Third Party Verifiers

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Have you ever wondered what happens to your employment information when you leave a company? What if the company went out of business or no one that you worked with there is currently employed with the company? Who is going to verify that you were employed there, or what your position was, or even how much your salary was?

Maybe it took you ten or more years to complete your Master’s degree at 3 different universities. In the midst of life you lost your paper degrees showing that you had received your Associate of Arts degree in Mathematics and Bachelor of Arts in Computer Science, and the only physical degree you actually have to show your prospective employer, an IT firm, is your latest degree – a Master’s degree in Web Design and Development.

There is what seems to be an endless amount of questions people have about employment and education verifications in situations such as those described above, but the answer is simple and widely used.

Third party verifiers such as The Work Number and the National Student Clearing House are databases that likely contain information about your employment history or education history.

The Work Number is a database used to verify employment, currently holding the employee history of over 50,000 organizations. Companies that utilize services such as The Work Number are able to outsource the employment verification process – saving valuable time and resources. The Work Number typically verifies dates of employment, position/title, and salary information. The amount of information contained in an employee’s record with The Work Number varies depending on how much information the employer has disclosed. The cost to verify information through The Work Number has increased by over 100% the past few years, and likely will continue to increase as this service is more and more in demand.

The National Student Clearing House is a similar database that contains education records. There is a fee for verifying information through this service, but records are generally returned instantly. The records contain information on the degree/certificate obtained by a student of a given institution; typically they include graduation date, dates of attendance, majors and minors, and the name that a graduate used during attendance. Founded in 1993, and containing student records from more than 3,600 public and private colleges and universities, the National Student Clearing House performs more than 700 million electronic verifications per year.

The cost incurred from use of these third party verifiers is often passed on from a background screening company to their client, and from the client (employer or landlord) to the applicant.

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Deciphering a Credit Score

Trying to calculate your own credit score will make you feel like a caveman attempting calculus. There is a specific algorithm that is used by each credit bureau to make this calculation with many factors that play into it.

Generally speaking, your score breaks down into five major parts. Each part holds its own percentage of value to your credit score.

35% Payment History

30% Amounts Owedcredit_score_breakdown

15% Length of Credit History

10% New Credit

10% Credit Mix

The truth is that even with knowledge of these specific percentages, your credit score would still not be simple to calculate. Other factors are taken into consideration during calculation that can alter these percentages. For example, people who have a short credit history will have differently weighted factors in the equation used to calculate their score than those with a longer credit history. Your credit history always plays a major role in the calculation. But, as the information on your credit report changes, so does the importance of the other factors that help to determine your score.

Often people use programs to see how a specific event, like buying a car, will impact their score. The reality is, it is impossible to measure that event without comparing it to your complete credit report.

There are some events that will always have a large impact on an individual’s score. Defaulting on a larger installment loan, like a mortgage, will damage your score more than a small revolving loan, like a credit card. Also, having a consistently high debt to credit ratio (how much of your available credit you are utilizing at any given time) will negatively impact your score.

While you may never know exactly how your score is calculated, making consistent and timely payments will work best to improve your score.

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Signing in Blood

 

A lock of hair. A seal. Ink and pen. A computer. These may appear to be unrelated objects, but they do have a common factor. They were/are used as a method of authentication, like a signature.

During the middle ages, royal families began using a coat of arms. The crest denoted their identity and was not allowed to be replicated.

Because of their importance in identification, particularly in seals on legal documents, the use of arms was strictly regulated” –Wikipedia (Educational Institute Coat of Arms 2005)

coat of arms

Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom of Great Britannia

Throughout human history, entering into a covenant with others has been used as a means of survival. Coat of Arms were used like a binding signature when entering into agreements. In today’s world, we do not need anything as elaborate as a Coat of Arms to represent us on a document. A hand written signature has been in use in the west for several hundred years, including the famed signatures used on the Declaration of Independence by revolutionaries such as John Hancock. As technology has evolved, individuals have taken less time to perfect and polish their signature. Using calligraphy, or even cursive, to write your name on binding documents are becoming things of the past.

Technological advancements continue to make life easier for us.  You can now sign your marriage license with a computer mouse or your finger, with the invention of a legally binding electronic signature.

Companies such as Docusign have evolved our electronic signature even further. Visually, Docusign’s electronic signatures look like typed print. However unrecognizable this e-signature is from its cursive predecessors, it is a legally binding signature.

I see a signature as an identifier associated with a single individual. It should not be able to be easily replicated or duplicated. It should be recognizable and distinguishable.  It is a written/drawn representation of you and your word.

