Monday, September 24, 2012

Guest Post: Background Check Errors: Prevention and Negative Consequences

Today we start off the week with a great guest post from Jane Smith, a writer and blogger who regularly offers tips on where to find the best background check service, possesses a great understanding of business and what it takes to find and keep great employees. Email her your questions at Here is what Jane had to say about Background Checks: -------------------------

Just recently, the second largest civil penalty for violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (a law that governs use of consumer information) was handed to an Oklahoma-based company that failed to verify the accuracy of their criminal background checks.

HireRight, a business owned by the holding company Altegrity, is based out of Falls Church, Oklahoma, and provides background check services to thousands of firms across the United States. Now, thanks to its failure to take the right steps in obtaining accurate criminal background checks, many people have been denied employment or employment-related benefits for the wrong reason.

This occurrence should raise concerns for anyone applying for a job that requires a criminal background check. This is especially important for people who have had past run-ins with the law, because many of HireRight’s violations involved reporting criminal offenses that had been expunged or reporting the same offense multiple times.

In addition to including the wrong information on reports, HireRight also reported criminal background checks that didn’t even belong to the employees being screened, so this error can affect literally anyone applying for work; a revelation that doesn’t sit so well in an economy where finding a job is already a difficult task.

Although regulators did not disclose how many people were affected by HireRight’s mistakes, we do know that the business was required to pay $2.6 million to the Federal Trade Commission to settle the charges. This indicates that the number of incorrect criminal background checks was certainly large enough to warrant a hefty penalty from the government.

The question any wise consumer and job seeker should ask after hearing this news is, “What can I do to prevent this from happening to me?” Even though there is no information about how the Federal Trade Commission discovered the violations, there are a few common sense ways for employees to find out if their criminal background checks are correct.

First, if you are turned down for a job opportunity or employment benefit that you know you qualify for, ask the employer to give you a detailed reason for the rejection. Second, if you do have a criminal history, let your employer know about this history in your cover letter or through a personal phone call before they do a check. Lastly, ask the employer if you may have a copy of your background check, or if you can at least check it for its accuracy.

Just like with credit reports, anyone can receive a copy of their criminal background check by using a reputable background check service. Many of these services operate online and can email your report directly to your email account. Although there usually is a fee to receive these reports, it can be well worth the cost, if you believe there may be errors.

The negative consequences of incorrect criminal background checks are greater than just a missed job opportunity. Incorrect reports can lead to widespread unemployment, long-term unemployment and loss of well-qualified, knowledgeable workers.

Because you can never know if the company being used for background check reporting is trustworthy, it may be wise to stay alert for any errors when searching for jobs or applying for employment benefits. If you have any questions about an employer’s reason to not hire you or not give you benefits, consider the possibility that your background check could be incorrect.


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