FBI Background Check VS. CRA Background Check: What you Really need to know.

All you have to do is a quick Google search and you will see all kinds of promises of “instant” background checks – you can even run one on yourself!  Although quite cost effective, this type of background check is highly inaccurate.  Where is this information coming from? How is it obtained? There are vast differences between a do-it-yourself internet background check and one that entails accurate and complete information. Let’s examine the difference between an FBI run background check and a background check run by a Consumer Reporting Agency (like ProScreening).

In order to understand the differences between these two types of background checks, we need to start with some important information about FBI background checks.

According to an article written by Melissa Sorenson, a member of the National Association of Professional Background Screeners, there is no such thing as a single, all-encompassing FBI Database. There is also no such thing as a National Database comprised of every criminal record in every single state. The FBI database is not one single database, but rather a lot of different systems all organized under the umbrella of the National Criminal Information Center, or (NCIC).  By their own admission, the information on the NCIC is limited and may contain only 50 to 55 percent of all available records and fingerprint information in connection with arrests, federal employment, naturalization and military service records.  Additionally, employer access to the NCIC is restricted and permitted only if State and Federal law has authorized access.  Unfortunately, there are a few holes in this wide cast ‘net’ of information!

As most employers cannot access the FBI database, Credit Reporting Agencies use other sources to obtain this information.  This information can be found by searching a type of database most accurately termed a “Multi-Jurisdictional” database.   This database consists of information compiled by purchasing copies of criminal records from different sources and combining these records into a central database.  Sources may include arrest information, court records, incarceration records, sexual offender registries, county and state records and government watch lists (Sorensen). This type of search is extremely useful but should also be used with caution as there are some “holes” in this net as well.  Let’s examine a few of these “holes”:

Multi-jurisdictional databases contain millions of records, but they don’t contain EVERY single criminal record and the data is only as accurate as the person adding it to the database.  Additionally, when compiling data from many sources into one database, the structure data can impact the search results.  A good example, given in Melissa Sorenson’s article is a name search – like ROBERT SMITH.  This search might not include a middle name or initial, or nickname like BOB or BOBBY.  Separate inquiries may be needed for each name variation, and this varies from one database to another.  Finally, Credit Reporting Agencies must be in compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) when reporting records and compliance standards vary from state to state.  Where a person lives and works determines what records may or may not be reported in a background check.

For all of the reasons stated above, professional background screeners, (like those employed by ProScreening), use database searches as one of many tools to complete background checks.  We know that records obtained through a database search MUST be verified by researching official court records.

At ProScreening, all of the criminal county searches are done with researchers in the courts, accessing records in person and when necessary, utilizing the help of the court clerks.  The so-called “instant” searches available online are not part of the way we do business because they are not accurate and are often incomplete.  Any records or “hits” we receive are verified and in total compliance with each state’s laws and the FCRA.

As alluring as the thought is that a background check can be instantly obtained, the reality is that in order to provide a comprehensive, complete and accurate background check report, searches take time and effort.

ProScreening may not be the FBI when it comes to providing a background check report, but you can rest assured that we take pride in providing our clients with the most comprehensive, accurate and compliant information as possible and go above and beyond to make sure that an employer has all the relevant information needed to make the best and most informed hiring decision.