Criminal records typically have no Social Security Number attached to them. Thus searching for criminal records is performed on a legal name and date of birth match. The challenge is that there are at most 366 days in a year, but there are nearly 330 million people in the United States.

No matter how unique your name is, it’s likely that at least several if not thousands of people share the same name as you – and with only 365/366 days in a year, it is possible and highly likely with common names – that you share not only a name but the same date of birth. Thus, when it comes to a background check the middle name is a crucial additional identifier, particularly with common names (but even with not-so-common names). While there are over 47,000 John Smiths in the US, how many do you think share the name John Sterling Smith?

Additionally, both the Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau have issued guidance requiring the use of middle names, particularly when common names are searched (even though they do not define exactly what a common name is). Regardless, the use of the middle name will help reduce false positives and improve accuracy of the background screening report.

Including the middle name will also positively impact turnaround times with criminal records research. Without the middle name used as an identifier, both the court researcher and the background screening company will need more time to examine potential matches to confirm if a specific criminal record belongs to your applicant who is being background checked.

As mentioned earlier, social security numbers are not generally part of criminal records, contrary to what many believe. Criminal records are part of the public record, while social security numbers are privacy sensitive personal information. For this reason, criminal background searches are based on legal name and date of birth.

Including the middle name ̶ which, along with first and last names and date of birth, should always be confirmed against government ID (generally a driver’s license or state ID) ̶ will help increase the turnaround time and accuracy of criminal searches. Also, do not forget to check for maiden and other legal names. If you only check the married name, a crime committed under the maiden name will not be found.

Posted by: Rudy Troisi, President and CEO, Reliable Background Screening

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