Frequently Asked Questions
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Read answers below to the most common questions about background checks
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I just need a simple one-time background check, not every bell and whistle you offer. Can I still order from you?
Of course. We fully understand that at the present time that is all you need, and we would like to be your background screening vendor of choice as you grow. Simply signup and order desired screening package or searches as you will only pay for what you use. There are no setup, monthly or minimum recurring fees.
Applicant answered “No” to past crimes question. Background check report states otherwise. Now what?
This answer has a few variables that would best be answered by an attorney experienced in local employment laws. Traditionally and in most cases, lying in an employment application is grounds for disqualification as it cast a shadow of doubt about their honesty and integrity. Bear in mind, that due to an extremely competitive job market and exclusion of minorities with criminal past, the EEOC has updated their policy. An applicant may have legally responded “No” to the question of “have you ever been convicted of a crime?” even though there were some brushes with the law in their past. What we can tell you is that a criminal conviction is not an automatic reason to deny employment.
- How long ago did this happen?
- Is the nature of the criminal offense related to the open job position?
- Does the applicant possess such extraordinary skills that no other applicant matches up to? Otherwise, your next applicant may be a better choice by offering the same job skills and mainly, because they are honest about their past
To accurately answer your question, there is no clear-cut, one-size-fits-all answer and it varies by not only states or counties, but also by municipalities. To further state my case, there is something called “Ban-the-box” which completely eradicates the infamous question of “Have you ever been convicted of a crime” in employment applications. There are plenty of states and municipalities that abide by it today. The purpose of ban-the-box is to give a fair chance to applicants who may possess great job skills, but had a few criminal flaws in their past. Having said that, the question may be asked after successfully passing the initial interview and being considered for the job position by asking “Is there anything in your past we should know about before conducting a background check?”.
In addition and oftentimes, an employer may make a job offer with the contingency of getting a “clear” background check based on what type of criminal offenses may be accepted as written in their HR policy manual.
Now whether an applicant lied in stating they had a clean record when it was not the case, is open for debate as it may not always be automatic grounds for firing —although I must point out that it does hinder a questionable doubt as to their character and integrity. To further illustrate, an applicant may have had a criminal charge over 7 years ago and they would be legally correct in answering “No” (this applies to about a dozen states). Also, if the case was dismissed, found innocent, charge resulted in probation before judgment, pre-trial intervention or expunged after certain conditions were met, they would still be correct on answering “No”.
The response above does not take into account FCRA and EEOC guidelines, but only answers your question about an applicant lying about their past when asked about any past crimes.
You can learn more about the employment background check process here.
Disclaimer: I am not an attorney and my response should not be construed as legal advice as it is merely based on my years of experience in the industry.
Can a criminal background check for a job be done without the correct name?
We educate our clients that the first and foremost thing to do when performing a background check is to properly identify the applicant’s legal name, former names or aliases, DOB and social security. Then afterward you can accurately search criminal records based on those parameters.
You would be surprised how many times on a daily basis, we catch applicants using a slight variation of their name hoping to throw off our criminal search. Eventually, once the employer receives the discrepancy on the background report, they realize that the applicant was dishonest and not a person that can be trusted.
Must I conduct a criminal check even if this person came with great references?
- Are the references former employees that were friends with your job applicant?
- If so, can they perhaps not know everything about your applicant?
- Could your applicant have committed a crime from the last time they were in contact with him/her?
It is unfortunate to have to cast doubt and suspicion on everyone nowadays, but you can see it the news how many people have conned others even as being part of a church or a volunteer group doing good deeds. Besides, as an employer – it is your duty to protect your business from theft and provide a safe workplace for your other employees. If they don’t have anything to hide, they would probably most welcome your background check as they may also want to find out if there are any discrepancies that they are not aware of.
Your database already shows my applicant has a criminal record. Why should I spend more money on following up with a county court criminal search?
Your potential job applicant’s record may have been pleaded down, expunged, sealed or maybe they were found innocent at a later trial date not yet showing in the criminal database search. What if it was mistaken identity?
To fully comply with the FCRA and EEOC, you need to verify the current status at the originating source: county court. That’s why the FCRA exists, to give everyone a fair opportunity at disputing derogatory findings.
What is a misdemeanor?
Misdemeanors are crimes that carry a maximum sentence of less than 1 year. In a few states, crimes that are charged as misdemeanors are considered up to two years (i.e., Vermont). Examples of misdemeanors include petty larceny, theft, simple assault, prostitution, shoplifting, most DUI/DWI charges, perjury, domestic abuse, perjury, etc. In most instances, incarceration is in a county jail or similar facility, rather than a state prison. Most misdemeanor convictions also require the payment of a fine, probation, community service and restitution.
In conclusion, misdemeanors are less serious crimes than felonies.
What is a felony?
Felonies are violent or non-violent crimes that carry minimum confinement of a year or more. Examples of felonies are Murder, Manslaughter, Aggravated Assault, Felony Assault, Kidnapping, Arson, Grand Larceny, Sale or manufacturing of drugs, Tax Evasion, Animal cruelty, Treason. etc. Most felonies carry different degrees of severity and are initially filed as first-degree felony, second-degree felony, etc. In most felony cases, offenders (felons) serve their time in state prisons.
