Background Checks aren’t as easy as you’d think
With seemingly more and more people being harassed, stalked and getting their identities stolen, the rate of background check requests (e.g., a small business owner hiring a private investigator) has increased quite a bit.
The background check is no longer some snoopy kind of thing for extra-curious people; it’s become a necessary tool in a world fraught with frivolous lawsuits but also cybercrime and identity theft. For example, if the “furnace guy” rapes and murders the homeowner, his company would be held accountable. We hear of cases like this all the time—another example would be a bus driver fondling a student. The bus company is held liable.
It’s a no-brainer that background checks should be conducted for people ranging from school officials, nannies and cafeteria workers to home health aides…you name it: all adult employees and volunteers. If you own a business, you’ll never regret getting a background check on your employees.
As crucial as this practice is, however, it’s full of land mines. But don’t let that stop you from acquiring a professional-grade background check to screen for criminality.
First off, the subject’s identity must be validated. But even if you have the correct name, the subject’s birthdate must also be correct. Usually, a photo ID will suffice. But when it’s not available, there are other methods. To see if the subject’s claimed name and DOB match, their driving record is pulled via the state DMV. But there again, we have a loophole: How do you know that the given name and DOB, that pops up in the DMV results, belongs to the subject?
A background check requires the SSN. When the SSN is run through, it will bring up a history of names and addresses, plus previous residential locations of the subject. We now can zero in on various locations to narrow down the investigation. If any aliases pop up, these too must be checked.
The third stop is the court record check in all the counties where the subject has resided in the past decade. The court’s website should have this information. However, it can also be obtained in person at the courthouse. The investigation will also include the federal court level.
The general criminal check comes next, and is often called a “nationwide” criminal check. It’s not 100 percent accurate but will turn up criminal history if, indeed, the subject is a crook. In addition, the state prison records need to be checked to see if the subject has served some time.
But zero results here don’t mean that the subject was never incarcerated, due to flaws in the search system. On the other hand, if a red flag appears, the investigator will know to dig deeper. To aid with this, the investigator should do an online search on the federal prison site.
The sex offender history is even tougher. Unfortunately in some states, a sex offender history can’t be used to refuse employment to someone. But this doesn’t mean that the investigator can’t investigate, including going straight to the affiliated court and then turning this information over to the individual wanting the background check. Sex offender checks usually turn up empty, but they should always be done.
The investigator should also search for arrest reports, but there’s no guarantee that the unveiled information can be legally presented to the client who hired the investigator.
And finally, is the subject wanted by the police? Historically, PIs were not privy to this information (it was available only to law enforcement). But fairly recently, PIs can now get ahold of this information, though the search process has flaws. Nevertheless, it should be done, especially since the fee is low.