So-Called “Free” Background Screening

When looking for a background screening service on any given search engine, what will come up time and time again in your search are the advertisements for so-called “free” background checks. This begs the question: why pay a background screening company, such as AAA Credit Screening, for their services, when you could simply pull a free report off of one of these websites? Listing their services as frfreeee and easy to use, wherein you can initiate a full search right off the homepage, these websites make it seem like a background check is just a simple click away!

Things that aren’t specified on the “free” background screening websites? What is actually included their “background checks.” Often, “background check” is a vague, catch-all term used by these companies; it is a term that often doesn’t even specify what the scope or purpose of a search is before you conduct it. It could be anything, from a public records search to a motor vehicle report, a county criminal report to a bankruptcy search. This can be confusing to anyone who needs a report for a specific purpose, such as to verify that an applicant does not have a criminal record, nationwide.

A second troubling aspect of these “free” services is their dishonest nature. The majority of these websites will allow a search to be initiated for free, show that there are records associated with an individual’s name, and then, upon trying to obtain more information, will prompt the user to pay money for the full report, which would show any actually relevant or necessary details. These details can be especially important to criminal reporting, such as whether the crime committed was driving 5 MPH over the speed limit or if it was armed robbery, whether the offender’s name was Jon J. Smith or John P. Schmidt, or whether the offender was found guilty or the case was dismissed.

A final problem with “free” background check services? The often-overlooked disclaimers. The reason why you can search for an applicant’s name on the homepage of these websites is because of the fine print text that they put at the bottom of the screen: You cannot use these reports for employment screening, consumer credit decisions, tenant screening, or any other purpose that may require FCRA compliance. Essentially, this means that unless you are an individual looking for their own record, you can get into serious legal trouble for using these websites. Why? Firstly, because they don’t require the authorization of the applicant. This violates the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), which requires all consumer reporting agencies to have the applicant’s permission when furnishing a report. Secondly, because these databases aren’t reviewed, the case records aren’t verified for accuracy, and many of the things that will come up on the report will be out-of-date or simply incorrect.

Relying on a report from a “free” background screening services may seem like a good idea at first, but upon closer examination, but in the end, you always get what you pay for. In this case, that is nothing worth value. These reports are often completely useless, if not because of their inaccuracies, then often because they are searching the wrong areas or not searching for the right kind of record. In the end, to get your report, the company will likely require you to pay a fee anyway, relying on deceptive advertising to convince you otherwise. After paying for the report, you will find its contents irrelevant, as you find out that you cannot legally use the report for the reason you needed it. The biggest difference that separates these companies from consumer reporting agencies such as AAA Credit Screening is the quality of service. From start to finish, AAA Credit Screening provides you with consultation as to the report options that are available to you. Instead of trying to deceive you with hidden fees or confusing language, AAA Credit Screening will confirm your purpose for screening the report before you pay; our reports can be used for all permissible purposes under the FCRA, including consumer credit decisions, employment, and tenant screening. Friendly and capable staff will review every report before it reaches your screen, confirming the accuracy of the information you are receiving.

For more information on AAA Credit Screening, and how YOU can start screening your applicants today, visit us at www.hrbackground.com or give us a call at 1-888-282-0447!

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How can you find previous addresses or counties without asking the applicant to write them down? The answer may be simpler than you think.

If you’re an employer or landlord with some applicant-screening savvy, you’ll know that county criminal reports are the most accurate and up-to-date records of criminal history that you can find. While county criminal reports may take a few business days to complete, the non-instant turnaround time is compensated for by the detail and precision of information found on the record.

The one problem with county criminal reports, though, is coverage. When you run a statewide criminal report, you are covering all areas that report to the state. The same goes for when you are running a nationwide criminal report; you get a report that covers most states and territories within the United States. There are, however, gaps in these reports. Not all county courthouses or police departments report to the state, and not all states report to the nationwide databases. How, then, do you get a fully comprehensive report, which covers all areas the applicant has lived at, while maintaining the accuracy and detail that you need in a report that will affect a hiring, rental, or credit decision?

Many employers and landlords will have their applicants write down the addresses they have been at for the past 7 years. The problem with this? If the applicant knows that they have committed a crime in a certain county, they can always omit addresses from that county when they are writing down their account of their address history. Persons with criminal records will assume that you won’t know the difference… and most of the time, they’re right.

