Compliance Corner: Background Screen Myth Busters

Myth #1: I am doing a thorough background check. My service provider calls it a “national check”, and it’s fast!
The National Crime Information Center (NCIC) is the United States’ central database for tracking criminal records. The NCIC is maintained by the FBI and contains arrest records and wants/warrants that are linked with an individual’s fingerprints. The NCIC is not public information; it is available only to law enforcement, government agencies, and organizations given permission to search the records. Note: commercial background check providers cannot search the FBI’s NCIC database. There truly is no such thing as a “national” commercial criminal records search. Since third party background check providers cannot search the NCIC, these providers compile multiple sources of data into databases that are searchable by name. These searches are often referred to as “online database searches,” “name based searches,” “multi-state searches,” “screen scrapes,” and even as “national searches.” The third party provider is the owner of the database, and therefore it could even be called the “ABC Company National Search”. The jurisdictions and courts included in these databases will vary from provider to provider.

Myth #2: I use a service that offers me immediate results for my background checks.
Immediate is relative…it depends on what type of records you are checking, and the need to confirm “instant results” at the court level. Criminal records originate at the local courts (city or county) and their court records are updated as the case is processed, and eventually, decided. The local courts then “report up” – by sending their court records to the state – but the frequency of their reports and updates varies widely based on the jurisdiction.

GSN’s recent experience for county level searches of 7,858 components is reflected here:

Compliance Corner


Myth #3: I use a database service packaged product that is perfect for every background I need.
There is no “perfect” criminal records search. Criminal records may be inaccurate for a variety of reasons. First, conviction data is entered by humans, thus the margin for human error. Second, the records search may not be comprehensive. i.e.; a jurisdiction may not report into the source being used. Third, offenders may have their records expunged if they comply with the terms of their sentencing. Over-all, inaccurate information may occur due to data entry errors (including spelling errors!), identity theft, name changes, and so on. That’s why the best – and most accurate, is to gather data from local court records.

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