Why Accuracy Is So Important When You Background Check Contractors
Background Screening |November 23, 2022
When conducting a background check on contractors, they are only helpful if they provide valuable information and reliable results. Reliable results are determined based on the accuracy of the information submitted for a check – names, given, alias and developed, date of birth, and jurisdictions where the individual may have resided, as well as the rigor of the process to review results and report details. This blog will review why accuracy is important, as well as the key factors which may impact the accuracy of a background check.
Why is Accuracy Important?
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), a consumer reporting agency (CRA), like PlusOne Solutions, is required to demonstrate reasonable procedures to ensure maximum possible accuracy whenever a record is reviewed and reported, or determined not to be reported. With increasing litigation in this area, the risk of missing a record, or reporting a criminal record incorrectly attributed to an individual, is a real challenge for many organizations. While an older case, this example shows the severity of the penalties when a CRA does not consider the accuracy of a record before reporting it – FTC Accuracy Case
In the world of contracting where the individuals are responsible for representing your business through the support, repair, delivery, or installation of your products, you may never meet these individuals directly. As a result, no one is confirming their identity and ensuring that the demographic information – names(s), date of birth, and addresses – are accurate and belong to the individual. For this reason, it is important to include a step in the process to gather this information and then verify it is not only accurate but also complete. Asking for all names used – alias, maiden, and nicknames may disclose additional information that can be included in the background check. This same data will then be used to search for criminal and sex offender registry records, driving searches, and other relevant information. If there is an error therein, the results will also be compromised and no longer reliable.
When contractors are primarily engaged in work that is off-site, unsupervised, or in consumer homes, ensuring a comprehensive background check is completed is a key risk mitigation step. Whether the goal of the organization is to mitigate operational, financial, legal, or competitive risk, a solid and dependable background check can be a valuable tool. Given the risk of a poor background check, especially if something goes wrong and hits the media, as was the case here can also create significant reputational damage. In this recent case, Ramirez v Transunion LLC the failures of demonstrating accuracy during the process were immediately identified.
As the pressure to meet network demands and provide contractors to complete tasks expeditiously, many organizations do the minimally required steps to “check the box” of the background check. This means they often complete services, such as a national criminal database search only, which are fast and inexpensive but not necessarily a fulsome search from a direct source like a county criminal record court, which will be complete and considered up-to-date, another requirement for CRAs under the FCRA.
What May Impact Accuracy?
While we acknowledge some errors are accidental, it is also conceivable that the individual being screened is also deliberately trying to game the process. This underscores the need to have a verification process in place to ensure the information used in all searches is complete and accurate. Some key reasons that information may not be accurate are:
Transposed information – whether intentional or not – date and month of the date of birth are reversed, zip codes are incorrectly provided, and the spelling of a name is altered – Kristopher vs. Christopher – are just a few examples of situations that may impact the accuracy of demographic information. The challenge with these situations is that many search processes will only turn back information that is an exact match to what is provided. If the information doesn’t match, the systems, or even individuals reviewing the data, will assume it is not a match and will not report the data.
Common Names – Through no fault of the individual being background checked, they may have a common name, meaning there are many of those same names in the general population. Oftentimes when records are reported based on a common name, the expectation is that additional steps be taken to verify the information belongs to the correct individual. The Federal Trade Commission has several key decisions, such as this one, FTC Common Name Case It is not hard to understand how accuracy can be impacted in these situations but the outcome can be especially harmful to the individual involved. In the cases of common names, having as much information as possible to facilitate the identification process can help improve the accuracy of the search, and the results reported back.
Veracity and age of data being searched – no database, source, or search is guaranteed to be completely accurate. Whether there is a fault in the original record-keeping or a change has been made since the record was included in the system, there is always a chance a record is “missing.” Older systems may be on microfiche and not searchable with some of the more modern and flexible Boolean or auditory search engines. These would be very linear match/no match only, without any sophistication or common search alternatives. Sources should also be considered, current and the most recent information available to the public. Criminal records for example are updated and revised on an ongoing basis – to add additional details, make corrections to records, and for other reasons so the record reported today, could be different when searched again in the future. The use of databank information can increase the risk of inaccurate records being reported.
Identity Theft – while not a common occurrence, it is possible that the record is attributed to an individual that does meet all the identification requirements but is still not your contractor. These are situations where someone has otherwise taken their identity and gotten into trouble with the law. In these cases, the other provisions of the FCRA, specifically the pre-adverse/adverse notification process, are in place to allow the individual to dispute the accuracy of information before a final, and possibly adverse decision is made about the contractor that may impact them.
When working with a CRA, the contractor background check process should be driven by FCRA compliance, which contains several prescriptive requirements for accuracy and quality processes. Additionally, using a CRA that is accredited by the Professional Background Screening Association, PBSA , means they have audited to have formal processes in place to ensure the process being followed for vendor selection, processing as well as record review, is focused on formal operational processes and continuous improvement.
Contents are provided for information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Users are reminded to seek legal counsel with respect to their obligations and use of PlusOne Solutions services.
About PlusOne Solutions
PlusOne Solutions is an industry leader in risk management and specializes in compliance programs that meet the complex challenges of working with networks of contractors, vendors, and employees. PlusOne Solutions works to protect companies from possible legal, financial, and reputational risks associated with working with contractors while also creating safer work environments. To learn more, visit https://plusonesolutio.wpengine.com.
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