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Background checks and ID theft

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in Employment Background Check,Human Resources

Should you use background checks when screening potential new hires? Horror stories about negligent hiring and subsequent legal liability have prompted many managers to go the background-check route. But now, new horror stories about identity theft, scams and bad data in the files might make some managers think twice.

A sound approach, some employment pros say, is to go ahead and order the background check, but to use more caution about what you do with that information—particularly with error-prone records like credit histories. An adverse "hit" may be an occasion for another conversation with a strong candidate, rather than grounds for kicking someone out of contention entirely.

At the same time, though, remember that official, credible data sources that are almost always accurate can yield surprising (and disturbing) info about candidates. Barry Nadell, author of Sleuthing 101: Background Checks and the Law (InfoLink Screening Systems), reports that in 2004, more than 40 percent of the checks completed by his firm turned up hits in applicants' motor vehicle records—which can also be the best source for verifying an applicant's date of birth. (He recommends that an MVR check be part of any background check, regardless of whether the position requires driving.)

These hits came in screens of people who had authorized a background check in writing. Such prior authorization is required by federal law when using consumer reports—which includes most background checks done for you by a third-party vendor. Make sure any such vendor, including Internet-only sites, can demonstrate to you its compliance with relevant state and federal laws.

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