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Sex Offender Registries; The Broken System.

By Katie L. Adams-Anderton

For more than two decades, states and the federal government have struggled with how to best protect the public from sexual predators. Requiring states to register and publicize the names and addresses of convicted sex offenders has been thought to help protect the public by keeping citizens informed. However, who should register, and which information can be made public has been an area of contention between the states and the federal government.

California became the first state in the United States to have a sex offender registration program in 1947. In 1990, Washington state began community notification of its most dangerous sex offenders, making it the first state ever to have any sex offender information publicly available.

Before 1994, only a few states required convicted sex offenders to register their addresses with local law enforcement. The 1990s saw the emergence of several cases of brutal, violent sexual offences against children. Heinous crimes involving victims Jacob Wetterling, Megan Kanka and Adam Wash were highly publicized. Several state and federal law were enacted as a response to public outrage generated by highly publicized, but statistically sporadic, violent predatory sex crimes against children by strangers.

In 1994, Congress passed House Resolution 324, the Wetterling Act, requiring all states to establish sex offender registries. Until that time, only a few states had registries. This act was in response to the 1989 kidnapping of an 11-year-old boy, Jacob Wetterling. He was abducted from a street in St. Joseph, Minnesota. Jacob’s mother, Patty Wetterling, led a community effort to implement a sex offender registration requirement in Minnesota and, subsequently, nationally.

The Wetterling Act required each state to create a registry of offenders convicted of qualifying sex offenses and certain other offenses against children and to track offenders by confirming their place of residence annually for ten years after their release into the community or quarterly for the rest of their lives if the sex offender was convicted of a violent sex crime. States had a certain period to enact the legislation, along with guidelines established by the Attorney General. However, if states failed to comply, the states would forfeit 10% of federal funds from the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act.

Under the Wetterling Act, the registration information collected was treated as private data viewable by law enforcement personnel only, although law enforcement agencies were allowed to release relevant information that was deemed necessary to protect the public concerning a specific person required to register.

After another high-profile case, abuse and murder of Megan Kanka led to the modification of Jacob Wetterling Act in 1996. Megan’s Law, which required states to make information about sex offenders deemed relevant to public safety available to the public. Before Megan’s Law, community notification had been discretionary under law enforcement agencies discretion. Under the new federal mandate, states were required to decide which information was necessary for public safety and make that information available to the public.

The most thorough legislation related to the supervision and management of sex offenders is the Adam Walsh Act (AWA). Named after Adam Walsh, a 6 year-old boy who was kidnapped from a Florida shopping mall and killed in 1981. The AWA was signed on the 25th anniversary of his abduction; efforts to establish a national registry was led by John Walsh, Adam’s father. Subsequently, multiple pieces of the AWA attempted to improve sex offender registration laws.

Title I of the resolution, the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), establishes, among other things, uniform minimum guidelines for registration of sex offenders, regardless of the state they live in. SORNA requires states to widen the number of covered offences and to include certain classes of juvenile offenders.

The AWA organizes sex offenders into three tiers according to the crime committed. Registration requirements are defined by the type of offence the person was convicted. Convictions are classified into three tiers.

  • Tier 3 offenders register for life.
  • Tier 2 offenders register for at least 25 years after conviction.
  • Tier 1 offenders register for ten to fifteen years after release. (Tier I registrants may be
  • excluded from internet databases.)

However, since the passage of SORNA and AWA, states have continued wrestled with how to alter their current sex offender registries to comply with the federal statute. After more than 10 years and over 1000 bills later, 32 states are still not considered in compliance with the laws. These states continue to lose 10 percent of their federal Byrne/JAG justice funding for each year they remain noncompliant.

Some states are intentionally noncompliant. New York, for example, issued a letter citing the excessive cost of implementation and claimed the law would not increase public safety. Instead of SORNA’s crime-based tier system, New York argues that its reliance on a risk assessment that estimates an individual sex offender’s likelihood of reoffending better protects the public. Texas has cited similar reasons for noncompliance.

