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Difference between a background check and a fingerprint check

When it comes to background checks, a common topic is the advantages of fingerprint background checks versus regular background checks. This topic is common because people want to know a background check and a fingerprint check. It may be surprising that fingerprint background checks are often not recommended as a primary source of information for most companies. Fingerprint checks can supplement and support safety; they have significant shortcomings that make them poorly suited for employment screening.

Digital screening is another popular background check preferred these days. Order an instant online background check and learn how your online profile looks to others, including potential employers.

Fingerprint Check vs. Name-Based Background Check

Fingerprint background checks involve comparing an applicant’s fingerprints against state and federal fingerprint databases. These checks only look for prior arrests and report crimes that are in the database. A major advantage of fingerprint checks is that they are unhindered by false information, such as fake names since every individual has unique fingerprints.

name based background check

Name-based background checks, on the other hand, compare a candidate’s information against available criminal records. These are used to determine prior criminal records and can also verify name, birth date, and social security number, among other personal identifiers. In contrast, name-based background checks can be used to verify an applicant’s professional certifications, education, past employment history, and driving record.


fingerprint background check


Fingerprint databases were designed for law enforcement. As such, fingerprint databases available to the public are often out of date are never geographically comprehensive. While some industries may find fingerprinting useful, many companies will find fingerprint checks an inefficient use of time and money.

Overall, name-based background checks are a better choice for minimizing hiring risks when provided by an accredited screener. Name-based background checks can be specifically designed for employment. In addition, name-based background checks are more comprehensive and compliant than fingerprint checks alone.

Understanding Fingerprint Checks

Many people erroneously consider fingerprint checks the best approach to criminal background screening. There is no doubt that fingerprints are unique to each individual and that law enforcement extensively keeps track of criminal fingerprints. In certain situations, it is mandated by the government.

However, fingerprints have several shortcomings and limitations, making them poorly suited to employment background screening. For starters, state and FBI fingerprint databases are designed for criminals and not potential employment seekers. Other flaws include:

  • The FBI database does not include final or disposition information many as 50% of the criminal records in the database.
  • Fingerprint records are not updated regularly. Sometimes, they are weeks and months out of date.
  • Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidelines state that arrests that do not result in convictions should not be considered while making a hiring decision. Unfortunately, fingerprint-based records often include these arrests. This is because of its disproportionate impact on non-Caucasian communities.
  • The subjects cannot challenge FBI reports or rap sheets

Many medium and large-scale organizations have turned to alternative screening options, such as name-based checks, considering these flaws.

Advantages of Name-based Checks

While conducting name-based criminal background checks, professional screeners use personal identifiers to search for federal, local, and state records of arrests and convictions, if any. This is a more thorough outlook for conducting fingerprint checks.

There are several benefits to carrying out name-based criminal background checks for employment purposes. A few of these are:

  • These reports are consistent with EEOC guidelines since only convictions are included. There are no mentions of arrests.
  • Background screening companies can uncover other valuable information apart from criminal convictions. For instance, you can ascertain whether a candidate’s educational and employment background is what they claim to be.
  • Candidates can challenge the results in name-based background check reports through an adverse action process. All screening companies require this process to follow as per the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
  • Fingerprint background checks can take up to six weeks to deliver results than a few days in name-based background checks.

The value of name-based criminal background checks is increasingly recognized. FINRA, a regulatory agency for the financial industry, even passed a rule in 2015 to require only name-based checks.

Name-based Criminal Background Checks are Accurate, Fast, and Comprehensive

Criminal history checks from accredited background verification companies allow for secure and informative hiring decisions. Name-based checks offer a more comprehensive background screening report by including felony and misdemeanor convictions of any candidate and their dispositions, case numbers, case dates, sentences, and classifications.

You do not have to stop at verifying an applicant’s criminal history. You can uncover their educational history and employment history as well. Name-based verification checks are EEOC and FCRA compliant. You can determine information about an applicant’s financial background, social media footprint, and other identity checks.

Fingerprint-based reports are not up to date since the databases containing them are rarely updated. They can also take weeks to complete, especially if conducted at a county or local level. In contrast, name-based identity checks are quick and, in most cases, can be completed in 24-48 hours. The results are more accurate and can verify additional information regarding an applicant’s name, date of birth, and Social Security Number.

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The Bottom Line

When it decides between fingerprint checks and name-based background verifications, you should opt for the latter. Name-based criminal background screenings are more complete and allow your organization to comply with various rules and guidelines. As a result, you can make better hiring decisions while minimizing any hiring risk and protecting your brand’s reputation. However, fingerprint checks can be of some value, too, when used in conjunction with name-based background screening.

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Looking for a new job? Stand out among the rest by attaching a background check with your resume! See what a landlord, investor, potential employer, or government organization will learn when they run a background check on you? See what others can know about you.

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