This comes to our question: How can I find previous addresses or counties without asking the applicant to write them down? Simple: an address history report. Unlike the “Address Comparison” section on a credit report, which only reflects the address history for the applicant the credit bureau has on file, and the applicant’s own record, which can often leave out certain addresses, AAA Credit Screening’s address history report pulls address information from hundreds of different places, including the U.S. Postal Service, utility bill records, creditors, voter registration records, and other comparable sources.

While the address history report is not classified as a consumer report, and therefore cannot be used to make a hiring or rental decision, it can be used as a tool to determine the counties that should be ran for an applicant’s criminal reports, which are a part of their consumer report and can be used to make an employment or rental decision. This leaves one gap, though, in your comprehensive criminal report: federal felonies. Federal criminal records are created by the federal court system, which exists outside of the traditional county courthouses. See our article on the difference between nationwide criminal reports and federal criminal reports for more information on this topic.

In summary:  If you want a comprehensive record of all possible criminal history for your U.S. resident applicant, you should be ordering 3 kinds of reports. The address history report, which will let AAA Credit Screening know what counties to search for criminal records in. County criminal reports, which will be run in all counties the applicant has lived in during the past 7 years. Finally, a federal criminal report, which will fill the final gap in your comprehensive report.

For more information on why you should be getting a comprehensive criminal report, or to order criminal records for your applicant(s), contact AAA Credit Screening today!

Differences between Federal and National Criminal Reports

What is the difference between a Federal Criminal Report and a Nationwide Criminal Report? While these two reports sound like they would contain the same or similar information, the criminal records contained in them are very different.

National Criminal Reports include misdemeanors or felonies committed all over the country. The databases searched for our National Criminal Reports include county courts, police records, state criminal records, and more.

Federal Criminal Reports include crimes that were prosecuted in federal court, such as fraud, drug trafficking, money laundering and tax evasion.

Knowing which report is best for you is an important part of the background screening practice. For more information on federal or national criminal reports, or to find out which criminal report is best suited for your employment or tenant screening process, contact AAA Credit Screening today!

Tenant Screening – Why you will now want eviction reports

Beginning July 1, 2017 the 3 major credit bureaus will enact their National Consumer Assistance Plan (NCAP) and make some major changes to what will be reported on credit reports. The credit bureaus will remove most tax liens and civil judgments from credit reports, making it much harder to determine if yoWordItOut-word-cloud-2182729ur applicant has been evicted through the court system or if they haven’t been paying their taxes. Applicants that don’t pay their taxes can have a tax lien, possible wage garnishment and asset freeze put on them, leaving them low on funds to take care of rent. While there will not be a way to determine if the applicant did or did not pay their taxes after the NCAP plan has been enacted, there is a solution to the possible evictions.

An eviction report searches by name and returns a report with the following information:

  • CASE NUMBER                           •          FILE DATE
  • JUDGMENT AMOUNT               •          PLANTIFF NAME
  • DEFENDANT NAME                  •          COUNTY
  • ADDRESS                                     •          ADDITONAL INFORMATION

 

Once the information is returned to us, we compare the addresses on the eviction report against an address history report (a report that pulls all addresses associated with applicants’ SSN). We determine which records are the applicant’s by matching them to addresses on the address history report, assuring that the person on the report is your applicant.

If you have been using the credit report to view possible civil judgments such as tax liens, your alternative is to run a civil report. Civil reports can be pulled federally or by county. Unfortunately, civil reports are not instant and have a general turn-around time of five business days.

AAA Credit Screening strives to stay ahead of changes that affect you, our clients, doing our best to offer alternatives when you need specific information. As background screening processes continue to change and evolve, we will be here to help you continue to make the best decision possible.

AAA Credit Screening Services – 888-282-0447 – www.hrbackground.com

Employment Screening Adverse Action

As an employer, navigating employment laws can be a tricky endeavor. Compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) adds to those headache inducing, pain staking chances of making mistakes that opens your comprejectedany up to litigation. The FCRA has specific guidelines that must be followed when you are considering not hiring an applicant called Adverse Action that applies when you have utilized a background screening company. Adverse Action is defined by the FCRA as “A denial of employment or any other decision for employment purposes based in whole or in part on a consumer report that adversely affects any current or prospective employee.” -FCRA §603(k)(1)(B)(ii) and FCRA §615.  Adverse Action not being properly followed is the top reason for class action lawsuits for FCRA violations.