Other states have attempted to comply with SORNA, only to be met by judicial opposition. Ohio’s reclassification of sex offenders was held unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court. Massachusetts faced similar challenges when its use of classifications for registration was also ruled unconstitutional. Courts in both cases found that retroactive registering of offenders (as required by SORNA) was at least part of what led to the illegality of the states’ registries.

One of the biggest impediments to substantial compliance with SORNA has been the law’s requirement to include juvenile offenders in the registries. Many states have opposed these requirements, citing a higher likelihood for the rehabilitation of juveniles. Other states have implemented SORNA’s juvenile requirements, only to have those actions struck down by courts.

When Peopletrail doesn’t find an applicant on the Sex Offender Registry, it can be hard to explain to clients why the applicant has a criminal record, but not on the states and the federal registries. It would be great if we could confidently search the databases for a name, but it’s not reliant enough to be trusted as a stand-alone source.

Overall, the Sex Offender Registry is exceptionally complicated and broken in its current state.

Author: Katie L. Adams-Anderton is the Compliance Manager of Peopletrail. Katie’s expertise comes from her experience in compliance, bankruptcy and debt collection law where she has held numerous positions.

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Trending Discussions in Employment Screening Webinar

Employers conducting employment background screening will need to keep compliance top of mind in 2017. Regulatory oversight, the growing number of class-action lawsuits, and the threat of data breaches all make it a good time to touch base on the trending topics impacting screening programs and practices. With this in mind, Peopletrail released a webinar entitled, Trending Discussions in Employment Screening.

Here are six topics we covered:

1.   The Most Important Background Checks an Employer Can Conduct

Many employers rely on simple criminal background checks when hiring. In many instances, employers ignore the most telling information by only conducting a criminal background check. A simple criminal check does not verify an employee’s most important information.

An estimated 45% of all resumes contain at least one major fabrication. Lies from an employee can potentially mean danger. Employers can’t find danger from an employee’s criminal past alone. In our webinar, we’ll discuss the range and depth of background checks.

2.   The Rise of Post-Hire Screening

Threats such as embezzlement, theft, fraud, and even active workplace violence can spring from employees at all levels. If an employee commits a crime, their employer might not know until it is too late—unless they perform a post-hire screen.

In our webinar, we’ll discuss how post-hire screening helps secure a workplace and reinforces screening policies.

3.   The Limitations of Screening Employees for Prescription Drugs

The fastest growing drug problem in the U.S comes from the abuse of prescription drugs. Prescription drugs often negatively impact workplace safety. Yet the law limits an employer’s ability to question an employee’s medication use. In many cases, the government protects users of prescription medications under the American’s with Disabilities Act and Health Privacy Laws.

Furthermore, the laws around prescription drugs may obscure the results of a simple drug test because the presence of a substance does not constitute an offense. Learn more how employers can still keep the workplace safe from prescription drug abuse in our webinar.

4.   Common Flaws in Employer Drug Testing Programs

Weak drug testing programs can fail to detect illegal drug abuse, and that puts your company at risk. Companies must check their drug screening policies and the programs they use. Not only will this keep your company compliant, it will also strengthen your drug screening process.

A strong drug screening process means that employers need to understand the regulations that could affect a drug screening program. Learn more about how to avoid the pitfalls of drug testing programs in the webinar.

5.   The Most Common 1-9 Compliance Mistakes

The rules of filling out an I-9 form are enough to warrant a how-to manual and training course. In addition to figuring out the details of 1-9, the responsibility lies with employers to collect and maintain correct information. Employers that fail to complete or maintain correct documentation also meet harsh financial penalties.

In our webinar, we’ll discuss how to simplify 1-9 compliance and learn to avoid common mistakes.

6.   The Risks of Using Social Media to Screen Candidates

Nearly one-third of employers have ruled out an applicant based on information they found on social media. Viewing public profiles can provide employers with a lot of relevant insight on candidates. However, this practice puts you at risk for workplace discrimination in certain cases. Some states have even banned employers from requesting access to applicant and employee social media.

