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      March 29, 2020

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How Background Checks Protect the Individual

In todayís digital world Ė where information often is at the tip of our fingers in an instant Ė conducting a background check on an individual has never been easier.

The curious can Google a personís name and find out just about anything there is to know about that person that is part of a public domain. If a more detailed history is desired, there are a number of third-party agencies which will conduct a thorough background check for an agreed-upon fee.

There are three common types of background checks that are conducted:

  • Full Background Check. This is a comprehensive and thorough check, which includes such information as date of birth, marriages/divorces and claims of bankruptcy. It also will contain a criminal conviction history.
  • Criminal Background Check. Less thorough than a full background check, the only information provided in this kind of check is a criminal/conviction history. A number of third-party agencies conduct these checks at prices ranging from $15 to $40. Only criminal convictions will appear in these records. Arrests that did not result in a conviction are not part of public information records.
  • Credit Report Check. Credit checks are the second most popular kind of background check conducted today, especially by employers. Credit checks cannot be conducted without the individualís consent, so any employer or private agency which wishes to conduct such a check on an individualís credit history must first obtain that personís written authorization.

As of January 2013, employers must revise their Summary of Rights forms to comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act, or FCRA. The act is a federal law which stipulates the guidelines by which employers and other agencies can obtain information about an individualís credit history, personal character, reputation or other consumer-reported data. Employers who fail to comply with the new provisions risk being fined by the Federal Trade Commission, which oversees the administration of FCRA. These rules are designed to protect the individual, who may be subject to a background check which results in false or misleading information which in turn can prevent hiring.

FCRA does not apply to individuals who are conducting a background check on another individual for personal reasons, such as looking into the criminal history of a romantic partner prior to dating. However, any report which reveals damaging information should be verified through a second source. As with other public records, there is always a chance of mistaken identity or other incorrect information being included in a background check.

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