So how do you keep your company out of the cross hairs of this type of litigation? Follow these simple steps:

If you think you might not hire the candidate:

  • Sent the candidate a letter (the pre-adverse notice) that explains the background check results are under review and a decision is pending
  • Include a copy of the candidate’s background check results
  • Include a copy of “A Summary of Your Rights Under The Fair Credit Reporting Act”
  • Keep a copy of the letter and attachments, and document the date sent. (send by certified mail if you’re sending the notices yourself)
  • Consider sending by certified mail if you’re sending the notices yourself
  • Wait no less than five (5) business days before taking any additional actions so the candidate has time to dispute inaccuracies.

If you decide to not hire:

  • Send a denial of employment adverse action letter to the applicant informing them of decision, and that the decision was based on, at least in part, of the background check results.
  • Include the name, address, and phone number for the CRA that performed the background check and a statement explaining the CRA wasn’t the decision maker and can’t explain why adverse action was taken.
  • Inform the job candidate of the right to request a free copy of the background check within 60 days and the right to dispute inaccurate information.
  • Keep a copy of the letter and attachments, and document the date sent (send by certified mail if sending them yourself)

You are able to view and print the pre-adverse and adverse action letters by logging into your Instascreen account. You will select the applicant you would like to send the adverse action letter to, then on the reports results page scroll down to the “Disclosures and Forms” section and use the drop-down box to select the appropriate document. Your choices at that time are to view, print, or email to applicant.

As always, AAA Credit Screening is here to answer any questions you may have about the adverse action processes.  Give us a call at 888-282-0447 or visit our website at www.hrbackground.com.

Bye-Bye, Liability Waiver

In a case that went before several district courts, as well as an appellate court in 2016, an individual, Sarmad Syed, went up against M-I, LLC, a Delaware Limited Liability Company and PreCheck, Inc., a Texas Corporation. Syed’s counsel filed an appeal to reverse a district court’s dismissal of their complaint, which argued that a liability waiver included in a statutorily mandated consumer report disclosure violates the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). The district court’s dismissal was because Syed and his counsel could not support their allegation of “willfulness” in the ebuh byemployer’s violation of the FCRA, which is necessary for the court to order the employer to pay damages.

The panel of judges at the appellate court held that a prospective employer is willfully violating the FCRA when obtaining a job applicant’s consumer report after including a liability waiver in the same document as the job applicant’s statutorily mandated disclosure. This is because of the FCRA’s requirement for the “clear and conspicuous” disclosure document to consist “solely” of the disclosure. The only exception to this requirement (which is, in fact, encouraged by Congress) is for the inclusion of an authorization statement and place for the applicant to sign, approving the procurement of their consumer report. The court found that there were no additional, implied, exceptions to the “solely” requirement, considering this express exception.

This decision sets a precedent, wherein employers violating the FCRA’s disclosure requirements may be required to pay out large class action settlements. Willful violations of the FCRA can result in actual or statutory damages, ranging from $100 to $1,000 per violation, which can add up quickly in class action litigation, especially if the court orders additional punitive damages.

Another point of note on this case is the explicit reason why the FCRA was found to be willfully violated. A prospective employer is not violating the FCRA simply for placing a liability waiver on the same page as a disclosure statement; the employer violates the FCRA when, after violating the disclosure requirement, it “procure[s] or cause[s] to be procured” a consumer report about the applicant. This means if your applicant was given a disclosure document with a liability statement, but you have not yet procured a consumer report on the applicant, you still have time to give the applicant an amended disclosure statement, sans the liability clause.

All forms that employers use for procuring background checks from consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) such as AAA Credit Screening are under an obligation to ensure their forms comply with the FCRA, as well as any other relevant state or local laws. AAA Credit Screening has made a commitment to keep all our disclosure and applicant forms up-to-date with any FCRA requirements. If you are unsure if your consumer report disclosure document is violating the FCRA, try using our form here.

For more information, please visit our website at www.hrbackground.com, or give us a call at 888-282-0447 to reach the friendly staff at AAA Credit Screening Services.

 

AAA Credit Screening Services does not provide legal advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, legal advice. You should consult your own legal advisors before engaging in any transactions.
Sources:
SARMAD SYED V. M-I, LLC, 28 (Fresno District Court Jan. 20, 2017).
Syed v. MI, LLC, No. 1: 12-cv-01718-DAD-MJS (E.D. Cal. Feb. 27, 2017).
Syed v. MI, LLC, No. 1: 12-cv-01718-DAD-MJS (E.D. Cal. Feb. 22, 2017).