Many companies, especially those in the in-home services industries, tout “our employees are background checked.” This often gives a false sense of security to the misinformed public. However, it is not only consumers who believe they are protected by these so-called “background checks.” Many companies, both large and small, have employees and managers tasked with the responsibility of hiring, that truly do not understand what comprises a “best practices” background check.

Industry best practices typically require that criminal records be checked for all legal names and legal aliases that are displayed by a “Social Search” or “Social Trace” product, from all counties that are listed in this Social Search/Social Trace product over the past 7 years. It is important that court records are searched, not simply prison records, i.e., Department of Corrections (DOC) records.

However some background screening companies claim they are performing county criminal searches, when in fact they are employing wherever possible “screen scraping technology” that utilizes “web crawlers” to search publically available websites. The problem is that most of these websites state that their information cannot be used as official records, and further they are often not up to date. So even with what these background screening companies call a “best practices” search, you may not be receiving a thorough background check, because these companies use “screen scraping” for county searches, in place of actual county courthouse records searches.

Further, when companies or organizations believe they are receiving a national criminal background check that includes all crimes from their background screening provider, they clearly demonstrate their lack of knowledge. There is no criminal database that exists that contains all criminal records in the USA. Even the NCIC (National Crime Information Center, commonly referred to as the “FBI Files”) only has about 50{5460a4de8013038d4595608f48191d314818d6c27f4872c4c47bcc9e4b7b3c2b} of all the criminal records in the United States. Further, the NCIC, except for certain requests, is only accessible by law enforcement officials.

Neither do commercially available criminal databases house all criminal records that exist nationwide. The reason is that there are about 3,300 counties in the USA, and many of those counties either do not want to share their information by policy, or are incapable technologically to provide their criminal records in a digital format that can be merged and combined with other jurisdictional data, so that is can become part of a criminal database.

The reality is that both consumers and companies need to ask the right questions. It’s not simply, “do you background check your employees?” Inquire about the methods and procedures that are used to obtain these background checks.

When hiring a background screening provider to perform the background checks for your company or organization, be sure that you use a reliable background screening company, and one that is also a consumer reporting agency (CRA). A reputable CRA understands the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the federal law that not only regulates employee background checks, but imposes very specific disclosure requirements, both upon the CRA and the employer.

Posted by: Rudy Troisi. President, Reliable Background Screening.