When deciding how to use social media screening, the risks versus rewards may cause some confusion. The webinar provides more guidance on social media screening.

To view the webinar, click here

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Wells Fargo: When Thousands of Employees Go Wrong

On September 8, 2016, the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) and other regulators fined Wells Fargo $185 million for fraud committed by thousands of employees. Wells Fargo employees fraudulently opened over 2 million bank accounts and credit cards for customers without permission. The fake credit cards amassed more than $400,000 in fees to unsuspecting customers.

The 5,300 bank employees fired by Wells Fargo since 2011 for opening up unauthorized bank accounts and credit cards are not hardened criminals. These low-level, first-time fraud perpetrators likely follow the standard “fraud triangle” paradigm. This model developed by American criminologist Dr. Donald Cressey illustrates the risk factors that lead to occupational fraud: first, pressure; second, opportunity; third, rationalization. Cresey states:

“Trusted persons become trust violators when they conceive of themselves as having a financial problem which is non-shareable, are aware this problem can be secretly resolved by violation of the position of financial trust, and are able to apply to their own conduct in that situation verbalizations which enable them to adjust their conceptions of themselves as trusted persons with their conceptions of themselves as users of the entrusted funds or property.”


Why did these employees defraud innocent customers? The CFPB press release declares, “Bank Incentives to Boost Sales Figures Spurred Employees to Secretly Open Deposit and Credit Card Accounts.”

Former Wells Fargo employees complained of extreme and unrealistic pressure to attain goals, job loss threats, and berating by management. Employees struggled to meet demanding quotas, facing working conditions that the National Employment Law Project characterizes as “unrelenting pressure.”  The NELP notes that managers “constantly hound, berate, demean and threaten employees to meet these unreachable quotas.”

These aggressive sales metrics and low wages offered a perfect incentive for fraudulent tactics. Employees began to cut corners by opening accounts and products for customers without their knowledge.


This fraudulent behavior has been on the radar since 2011. Why did this behavior persist for five years? It appears that the company placed no actual limits on employees. Whatever checks and balances were in place at the time did not end the fraud after employees started to be fired in 2011. Opportunity did not disappear, and, more importantly, incentive did not disappear.

To make matters worse, the example set at the top did not help. In fact, the company’s leadership seemed to reinforce the concept that misdeeds are to be remunerated.

Carrie Tolstedt, the Wells Fargo executive in charge of the unit in which more than 2 million unauthorized customer accounts were opened, was recently praised by CEO John Stumpf as “one of the bank’s most important leaders,” “a standard-bearer of our culture,” and “a champion for our customers.” She will leave Wells Fargo with $124.6 million.

but also perpetuated an atmosphere of rationalization.


The last and possibly most terrifying part of the fraud triangle is the rationalization needed to commit fraud. Roughly 1% of the Bank’s workforce found rationalizations strong enough to commit fraud.

Matt Levine from Bloomberg points out that, unlike the typical financial scandal story “in which small groups of highly paid traders gleefully and ungrammatically conspire to rip-off customers and make a lot of money for themselves and their bank,” that this story is different. Levine asserts that “this looks more like a vast uprising of low-paid and ill-treated Wells Fargo employees against their bosses.” 

What Will It Cost Wells Fargo?

Since the scandal broke, the bank’s share price is only down 6%. However, this is enough for JPMorgan Chase to surpass Wells Fargo in market value for the first time since 2013.

Wells Fargo has suffered a ‘black eye’ in terms of reputation and the public trust—a crucial key to banking. In 2015, Fortune ranked Wells Fargo 22nd in the list of most admired companies. Under Fortune’s “Key Attributes of Reputation” ranking, Wells Fargo earned rankings of #1 for Social Responsibility, #2 for Quality of Management, and #3 for People Management. 

