When Background Checks Go Wrong

Do you have a common name? Many people do, and all are at risk of being mistaken for someone with the same or a similar name due to simple clerical errors. When these errors show up in a criminal background check, the results can be disastrous.

In today’s business culture, hiring managers want to know their new hires are responsible and trustworthy and that the company is not taking any chances by hiring the wrong person. For that reason, many are choosing to perform a criminal background check on every new hire, from top to bottom. It’s essential, however, to choose carefully when selecting a background check company to do this work for you – not all are created equal.

Some criminal background check companies claim to have access to national databases that, when investigated, prove to be woefully incomplete. Others claim they can uncover all misdemeanors, when in reality they can only find those that have been reduced from felonies. And for businesses that operate in more than one state, not every background check company is familiar with the differences between state reporting rules.

Even worse, some criminal background check firms use computers to scan applicant information without ever having a human being examine the data for errors; these could lead to the loss of an otherwise stellar job candidate. Stories abound of people whose background checks have revealed they share the same name as sex offenders, thieves or even terrorism suspects. When a background check company messes up, the consequences can be devastating for the individual.

Here are some examples of background checks gone wrong:

Same name as sex offender. ABC News reported on a lawsuit filed by a job applicant against a background check company that carelessly mixed up his name with that of a registered sex offender, costing him the job offer. “It’s alarming if you think about it because you wonder how many common names go through this,” he told the news station. Philadelphia attorney Sharon Dietrich said, “We see lots and lots of examples of background checks done wrong.”

Homeless after a botched background check. A Massachusetts woman ended up homeless as well as jobless when a criminal background check firm mixed her up with a woman living nearby, who was 18 years younger and had a criminal record.

When looking for a reliable background check company, it’s important to make sure the firm conducts thorough research, carefully checks for errors and has real people look over the reports before they are finalized. By taking these simple precautions, you’ll help make sure not only that your employees are the very best you can hire, but that everyone is treated fairly – even if they go by the name John Smith.


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