Stranger Danger in the Screening World

  • 11/4/2016
  • Kevin Rosenquist
Stranger Danger in the Screening World image
You have a ton of vendors, no doubt. When you think about all of those vendors do you feel confident in the products they provide to you? Hopefully your answer is “yes”. Now think about the company you use for payroll. I would guess they are a reputable company you researched and probably had a sales call with. They gave you a demo of their platform, went over pricing options, and assigned you an account manager. You feel confident you can reach out to them with questions or technical issues. You have peace of mind knowing that your payroll is being handled by professionals.

With all that said too many companies are still doing their employment screening through websites boasting “instant background checks” for $19.99. I get why it’s tempting. It’s cheap, quick, and doesn’t require paperwork. But it’s also incredibly dangerous. Here’s why:

Instant background check sites are not FCRA Compliant
Real background check companies are considered Credit Reporting Agencies, or CRAs. The Fair Credit Reporting Act is a federal document that all CRAs have to abide by. It’s in place to protect consumers. In terms of a pre-employment background check it’s designed to protect employers and applicants. The instant sites don’t follow the FCRA. To protect themselves they put a disclaimer on their page. One site says it “does not provide consumer reports and is not a consumer reporting agency. We provide a lot of sensitive information that can be used to satisfy your curiosity, protect your family, and find the truth about the people in your life. You may not use our service or the information it provides to make decisions about consumer credit, employers, insurance, tenant screening, or any other purposes that would require FCRA compliance.” You’re hiring a staff not satisfying curiosity. They are telling you not to use their information for employment or tenancy decisions! They are doing that for two reasons. One, because they are not covered by the FCRA. And second…

Instant background check sites use unreliable databases
That isn’t me being petty or resorting to name calling. It’s a fact. Full disclosure, we use databases too. But here is the difference: we use them as a guide, not a final reporting tool. Database searches are often inaccurate and outdated. They provide information that is not updated often enough or thoroughly enough. They often include disposition information that is not current. Instant sites just feed all of that information to you. So you are making hiring or tenancy decisions on information you shouldn’t have.

When you work with a real background check company like PDA Investigations you don’t get fed inaccurate information. If we find a potential hit we make sure we verify it at the county level. This means we send a researcher to the county courthouse to pull the record and verify the database information. There is no more up to date and accurate way to retrieve records then going to the county courts, something instant sites do not do.

How are you handling common names?
Anthony Anderson, besides being a hilarious actor, is also a really common name. So if your applicant shares that name and you do a database search you’re going to get a lot of hits. How do you know if the people associated with those hits are your applicant? I’m actually asking that legitimately, because I don’t know the answer! A real background check company will go through a list of potential hits using identifiers and an actual human being will sift through the records to confirm that a person is or isn’t your applicant. We call it due diligence. It’s an important aspect of what we do that you aren’t going to get with instant background check sites.

The theme, if you haven’t picked up on it yet, is don’t use those instant online searches to make employment or tenancy decisions!! Use those if you are trying to figure out if the guy you met on Craigslist is a creep or not. (Spoiler alert: he probably is.) When it comes to making important decisions like hiring a quality staff for your business or finding a reliable renter for your property put your trust in a reputable background check company who knows what they are doing and can help ensure you and your business stay out of the courtroom.