Shoddy Background Check Could Cost You A Job

Apply for a job and there’s a good chance that potential employer will do a background check on you. Most U.S. employers (about 70 percent) conduct criminal background checks for all potential employees.

 According to a new report from the National Consumer Law Center, the information provided by background screening companies is often wrong in some way.

“These reports really should be accurate. Unfortunately, too often, what we found is, they’re not,” says Persis Yu, an NCLC staff attorney who worked on the “Broken Records”report.

Take the case of Samuel M. Jackson of Illinois, profiled in the report. Jackson was allegedly denied a job because of an inaccurate background check that said he was convicted of rape in 1987 – when he was just 4 years old. The conviction belonged to 58-year-old Samuel L. Jackson of Virginia, who was in prison at the time the background check was requested.

Virtually anyone with a computer and Internet service can go into the business of background screening. There is very little, if any, oversight.

“It’s really the Wild West out there,” Persis says. “They’re not required to be licensed. They’re not required to be registered. And yet they’re generating billions of dollars in revenue with very little accountability.”

The head of the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS) says the NCLC report makes some very broad statements that are not accurate. In an email statement to msnbc.com, Theresa Preg says background screening through Consumer Reporting Agencies (CRA), such as those that are members of NAPBS have “a very, very low error rate.”

Preg says members of her organization are highly regulated at the state and federal level. She warns employers not to use “free” criminal record searches offered via the Internet because they have no updating requirement and therefore can have inaccurate information.

“The member companies of NAPBS help put millions of people to work, including ex-offenders,” she writes. “We also help consumers correct misinformation that may be contained on them at the actual courts or law enforcement agencies, as well as any incorrect criminal history information that may have been contained in a consumer report.

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