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Employers conduct background checks to protect themselves, their customers and the public. It’s bad enough to be told you’re not eligible for a job because of something that came up in a background check, hearing that announcement when you know there’s nothing derogatory on your record can be quite a shock. Unfortunately, the companies that maintain criminal records databases and credit records can make mistakes. You can correct errors in these records, but you should expect to spend some time and effort to do so.
Background Checks Are Routine
A background check is a routine part of the hiring process in most organizations. The employer must have your permission to conduct a background check. If you don’t give your permission, however, you probably won’t be able to apply. Each organization may obtain different information, but a check of your criminal record is likely in almost all cases and many companies also check financial information. Even if you have a criminal record that has been expunged or removed from the record, a prospective employer may still be able to obtain a copy. What the employer can obtain, however, may not always prove to be accurate.
Because of the risk of identity theft, courts often supply information on criminal cases with only an individual’s name and birth date, according to the October 2008 article, Advocates Complain of Background Check Errors, on the ABC News website. Social security numbers, which provide a more definitive way to identify people, are often redacted from the public records courts supply to background check companies. Someone with the same name and birthdate as yours could easily be listed in a very large database and their information could be given to your prospective employer. In other cases, the information may be yours, but it could be misinterpreted or incorrect.
The first step in correcting errors in your background check is to obtain the incorrect information. If you are not hired because of something in your background check, the employer must notify you, according to the Federal Trade Commission website. The employer must tell you the name, address and phone number of the company that supplied the report. If you ask for it within 60 days of the employer’s decision not to hire, the background check company must supply you with a copy of the report. You must contact both the original source and the background check company to correct misinformation, and you will need to obtain proof to support your position, such as legal documents.
The old saw about an ounce of prevention is something to keep in mind when it comes to job-hunting. You can obtain a copy of your criminal background records. The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau maintains a list of the agencies that offer background check information. If you request a copy of your report, the company must send it to your for free. You also are entitled to obtain an annual copy of your credit report for free. Contact AnnualCreditReport.com, an organization that is authorized by the federal government to provide you the information at no charge. You must then contact each organization individually to make any corrections.
- ABC News: Advocates Complain of Background Check Errors
- Federal Trade Commission: Employment Background Checks
- Federal Trade Commission: A Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act
- Armstrong Kellett Bartholow P.C.: Criminal Background Checks
- BackgroundCheck.org: Fixing Your Background
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: List of Consumer Reporting agencies
Beth Greenwood is an RN and has been a writer since 2010. She specializes in medical and health topics, as well as career articles about health care professions. Greenwood holds an Associate of Science in nursing from Shasta College.