I know for a fact that someone has a criminal record, but your search reveals none?
A myriad of reasons as to why. Here are the main ones:
- Was your search for personal or hiring/renting business purpose?
- Did you enter correct spelling?
- Could the record be under an alias, former name?
- Are you sure about exact DOB?
- Was it merely an arrest with no formal charges filed in criminal court?
- The criminal record could have been sealed or expunged
- Did it happen very recently or a very long time ago? Due to legislative pressure in convicts not being hired for something that occurred many years ago, many courts have quashed old cases
- In the case of an onsite county search, did you search the standard seven years or paid additionally for more years to be searched at court’s archives
- Did it happen at the federal level instead of the county/state level? There is a big difference
- In the case of a nationwide criminal database, there are some states that just don’t bulk sell lower level criminal offenses (misdemeanors)
And finally, criminal databases are not a one-size-fits-all solution as you can interpret from the variables mentioned above. Do contact us and explain the nature of your concern and we will try to help you understand as to why that record might not show.
Your SSN trace and address history report shows other names and addresses that are not mine
The social security (SSN) trace and address history report is NOT a consumer report. It is merely a compilation from different data sources. The ONLY purpose of the report is to uncover any names or aliases that will assist in doing a more in-depth criminal search by names and geographic locations. However, if a criminal record is found while searching any other name associated with the SSN that is not yours, then you have the right to dispute it by contacting us.
What are the FCRA and EEOC guidelines when doing employment screening?
- That the background check process is only one part of the hiring process that may include other decisioning information
- Document the background check services that will be ordered for each job position or job classification
- That the company understands its obligations under the Fair Credit Reporting Act and will comply with them
- That every applicant undergoing a background check will be required to read the legal disclosure form
- That every applicant must consent to the background check prior to any request
- That the company will comply with all equal employment laws
- That the company will factor in the guidance provided by the EEOC when considering criminal conviction information in an employment decision. Known factors to be considered include: The facts and circumstances surrounding the offense, The number of offenses for which the individual was convicted, The age of the individual at the time of conviction or release from prison, Evidence that the individual has performed the same type of work, post-conviction, with the same or a different employer, without incidents of criminal conduct, The length and consistency of employment history before and after the offense, Any efforts of the application towards rehabilitation, Employment or character references obtained regarding the individual’s fitness for the particular position, Whether the individual will be bonded for the position
- That any adverse action taken based on a background check will be preceded by a disclosure to the applicant that will include pre-adverse notice, a copy of the background check and the rights afforded to the applicant under federal and state law
- That any information received by the company after the pre-adverse action notice has been delivered will be considered prior to any final adverse action
- Document that in the event of a dispute, no final employment decision will be made until the dispute process has been completed
- Document that your company will retain all documentation related to the background check for a minimum of five years (the statute of limitations established under the FACT Act)
Source: Curt Schwall, VP, Corporate Ethics and Compliance – Sterling Talent Solutions
Is my credit card info protected? Are you PCI compliant?
Yes. While we cannot fully detail all security protocols and policies for obvious reasons, your credit card transactions, as well as any background check reports stored in your account — are only accessed via Secure Socket Layer (SSL) connections. Even if you were to accidentally type in our website address as usabackground.com without https:// in front, it will automatically redirect you to the secure SSL version. On our back-end order portal (which resides in a different server) where all search records are stored, we abide by the latest security standards so that we are in full PCI compliance. You can view our most recent PCI compliance certificate.
Where can I find full definitions of criminal codes abbreviations?
Most jurisdictions may have different code abbreviations for all criminal charges and are too vast to list here. There really is not a standardized national criminal code book for every single criminal case that is used by court clerks.
We highly recommend to simply do a copy and paste of the criminal charge and search in Google. Just make sure that it resolves to the state in question where the charge was found. For California penal codes which are always numbers, you can search for description at FindLaw. California cases starting with PC are Penal Code (criminal) and VC stand for Vehicular Code.
Is a criminal background check a proven predictor of the effectiveness of an employee?
If anything is more about character than effectiveness. Having said that, an employer must carefully review the nature of the criminal offense in relation to the job, how long ago it happened and whether there is a pattern of continuing criminal activity. Take into account that people make mistakes and some do redeem themselves to become better persons and therefore, grateful and loyal to employers for having given them a second chance.
Criminal database search shows duplicate entries for same offense
Because not all statewide repositories report all types of criminal offenses for each county, our nationwide criminal database is supplemented with many individual county sources. Thus, you may find duplicate offenses listed from the state and another from the county source. This is done intentionally so that we can offer the most comprehensive coverage in the background screening industry. There are instances where cases may first appear in lower court (i.e., General District, Magisterial) and are then transferred to upper court (i.e., Circuit, Common Pleas, Superior Court) with a different case number.
Any helpful tips prior to ordering a background check?
The first and foremost line of defense: Correctly identify search subject prior to ordering a background check. If only doing a criminal background check, make sure you have correct spelling of their name and exact DOB.
