Background Checks

I just read an ad from a firm that claims to provide a complete criminal history check that covers all federal, state and county government databases for less than $15! The ad also claims that the information is fully accurate.

Barada has been in the background and reference checking business since 1979, and I can tell you, from experience, that what this ad is claiming simply can’t be done. Why not? Because the primary source of all court records, except actions filed in federal court, come from county courthouses all over the United States. There are more than 3,000 counties in this country, and a fair number of them don’t report court proceedings to any database or other data collection entity. Many still use docket books, not computers, to record both civil and criminal records; misdemeanors and felonies. For most of those counties, the only way to do a court check is to actually go to the courthouse and see if the candidate for employment’s name is there. It is therefore impossible for any nationwide court check to be fully accurate because not every disposition of every criminal or civil record is in any computerized database!

Furthermore, it’s also impossible to guarantee that all court records are “accurate.” In tiny print, in a disclaimer somewhere, the company may note that they are referring to all counties in any available database and not guaranteeing that all counties are included. They may say that by “accurate,” they mean that the information they provide is a faithful reporting of what they obtained from the databases. Ensuring 100% accuracy without intense research is not possible. First of all, some cities and counties, under pressure to reduce crime rates, misclassify their cases at a lower level of severity. Secondly, there have been numerous instances where background data “scrapers,” firms that extract data from public databases and report from that, alone, have accidentally pulled the records of the wrong person.

The takeaway here is to be very careful when an advertisement claims to do a nationwide criminal check, especially if it includes county court checks, for only a few dollars.  There’s an old saying that’s very relevant in instances like this one: “You get what you pay for.”