In addition to the $185 million in fines to regulators, Wells Fargo must repay all customers, expected to total at least $2.5 million.

Wells Fargo is also required by the CFPB to ensure proper sales practices. The company must now hire an independent consultant, “to conduct a thorough review of its procedures…requiring employees to undergo ethical-sales training and reviewing the bank’s performance measurements and sales goals to make sure they are consistent with preventing improper sales practices.”

Wells Fargo’s message to its customers on the company website states they recently reached “settlements with the City Attorney of Los Angeles, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency over allegations that some of our retail customers received products and services they did not want.”

Wells Fargo outlined the steps it is taking to remediate the situation. The most effective step is Well’s Fargo’s commitment to the “elimination of all product sales goals in retail banking.” In addition, Wells Fargo commits to more communication, training, disciplinary actions, confirmation to customers of new accounts opened.

Annual Benchmarking Report

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Cyber Deception: The 3.1 Billion Dollar Scam

On June 14, 2016, the FBI issued a PSA about a cyber deception crime known as a Business E-Mail Compromise (BEC).

The FBI warns that the BEC, a.k.a. “The 3.1 Billion Dollar Scam,” is “a Sophisticated scam targeting businesses working with foreign suppliers and/or businesses that regularly perform wire transfer payments.” 

The scam attempts to make unauthorized transfers of funds through email. The fraudsters will compromise a legitimate business email through social engineering or hacking. They then use the email to contact a business.

The fraudsters send bogus emails from a legitimate vendor by appearances, but then requests funds sent to an alternate account. They may also send emails referring to an emergency or secret project that appears to come from a company executive.

According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners,  the perpetrators do extensive research before initiating the BEC.  They learn about the company, the executive, and the person who will receive the fake email. They use the information that is easily available on the company website and in social media. Through hacking and phishing, scammers can learn about employees, organizational structure, and payment procedures. Reportedly, their emails will often attempt to mimic the language used by executives in prior emails.

The targets of BEC scams are usually companies that work with foreign suppliers or those that make wire transfer payments. However, the BEC scams target all types of companies as it evolves.

The threat of this cyber deception continues to grow. Since 2015, there has been a 1,300% increase in identified (actual and attempted) losses in United States dollars. As of the 2016 announcement, the FBI counted 22,143 domestic and international victims; a combined dollar loss approaching $3.1 billion.

The FBI stated that businesses with an understanding of this scam are more likely to recognize when scammers target them. They are then less likely fall victim and send fraudulent payments. The FBI suggests that business deploy internal prevention measures particularly for front-line employees who receive initial phishing attempts.

In response to this crisis, financial institutions will reportedly hold customer requests for international wire transfers for more time to verify the request. The FBI also suggests other steps for protection and best practices for businesses

  1. Avoid free web-based e-mail accounts. Establish a company domain name and use it to establish company e-mail accounts instead of free, web-based accounts.
  2. Be careful and aware of content posted on social media and company websites. This includes job duties and descriptions, hierarchal information, and out-of-office details.
  3. Be suspicious of requests for secrecy or pressure to act quickly.
  4. Consider additional IT and financial security procedures, including the implementation of a 2-step verification process.


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2017 HR Planning Opportunities

With changes in employment screening legislation, the largest I-9 paperwork penalties ever recorded,  and ongoing enforcement of background screening rules by the FCRA, last year challenged many Human Resource teams. As such, we have put together a list of HR housekeeping items to help our clients stay ahead of a few compliance, regulatory, and resource management opportunities in 2017.

1. Review Budget & Implement Best Practices for Employment Screening


  • The beginning of the year is an ideal time to assess best practices in employment screening.  Given the increase in I-9 penalties, it is a perfect time to ensure I-9 compliance through Peopletrail’s integrated electronic I-9 service and direct access to the Department of Homeland Security, and Social Security Administration’s E-verify database.  If budgets permit, it is a good time to begin implementing more in-depth screening procedures, such as adding motor vehicle reports and/or drug and alcohol testing.  It is also a good time to explore the candidate experience and ensure company protocols support a positive onboarding experience.
  • As of Jan. 22, 2017, employers are required to use a new version of Form I9 to verify employment eligibility for new hires. The new form can be accessed on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website.

