You’ve seen ads proclaiming “Free criminal background checks!” or “Instant online results: $9.95.” These ads typically promote criminal records database searches, which are fast, easy, and affordable.
Unfortunately, you get what you pay for. There will be gaps in your criminal background check if you depend on a database search alone to screen church employees and volunteers who work with children. To be reliable, your search results should be verified by other information, such as an address history, Social Security number, and county court records in counties where an applicant has lived.
A reputable background screening service can help you not only obtain accurate results but also comply with federal and state laws governing background checks used for employment.
What’s Wrong with Database Searches?
Databases provide a fast, efficient way to gather criminal history information. However, most criminal history databases contain incomplete information—even those that proclaim to be “national,” or “comprehensive,” says Mike McCarty, founder of Safe Hiring Solutions, a background-screening firm based in Danville, Indiana.
Therefore, obtaining someone’s criminal history from a database alone may provide a false sense of security.
Problems with Database Searches
Incomplete Records. Not all states and counties keep criminal records electronically. Even the best databases will lack information from those states and counties.
Outdated Information. Databases can be updated daily, weekly, monthly, or less frequently. As a result, a database search may not contain up-to-date information.
Problems with All Criminal Records Searches
False “hits.” There are a lot of John Smiths in the country. A search may find criminal convictions for other people with the same name as your candidate.
Accidental Omissions. Some people intentionally misspell their names or give false identifying information to authorities when arrested. Accidental misspellings can also occur in court records. As a result, a name-based search may accidentally omit pertinent records.
The Solution? Choose a Reputable Provider
One of the best ways to prevent holes in your criminal background checks is to choose a reputable screening service provider. The best firms use a combination of name, birth date, and Social Security information to eliminate as many false “hits” as possible. They research a person’s past addresses to learn which counties to include in a criminal records search.
They supplement a national criminal records database search with detailed, county court records, and they check all of the names, addresses, or birthdates associated with your candidate’s Social Security number to make sure that an applicant hasn’t tried to “erase” a criminal record by using someone else’s number.
You’re trying to protect your congregation by screening staff and volunteer candidates; use a service that helps you to do it well.
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