There are so many companies offering background checks today that it can be tough to figure out if you are getting the information you need, or even if the company itself is reputable. Here are five warning signs that your background checks may not be sufficient or may even be exposing your company to potential risk and liability:
No Caveats Provided For the Research Conducted
Since there is no such thing as a magical, all-inclusive source for background checks every search has some type of limitation. Whether discussing criminal or civil records, each jurisdiction (i.e., state, county, etc.) has different criteria for record searching, accessibility, and retention, which is why you need caveats. The research performed on your behalf should be clearly explained in the final report and contain specific information related to date ranges searched, the precise source of the research (including specific court, state police, local police department, etc.), and any limitations in the records being sought.
You Get a Lengthy Report with Little Substance and Unexplained Results
You are supposedly paying an expert to locate and analyze all public record information on an individual (or company depending on your project). This is what they are paid to do, so why only get half the job done? You will spend more time trying to decipher the records and could easily misinterpret the unclear and convoluted report which could result in potentially exposing your company to risk and/or liability. A professional screening service will fully explain what was uncovered and outline any limitations or requirements that may be involved with using the information for decisions related to employment, credit, and housing (more on this important issue below).
The Background Check Product Is Inconsistent
Sometimes you get a great, easy to read report and other times it is a garbled, disjointed mess. Even worse, you receive a report that simply reads ‘No Records Found.’ If the final report is disorganized and haphazard, then what does that say about the research performed? Is it as thorough and accurate as it could or should be? Were all the searches legally compliant? You should never have to question the quality of the work being performed on your behalf. A professional company will be consistent with the product and should not leave you wondering if someone did a background check while at happy hour or via a Google search.
No One Talks About the Law
If you are obtaining background information then your provider should speak to you about any laws and/or requirements that may apply. Do you need a signed release form? Does the Fair Credit Reporting Act apply? There are a myriad of federal, state, and local laws governing background investigations and privacy associated with background checks that should be discussed and explained at length. You should have a clear understanding of what actions you can legally take with the results of your background check. Your provider should be intimately familiar with the background check laws on the federal and state levels (especially in your particular jurisdiction) so that they can help protect your business.
You Receive Information You Probably Shouldn’t
If any sentence, whether verbal or written, even starts with “I really shouldn’t tell you this, but…” or “I’m not supposed to disclose this to you, but I can’t not tell you…” then you should run. In all seriousness, the ‘wink wink, nudge nudge’ situation can seem like your provider is giving you the inside scoop, but really they can be causing you a world of trouble. If they shouldn’t or can’t legally disclose the information to you, but do anyway, then you may be implicated in whatever potential illegal research or disclosure that occurred. Think of it like insider trading in the financial industry. You perform background checks to protect yourself from risk and liability, and now you are exposed to additional risk and potential liability. It isn’t worth it in my opinion, and if they are playing fast and loose with the law in this situation where else are they? It isn’t a company with your best interests at heart and probably isn’t someone you want conducting your background checks.
If you are in a situation where one or more of these red flags could describe your background screening provider, consider finding a new screening company as soon as possible. Know who is running your background checks by looking into some basic criteria, such as:
- Is the company or individual properly licensed to perform such research? New York requires a license, but some states do not.
- Are they affiliated with any professional associations?
- Who is the person responsible for your project and can they answer your questions?
- Do they have a good reputation?
- Can they provide a sample report that reflects the product(s) being offered?
- Do they offer you access to billions of criminal and other public records for an extremely low price and describe it as a background check? It is important to shop around with a focus on quality as well as price. The “free background checks” are generally worth what you pay for them.
There are a number of well qualified investigative firms out there; however, there are also an increasing number of questionable background check providers popping up posing as legitimate companies. Consider these red flags when assessing your current or potential background screening provider in order to protect your company from unnecessary risk and liability.
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