release of liability verbiage on disclosure forms.
  • 2. Authorization – Applicants must complete an authorization form that permits you to conduct a background check on him/her. It is essential to have a valid signature on this form prior to beginning the background check process.
  • 3. Pre-adverse action – If a background report uncovers information that is going to negatively impact an applicant’s ability to get a job, you must first follow the required pre-adverse action procedure. Several organizations have been penalized for not providing applicants with a copy of their report, not allowing applicants a chance to dispute their report, and not providing applicants with the required Summary of Rights. It is important to note, the fact that some companies who have opted out of providing Pre-Adverse action despite their background check provider offering an FCRA Compliance service which send out Pre-Adverse action notices, have been shown in court to have “willfully” violated the FCRA.
  • 4. Allowing a reasonable time for applicant’s to dispute information – Another complaint against employers has been that they did not provide a sufficient amount of time for applicants to dispute the findings of their report. The FCRA does not specify the exact amount of time employers should allow for applicant’s to dispute information, but it is generally accepted as five working days.
  • 5. Adverse action – Applicants must be provided with an adverse action letter, a completed report, a Summary of Rights, and your CRA’s contact information.
Protecting your company and remaining compliant with the FCRA can certainly feel like a challenge, particularly when class action lawyers are buzzing around you looking for any small details you may have missed. Fortunately, Justifacts is available to help with a knowledgeable staff and 32 years of industry experience. We provide detailed educational information on FCRA regulations, sample disclosure and authorization forms, a fully automated adverse action tool that can assist our clients in generating and tracking the entire adverse action process, and a full time Compliance Team who is available to help handle situations as they arise regarding adverse information that is found on an applicant’s report.

For more detailed information about the FCRA, please download our Guide to Understanding the FCRA: Download Guide

It is important to note that Justifacts is providing this information as a service to our clients. None of the information contained herein should be construed as legal advice, nor is Justifacts engaged to provide legal advice. Although we go to great lengths to make sure our information is accurate and useful, we recommend you consult your attorney or legal department if you want assurance that our information, and your interpretation of it, is appropriate to your particular situation.
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