Are you at RISK? What you need to know about background checks
If you spend much time online, chances are you have read warnings about how easy it is for someone to find out all about you by running a background check. The warnings are usually advertisements for companies that perform background checks and offer to do one, for a fee, so you can find out what information is out there about you.
Background checks serve a legitimate purpose when used appropriately by gun dealers, employers, landlords and others who need to know more about the people with whom they are dealing. It also helps to know that all background checks are not the same.
What are background checks?
An investigation of an individual that includes information pulled from public records is what is usually meant when people refer to a background check. Background checks, or background investigations as they are also called, obtain data on a person from various sources, including:
Criminal records maintained by courts and government agencies
Motor vehicle records
Publicly available financial records
Depending upon the purpose of the background check, it might include a credit and/or criminal report. For example, a background check performed in the hiring of a teacher might include a search of sex offender registries.
The four basic types of background checks
The following four types of background checks have been established based upon their intended use by the person or organization making the request:
Gun purchase background checks: Federally licensed sellers of guns must perform an online or telephone background check through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. The investigation accesses FBI databases to determine if the prospective buyer of a gun has any felony convictions or a record of domestic violence convictions. It also reveals if the individual has been certified by a court as being mentally ill or if the person is in this country illegally.
Pre-employment background checks: The scope of a pre-employment background investigation depends upon the needs of the employer. Some pre-employment investigations include criminal records searches, driving record searches and any others the employer feels it needs to make a decision about hiring a particular applicant. Employers must let prospective employees know that background checks are required as part of the hiring process, and the applicants must give their consent to the search.
Tenant background checks: Landlords and managers of rental properties can request an investigation into the background of someone asking to rent an apartment, home or condominium. These investigations usually include a criminal background search, a credit report and any additional searches requested by the landlord or manager. Federal regulations require the consent of the prospective tenant before an investigation can be undertaken.
Volunteer background checks: Organizations that use volunteers frequently request background checks covering the person's criminal history. Background checks are common for volunteers who will be working closely with children, the handicapped and the elderly.
Regulation of background checks
Federal law is the primary source of regulation over how background checks are conducted and used. As a general rule, background checks require the consent of the person being investigated. The law also requires that individuals be given an opportunity to dispute the accuracy of information contained in their background checks.
Click here to check other public record resources for Background Check information.