2. Run Annual Motor Vehicle Reports (MVR)


  • MVR’s are an ideal way to identify candidates or employees with unsafe driving records. In some states, convictions for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs cannot be found on criminal court records and can only be revealed with an MVR review.
  • Companies regulated by the Department of Transportation (DOT) are required to request MVR reports annually on their drivers.


3. Plan DOT and Non-DOT Random Drug and Alcohol Testing for Compliance


  • Random drug and alcohol testing is beneficial for many reasons, including: meeting regulatory requirements, allowing employers to identify employees who are violating the company’s drug-free workplace policy, reducing liability, fostering a safer work environment, and providing a fair way to periodically re-test employees.
  • Companies regulated by the Department of Transportation (DOT) are required to maintain strict programs for drug and alcohol testing for their regulated drivers and safety-sensitive employees.


4. Healthcare Organizations – Run OIG List of Excluded Individuals


  • The OIG List of Excluded Individuals is intended to help healthcare providers comply with regulations relating to Federal health care programs. It supports reimbursement claims by health care providers by allowing organizations to ensure compliance with regulations and helps to reduce potential risks and liabilities from excluded parties.


5. Implement Ongoing Screening Programs


  • Some industries have regulations that encourage or mandate regular screening of existing employees. For example, verification of license renewals may be required in industries like health care, transportation, and financial services to ensure up-to-date licensure status has been maintained.
  • Post-employment background screening is a best practice for workplace safety and productivity. Staying informed of employee conduct throughout the life of the employment relationship enables organizations to mitigate risk and protect against negligent retention lawsuits.


6. Review Most-Read HR Articles from Last Year


  • SHRM recently published a few articles on the most-read articles from 2016. The past year was marked by increased competition to attract candidates. This coverage addresses the talent acquisition issues that resonated most with readers, including recruiting tactics, compensation, diversity management, and technology.  You can access these articles on their website:


Peopletrail has the expertise to help organizations perform ongoing employee monitoring, random drug and alcohol testing, and sanction checks. Please let us know if we can assist you in any of your resource planning initiatives in 2017.


Peopletrail provides Actionable insight you trust®. If you would like to learn more, please give us a call at 866-223-8822 or schedule a Complimentary Consultation today.

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Peopletrail Announces ISO 9001:2008 Certification

Peopletrail–a leading background check and screening solution provider–announces its certification for compliance with the internationally recognized ISO 9001:2008. This certification further illustrates Peopletrail’s dedication to industry certification and accreditation and providing trusted, award-winning, quality service to each of its valued clients.


Peopletrail announced today its certification for compliance with the internationally recognized ISO 9001:2008 standard for quality. This certification adds to the many other layers of accreditation and compliance that Peopletrail achieves each year in its unwavering commitment to provide award-winning, quality service to each of its valued clients. Less than 1% of background screening companies have achieved such a level of certification and accreditation as that demonstrated by Peopletrail.

The International Standards Organization (ISO) is an independent, non-governmental international organization that assists in implementing and auditing a quality management system for an organization. ISO specifies requirements when an organization: a) needs to demonstrate its ability to consistently provide products and services that meet customer and applicable statutory and regulatory requirements, and b) aims to enhance customer satisfaction through the effective application of the system, including processes for improvement of the system and the assurance of conformity to customer and applicable statutory and regulatory requirements. ( Peopletrail has met all the criteria from the in-depth ISO standard audit and no non-conformities were found.