However, my thoughts on a signature make no bearing on the legality of an electronic signature. If you sign a document with an electronic signature (that can be verified), the world must accept it as binding. Right now, being able to verify it is key. There are many companies that provide verifiable electronic signatures, and without the “mark” showing that it is a verifiable signature, it is just typed print on a document.

For further information about electronic (verifiable) signatures, please see the following:

http://www.docusign.com

http://www.electronicsignatures.com

http://www.silanis.com

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Enforcing Drug Free Work Place Policy in a Changing Legal Environment

With all the recent changes in the United States, combating drug abuse in the work place is becoming an even larger issue.

Synthetic (designer) drugno drugs use is on the rise. These drugs are much harder to detect using standard drug testing practices.

Synthetic cannabinoids, commonly referred to as “legal marijuana”, come from compounds that function much like marijuana but with added chemicals. They are often sold as herbal incense and include statements on the packaging stating that it is not for human consumption.  Still, over the last five years, the popularity of this drug has increased because it is sold over the counter and many believe that it is undetectable in a drug test.

Synthetic cathinones, also known as bath salts have become the newest trend among young drug users looking for that next “high”.  Similar to the effect of cocaine or ecstasy, the drug comes in a powder form and can be inhaled or injected.  This drug is also sold over the counter and is labeled as not for human consumption. Nearly twenty-five thousand emergency room visits occur each year from the misuse of this synthetic compound.

In the wake of the marijuana legalization revolution, four states have made it legal to use marijuana legally. Additionally, eleven other states have decriminalized possession of small amounts of the drug. This decriminalization occurred in the other states before actually becoming legal. It seems that it is only a matter of time before those eleven states follow the trend of Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington.

At this time, with these drugs being sold in a legal manner, it is up to the employer to enforce their policy regarding drug use. By clearly stating company policy and enforcing compliance with drug testing, your company will potentially avoid the negative impacts of substance abuse in the work place. Employers should consult with a legal team for direction with state legislation regarding their workplace drug-testing policy.

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What will show up in a criminal history check?

Taking a look at criminal history checks and the many misconceptions that are tied to them.

courthouse

  • Nationwide Criminal

Misconception: A nationwide criminal check will encompass all records for an individual though out the country.

Truth:  Although this may seem like logical reasoning, it is indeed wrong. A nationwide criminal check can miss many convictions on a state and local level. There are no regulations that require states or counties to report to a national level, leaving records often missing important information about the individual. The nationwide search will include the state sex offender registry data, but further research is always needed as many of the databases are not up to date. Nationwide searches are most effectively used to “fill in the gaps” for additional state or local searches not defined by current residence.

  • Statewide Criminal

Misconception: As soon as the courts decide on verdict, the record is updated.

Truth: The records are not automated. A state court must manually input the data into the record. Generally the records are updated very quickly, but that is not always the case. Also, not all counties report to a state level, so even if the applicant makes you aware of a specific record in a state, the statewide search may not contain the record. Though this type of search is likely more inclusive of up to date county records than a nationwide, records often lack critical case identifiers, prompting further investigation before a record can be released.

  • Federal Criminal

Misconception: A federal crime, such as bank robbery or drug trafficking, will show up in a nationwide, statewide, or countywide criminal search.

Truth: Federal crimes, also referred to as “white collar” crimes, are reported on a federal level only. With that being said, there is not a federal search that contains records for the entire nation. There are even many jurisdictions or districts within each state that have to be searched on an individual level.

  • County Criminal

Misconception: Every county level criminal report will always be returned in the same amount of time.

Truth: A county level report requires research at the individual courthouse being searched. Each courthouse has their own set of business hours and days. When attempting to obtain the records from a courthouse, the screening agency will have to work within the hours of availability set forth by that courthouse. Fortunately, when the record does come back, it has already been verified with identifiers that match the applicant to the record. Additional investigation is not required when this type of record is pulled, and provides the most accurate and current source of information.


There are other general misconceptions about criminal reports.

Misconception:  When a record is pulled, an individual’s entire criminal history will be shown.

Truth:  The FCRA governs the reportable information contained in a record as well as the length of time that the information may be reported. Following the most stringent guidelines, only convictions occurring in the last seven years will be reportable. Arrest records, deferred adjudication, offenses before the age of 18, and any offense occurring longer than seven years prior will not be shown.

Misconception:  Records are always correct.

Truth:  There is no guarantee that the record for an individual is 100% accurate. While courts and reporting agencies strive to maintain accurate information, there is always room for error. The data contained in a record is input by hand, and unfortunately no human is perfect. There are procedures set in place by the FCRA to allow for investigation in the event that the information is not correct. If during the investigation, the record is found to be inaccurate, it is changed to reflect the appropriate information.

While there are many more misconceptions concerning criminal reports, your background screening company should always be able to answer your specific questions regarding the subject.

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