Not all background screening companies maintain the highest levels of integrity and thoroughness, and of equal importance, not every background screening company is a consumer reporting agency (CRA). When a background screening company prepares a background screening report, it is called a consumer report under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA, the federal law that governs background checks).

The FCRA imposes very specific disclosure requirements, particularly with employee screening, both upon the employer and upon the consumer reporting agency. There is not only the initial employee disclosure and authorization form that is required. Should an adverse action be taken (e.g., to fire, or to not hire the individual), based upon the results of the consumer report, the employer must also provide a “Pre-Adverse Action Notice” and then should wait at least five business days, and then provide the “Adverse Action Notice.”

The reason for these adverse action notices is to allow an individual the opportunity to dispute their consumer report. Background Screening reports rely on public records. Court house records are prepared by human beings, and humans make mistakes. Further, most criminal records do not have a complete Social Security Number attached to them, so records are returned typically by matching legal name and Date of Birth.

Common names (and not so common names) can often result in false positives, as there are over 320 million people in the United States and only 365 or 366 days in a year. When there is a “hit” based upon a match of legal name and Date of Birth, it requires further investigation at the court house level to eliminate (or confirm) the record, based upon middle name, address, partial Social Security Number, Driver’s License, physical description, etc. This applies to credit reports as well, and it is common knowledge how credit bureaus often have incorrect information.

When you see on a website, “Not for employee screening purposes,” or “for personal, informational use only,” these are red flags that the background screening company is not a consumer reporting agency, and that it does not adhere to the highest level of integrity and the law.

It is important to use a reliable background screening company and one that is also a consumer reporting agency. This will help ensure that you obtain the most thorough background screening reports, and also that the consumers being processed will be provided their rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, should they need to dispute their consumer report.

Posted by: Rudy Troisi. President, Reliable Background Screening