“We are pleased to have achieved the ISO 9001:2008 certification. Peopletrail is dedicated to provide certified, accredited and trusted background screening services to each of our valued clients. This added layer of certification builds upon our NAPBS accreditation and our unwavering focus placed on compliance, technology integration, and providing the human touch to every report, management decision and client relationship,” stated Wallace Davis, President and CEO of Peopletrail. “This certification and our many other layers of regulatory achievements serve as a reflection of our 99.7% customer retention rate and our recent ranking in HRO Today’s Bakers Dozen list recognizing background check and screening firms that excel in the quality and overall customer service they provide to their customers.”

Peopletrail is embracing the charge to establish the highest standards of operation in the background check and screening industry. The Company regularly reviews the stringent quality control procedures and policies established from its commitment to the NAPBS and ISO organizations.   Each employee is regularly evaluated and required to adhere to the internal quality control procedures as established by ISO and NAPBS.

Customers can learn more about Peopletrail and schedule a complimentary consultation by visiting the company’s website at or by calling the company directly at 866.223.6623


About Peopletrail

Peopletrail is a leading provider of custom employment, tenant and drug screening solutions, criminal background checks, ATS integrations, and corporate security services.

As part of the accredited elite, only Peopletrail combines superior customer service through dedicated Account Managers with efficient, state-of-the-art technology integration to deliver on-demand, accurate and timely consumer reporting results. Trusted and respected by government agencies and Fortune 500 to small up-and-coming businesses, Peopletrail provides actionable insight you trust.

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Critical EEOC Update – Fall 2015 Update

Peopletrail has discussed and/or referred the 2008 BMW vs. EEOC case many times in the past as it is a good example of how using backgrounds to make a hiring decision can lead to a racial discrimination suit under Title VII. Now, in September of this year, the case was finally settled with a consent decree requiring BMW to pay $1.6 million dollars, provide job opportunities to their alleged victims of discrimination, and modify their screening and hiring procedures to prevent discrimination. In addition, BMW must send regular proof to the EEOC that their practices are compliant with the terms contained in the decree.

To recap the case, upon hiring a new logistics contractor in 2008, BMW required all current employees to go through a background check through their new provider. BMW had a blanket policy to flag background checks that contained certain types of offenses regardless of other details pertinent to the cases or consideration of an employees’ longevity with the company. The EEOC alleged that 80 percent of the workers who didn’t pass the background check were black, and therefore were “disproportionately disqualified.”

Attorney and industry expert Pam Devata, a regular consultant of Peopletrail, has counseled us that terms set out in consent decrees are very important because the EEOC frequently uses those terms as requirements under the law. Below are some of the terms required of BMW that Devata summarized from the decree. BMW must

  • refrain from using arrest records to deny employment;
  • provide written notice to applicants outlining criminal history information and request additional information from them about the criminal offense (accuracy, circumstances, rehabilitative efforts, personal references, and other information for consideration);
  • hold position open for 21 days;
  • have an official review of all decisions not to hire or disqualify an individual from employment prior to a final decision being made;
  • create an excel spreadsheet of individuals excluded pursuant to the policy;
    maintain various other records related to the criminal background checks and provide regular database updates to the EEOC;
  • train staff on the new requirements;
  • offer employment to those excluded under the old criminal background check policy at the highest rate of pay for the job; and
  • notify other applicants excluded from employment of the right to reapply.

Our legal team has informed us that many of these provisions are clearly beyond the requirements of Title VII, the FCRA, and local statues, including ban the box.

It is noteworthy that BMW denies committing any violations. However, recent EEOC suits have proven that following EEOC guidance on conducting background checks and making hiring decisions is crucial to avoid costly litigation. This is true even though their guidance is burdensome and the EEOC is assuming a role (legislating) that they do not have the authority to assume. According to article I Section I of the U.S. Constitution this responsibility is reserved for the US Congress and the House of Representatives. BMW’s consent decree requirements include many additions to the EEOC’s official guidance and it very well may be used as their new standard. Peopletrail follows the EEOC closely and will provide necessary updates. Please reach out to your account manager if you have questions on how to avoid a lawsuit with the agency.

