Considering “Do-It-Yourself” Online Background Checks?

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As businesses become comfortable using the Internet to handle a variety of support functions, a surprising number and diverse sorts of “Do-It-Yourself” services have become available, including “Do-It-Yourself” (DIY) online background checks.

While seemingly simple and affordable, such services present potential risks that could pose a threat to a businesses’ brand.

Here’s a brief list of considerations that could serve as a litmus test as to whether a DIY background check service or a more-conventional Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA) is the best choice for you.


Will the search be wide and deep?

As with any type of research upon which your business may depend, background checks require thorough scrutiny of data sources.

Such research expends large amounts of both time and personnel resources. Take, for example, legal records used for criminal background checks.

In the United States, available data differs between federal, state, and municipal levels; for example, there are thousands of jurisdictions where pubic records can be obtained, and the manner for obtaining these records can vary from court to court.

So, depending on how many locations the candidate attended school, lived and worked, researchers may be faced with combing through records maintained in numerous locations.

CRAs typically enlist the aid of court runners since many jurisdictions require in-person representation to access their records.

How will the DIY service you’re considering deal with this complex and often inconsistent process?

Also, DIY services may merely aggregate information on a candidate based on readily-available online data, to include publicly available information contained in news stories and social media accounts.

Ask if that is the case because solely using and relying upon such information presents potential legal risks to an employer; the information may be on the wrong person, incorrect or out of date.

And making a hiring decision based on a candidate’s public online persona without ensuring the data is accurate and complete may be deemed prejudicial.


Will the results be accurate?

Regardless of how meticulous it is, each background check may yield confusing and erroneous findings.

And, as noted above, the information may not refer to the right candidate.

Even when handling such tasks using internal resources, companies can spend massive amounts of time trying to reconcile such data.

On the other hand, third-party providers bear the responsibility to compile information in an accurate manner for their clients.

Rather than sacrificing company resources to ensure accuracy, it may be best to leave it to a consumer reporting agency who has a duty of accuracy under the FCRA.

Additionally, a comprehensive background check requires a thorough investigation of multiple sources of information.

Not only are screenings expected to go through many databases, they are expected to search best sources of information including the most relevant repositories for the most pertinent information.

Without the expertise and time, the search for accurate results against a comprehensive set of sources can outweigh the benefits of a DIY background check.


What will I get for my money?

As a perk of all things digital, online background checks are marketed to be cheaper than those from a third-party screening company.

However, the depth and accuracy of such services may not meet the needs of companies requiring a thorough search conducted by an experienced CRA that can be contacted with questions and maintains compliance with the FCRA.

In order to gain access to some official documents, such as criminal records in some states, requestors may be charged upwards of $50 by the official repository of that State’s criminal records.

If a DIY background check company charges anything less, there is valid reason to believe that the report will not yield results on par with those sourced directly with the State by a CRA.


The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, the decision to outsource online background screenings is completely at the discretion of your company.

DIY online background checks may sound appealing due to their quick, cost-effective nature but they pose risks that you, as an employer, will have to contend with.

The FCRA has dictated stringent regulations that demand compliance for Consumer Reporting Agencies. For example, companies should notice whether a service will outright call itself a consumer reporting agency.

If the company is not willing to market itself as a Consumer Reporting Agency, they probably are not in compliance with FCRA.

Some DIY background check sites even state quite clearly that they are not FCRA compliant and that the information they provide should not be used to make hiring decisions.

Third-party firms, specifically Consumer Reporting Agencies, on the other hand, are FCRA-compliant, and offer expertise and resources that can help ensure legitimacy and accuracy in their findings.

For more information, please see HireRight’s free eBook on the subject: “Do-It-Yourself” Online Background Checks.

Free eBook: Background Checks: Do It Yourself?
Background Checks: Do It Yourself? [eBook]

Caution and through investigation before committing to a DIY online background check service would be prudent.

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Lewis Lustman

Lewis Lustman is a content marketer who enjoys developing materials that engage, inform, challenge, and hopefully entertain my audience. Lewis is a former journalist for Los Angeles Magazine and the Los Angeles Times, and has worked for a number of leading advertising, marketing, technology, and PR firms over the years. Interested in a topic that he hasn't yet tackled? Drop him a line in the comments section!

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