As our nation’s birthday approaches, our forefather’s words that “all men are created equal” have been ringing in my head. If only the same could be said of all background checks. As Americans, we like things fast. We like to get our information instantly, and if we can get it cheap, all the better. So, it’s no wonder that many organizations are turning to background check companies that offer inexpensive “nationwide” searches. Unfortunately, all background checks are not created equal and low-quality searches can carry high risks for employers.
The titles seem so impressive. Why would anyone want a mere county criminal search when they can get a “national” search? It all seems so confusing and the answers might complicate you.
To begin with, we must dispel the myth that there is a single unrestricted nationwide criminal records check that contains all the criminal information on everyone. While the FBI database is available to certain authorized entities, in reality, what most employers have access to are multi-jurisdictional databases. These databases consist of criminal records purchased from various sources including state courthouses, department of corrections, federal sanctions lists, statewide sex offender registries, etc…
Some of the concerns with these databases are as follows:
- The information contained in the databases can vary greatly and is only as good as the information received from the various government agencies. Not all states and counties contribute to databases, so information may be missing. Some databases go through regular updates; others pay brokers for “data dumps” once or twice per year. The status of a criminal record can change greatly during that time.
- Instant database searches can give a false sense of security. Because of the amount of missing information, it is not uncommon for a database search to come back as clear even when records exist.
- Databases typically do not contain identifiers such as social security numbers or dates of birth. If you are searching for a person with a common name, you are certain to receive many records that have nothing to do with the applicant you are checking.
- A database search may not pick up a slight name change or an alias. For example, if you are searching “John Smith” the results returned may not include John Smith II, Johnny Smith, etc…
- There is a general concern that using a national database as a stand-alone product would not be in compliance with the FCRA.
Databases and Due Diligence
With all their shortcomings, national databases absolutely have their place in background screening. Such as, offering a broad range of information that is not available from an individual county or state search. A National Criminal Database search can help cast a wider net to help locate criminal record information throughout the country. At Justifacts, we believe in using due diligence when utilizing national databases. This means that the information we uncover from the National Criminal Database search is always verified at the state or county level using official court records.
For this Fourth of July, we encourage you to declare your independence from low-quality background searches. The only way to reduce the risk of a bad hire and to create a workplace where employees are free to enjoy their rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, is a complete and thorough background check done by knowledgeable researchers.
Happy Fourth of July!
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