Better solution: Obtain SSN and order our All-Inclusive Nationwide Background Check that will verify Identity associated with applicant’s SSN input and cross-search all name variations, former names and known aliases against our nationwide criminal databases. If by chance applicant provides the wrong SSN, we will notify you in the report about identity discrepancies.
How long will a criminal record show up in my background check?
Differs by state and local municipalities as well as the type of clearance required for a job position in the public or private sector. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) allows felony convictions to be reported on background checks for seven years after release from prison. The exception to this rule are registered sexual offenders and the level assigned.
The following States observe seven-year restrictions when processing FCRA criminal searches: CA, CO, KS, ME, MD, MA, MT, NH, NM, NV, NY, TX, WA
I was denied a job because of the background check report. Employer won’t specify exact reason
We only provide employers and landlords court records found when searching your identity. We do not formulate an opinion or make any hiring or renting recommendations to our clients.
Employers should abide by the Fair Credit Report Act (FCRA) when making hiring decisions based on a background check. Under the FCRA, an employer is required to mail you a copy of your background check with a notice of summary of your rights. This is done so that you can dispute any errors in your background report that you feel may have had an impact on their decision not to hire you at this present time.
What is a nationwide criminal database search?
Criminal database searches are compiled from 1000’s of municipal, county and state agencies. Nonetheless, their information is not always up to date, often there are missing details when an offender is arrested, formally charged and when a final disposition outcome on the court case records has been updated. Because of delays in data collected from the courts and state repositories, an employer or landlord may not get the full details. The main justification that nationwide criminal databases are missing records is because numerous municipal, county and state agencies have not entered, modified or removed sealed/expunged records at the time they bulk sell their records to private criminal repositories.
When should I use a nationwide criminal database?
You can use them all the time, provided that you don’t totally rely on them to make a hiring or renting decision. Researching county by county may perhaps be costly, time intensive, and not cast the largest geographic coverage. The positive aspect of the nationwide criminal database search is that it covers a mile wide, but only an inch deep. Nationwide criminal database searches can efficiently and cost-effectively compile information and provide faster search results. Once again, a nationwide criminal database is only an effective screening tool when used in combination with a county court criminal search.
Can I rely only on a criminal database when doing a background check?
Nationwide criminal databases depending on the source may get refreshed as frequent as every week, month, every 3 or 6 months or annually. That’s why you will find that our proprietary criminal database may contain duplicate records due to the fact that a record may show up from a county source while the same record shows from a state source. This is done purposely as to gather the most recent case information or in the event that a state search did not pick up on a particular county record or vice-versa. Any record obtained from a nationwide criminal database should be carefully reviewed and independently verified at the originating source, the county courthouse.
Tip: When doing criminal background checks, it is strongly recommended not to completely rely on the results of a nationwide criminal database search.
So if doing a county court search is the best strategy, how do I know which counties to search?
Why should I verify someone’s identity before doing a background check?
Plenty of reasons.
- You may be searching for a relative with clean records
- You want to find out about any discrepancies on name variations and DOB before performing more in-depth searches
- You may be reporting income for the wrong person
- We have detected an ongoing trend whereby persons collecting unemployment and/or government benefits are using false or relative’s social security numbers to continue exhausting government help intended for those truly in need
- You want to avoid IRS penalties when it comes to reporting W-2’s or 1099’s
Do you offer an online video demo of how to best use your system?
As a matter of fact, we do. Check out our tutorials.
There is erroneous information on my background check report from your company. How can I dispute it?
Simply send us a copy of the background check report that our company processed along with an explanation including supporting court documents. Our quality assurance department will investigate the matter and respond within 30 days of receipt. You can mail it to:
BCS Background Screening, LLC 1172 South Dixie Hwy-Suite 257 – Coral Gables, FL 33146
Your criminal database shows a record was found. What should I do next to be in compliance?
- If the record was found using a criminal database, you must follow up with a county courthouse criminal search. This is an FCRA requirement.
- Employers, landlords, and others must verify identity before taking any adverse action against a person with a criminal record
- Do not assume that a defendant was convicted just because a criminal case was filed. Always check the disposition of each charge
- Do not assume that a defendant was convicted of a felony based on the case type that appears on the original arrest. The case type reflects the charges that appeared in the original charging document. If the original charging document included any felony charges, the case will be listed as a felony, even if all the charges were eventually reduced to misdemeanors or dismissed
- Always check the final charge disposition in the case
What kind of police records will affect employment background checks?
Unless it’s for a government job or security clearance, a POLICE record is typically not reportable on an employment check. However, a COURT record is, namely convictions or active probation for deferred adjudication. What convictions the job considers relevant is based on the employer’s rules.
FAQs above are structured based on opinions compiled from industry articles and our own personal experience. Even though every single attempt has been made to incorporate correct and updated information, BCS Background Screening, LLC cannot promise it will be accurate to each and every employer-employee, landlord-tenant circumstances. It is strongly recommended to seek advice from a legal professional in order to make certain that legal interpretations are officially correct and up-to-date for your particular jurisdiction. The FAQ content is definitely not to be considered legal advice as it is being provided for reference purposes only.