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Background Checks Are Not All The Same

The vast majority of employers run pre-employment background checks.  Even companies that don’t screen regularly agree that they are a helpful way to build a successful workforce. The news is filled with stories that show malpractice in the workplace when it could have been prevented with a simple background check.

As an employer, it would be convenient if you could hire any company to conduct pre-employment background checks and be confident that the safety net will provide you with all the tools to make an informed hiring decision. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

The problem is that not every background check is the same. There is not one source or mystical database where all background screening professionals go to for consistent, up to date criminal record information. In fact, the concept of “background checks” is incredibly ambiguous and doesn’t speak at all to the quality or accuracy of the information produced by conducting one. A hiring official’s due diligence cannot reach its full potential unless the background checks he or she orders utilizes the most foolproof techniques and channels to find and verify criminal records.

Below is an example of trustworthy background investigation tools that employers can count on for most standard background check needs.  Also included are tools that have a place, but should be used cautiously.  Employers should ensure their background screening provider can strategically implement these tools.

1.  Developing the Subject’s Profile/Identity

To begin an accurate, cost-effective criminal record search, a background screening company must find out where an applicant has lived, worked, or gone to school in the past 7-10 years, which is the standard industry timeframe.  Employers can request this information from job applicants on an application, but to ensure no information is falsified they can request their social security trace search.  A social security trace search is an excellent preliminary tool for background checks.  It not only verifies the identity of the individual, and any alias names, but it also reports past residences of the applicant, this is crucial for step number two.

2.  Retrieving Criminal Records

After the application process, the background screening company requests records from the counties of applicant’s past residences. County records are the most detailed, accurate, and up-to-date searches available.

Studies show that, on average, most people person only live in two or three counties during a seven-year period.  For most companies, it is more efficient to verify information of all counties lived in by the applicant and possibly all nearby “touch” counties during the past seven years.  Any additional information usually outweighs the cost.

3. Gaining More Coverage with State Repositories

Statewide repository searches are also fairly reliable.  A Statewide search offers greater geographical coverage than county searches.  However, state repositories receive their information from local law enforcement agencies and the local courts. This means that a middleman distributes the data in state searches, whereas counties are the direct source.  State repository records might be incomplete due to manpower shortages, transmission delays, local privacy laws, and lack of enforcement authority.

As official records, county searches and state repository searches are the most reliable background check tools.

4. Strategically Using Database Searches to Keep Compliance

Another tool for locating criminal records is a database search. While employers can search nationwide for an applicant’s criminal record, use caution.

Database reports may not be accurate and are not as reliable as the direct source. Because criminal databases have multiple source contributors, there is no regulation or responsibility to update these records.  Some jurisdictions don’t even report information to public databases and they may contain incomplete records.

Never use database searches as the only source for locating criminal records. Always confirm every database record directly with the jurisdiction or county where the record was found. This is the only compliant way to utilize database information. The Fair Credit Reporting Act prohibits employers from making a hiring decision based solely on a database search. Be wary of companies that offer instant database criminal records as reliable pre-employment screening.

3.  Verifying Criminal Records

Employers should know that false positives, including undiscovered records, can populate in background checks if a background screening provider has no review process.  Criminal record matching is typically achieved by matching the applicant’s name and date of birth to the record.  Those are the identifiers most commonly found on court records.  However, knowledgeable applicants with a criminal past may supply fraudulent information such as an incorrect date of birth to hide an offense.  Credit headers and social security traces can confirm a date of birth, but may not be free from error.  Driving records are a very reliable source for date of birth confirmation.  Background screening agencies may find other verification tools necessary on a case-by-case basis.

Background checks are important but are only as useful as the tools used to obtain information.

Different industries and unique situations mean the investigation process varies, but with any circumstance, there is a “right” or “best” method to search for an applicant’s criminal history.  Seek out a screening company that understands the complexities of background screening tools.  Together, you can formulate the most accurate and efficient background check process to build a successful workforce.