What is the Harm of Background Check Report Errors?

Talent Recruitment

The majority of employers will perform various background checks on potential candidates during the hiring process. These usually occur after a job offer has been made and the candidate typically has to wait for the background check results before they can begin their new position.

Most job applicants do not expect their background check to have errors. Unfortunately, mistakes on background checks are quite common and can result in the loss of a job opportunity.

In this article, we discuss the problems that background check errors can create, what the most common background check errors are, what causes them, and how you can dispute them.

Aims of Background Checks

Background checks can be performed by a company, a person, or any other relevant entity to verify an individual’s identity. This involves investigating the individual’s past activities, which may include their education, previous employment, credit, motor vehicle, and national security history, as well as their criminal record.

In a nutshell, a background check provides employers with an opportunity to ascertain whether the person they seek to hire is actually who they say they are.

What is a Background Check Error?

In brief, a background check error is a mistake that occurs during the background screening process. These errors may manifest in the form of incorrect or missing information on a person’s record and almost always end up creating a negative image of the subject of the background check.

Some of the most common background check errors are:

  • Data mixup, resulting in the particulars of another person showing up on your background check
  • Mistaken identity or a case of identity theft, resulting in the criminal records of another appearing on your background check
  • Outdated information that should be dismissed or expunged
  • Incorrect criminal records
  • Wrong or incomplete information on original documents
  • Transposition of digits of your Social Security Number

Causes of Background Check Errors

Now that you’re aware of some of the common errors that can be made during the course of an employment background check, let’s explore some of the factors responsible for these errors.

The majority of background check errors are a result of the following:

Lack of updates 

Occasionally, government agencies will revoke criminal convictions following the completion of a probationary period of good behavior. However, many of their commercial databases fail to update, so these offenses often remain on public records.

Machine errors 

Companies that construct databases using public information typically use automated formulae to input the data. One of the problems that can arise from this approach is that the algorithm may alter the provided information.

Identity theft

This is a fraudulent practice that involves using another person’s name and other personal particulars to commit a crime. The crime is then attributed to the innocent owner of the information and may show up on the individual’s records during a background check.

Human error

Computers and other information processing machines only generate the information that gets loaded onto them. If the person inputting the data makes a mistake, it is reasonable to assume that it will be reflected in the output.

Why Background Check Report Errors are Harmful

Background check errors generally have negative consequences. This is mainly because they can bring your character into disrepute and make you appear undeserving of whatever led to the background check in the first place.

In other words, background check errors can damage your reputation and result in the loss of a job opportunity, the denial of credit products, and/or the denial of housing.

You’ve Found an Error on Your Background Check Report. Now What?

What is the Harm of Background Check Report Errors?

When a prospective employer performs a background check on you and finds incorrect information, you have options and rights. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) has made certain provisions available to consumers in the unfortunate event that a background check error occurs.

Firstly, the act stipulates that prospective employers are required to obtain written consent from job applicants to perform a background check on them.

Secondly, individuals must be informed if a background check will be used against them. In addition, these individuals must be provided with a copy of the background check.

If there are any errors on the background check, you are entitled to dispute it. Errors on your background check must be rectified or expunged by the screening company within 30 days of submitting your dispute.

Note that you also have the right to file a lawsuit against background check companies and consumer reporting agencies that violate the provisions of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

As mentioned above, background check errors can have serious ramifications for the subject of the background report. They can result in missed opportunities, such as a job or a house. If you have been denied employment, a house, or credit because of a background check error, you may be entitled to damages.

Continue reading for a step-by-step guide on what to do in the event of an error on your background check report.

Guide on How to Deal with Errors on Your Background Check Report

Step 1: Speak to your prospective employer

Start by pointing out the errors on your background check to the employer. Inform them that you intend to initiate a dispute with the background check company under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Although they are not required to hold the job for you, a sympathetic employer might give you an opportunity to correct the inaccuracies.

Step 2: File a dispute

Begin by informing the background check or employment screening company about the error in your report. The majority of background check companies have a form you can fill in on their websites that allows you to do this. You can also file a dispute by calling the company directly.

If you decide to file a dispute telephonically, you may be required to follow up your call with a written letter where you explain the errors in your employment report. You may also need to submit documents and information to prove that the company made a mistake in its report.

TIP: Be sure to send the letter via certified mail and make sure that any documents you include are copies. Never send your originals.

Once the screening company has received your dispute, it can take up to 30 days to investigate and an extra five days to inform you of the findings. 

If the information in your background check cannot be verified, it must be struck from the record. You can instruct the screening company to distribute the amended version of your report to anyone who requested a report about you within the last two years. You are also entitled to receive another free copy of your report within 60 days.

Step 3: Seek help from a consumer protection law firm

If you’re having trouble rectifying the errors on your background screening report, you may be able to sue the employment screening company responsible for the mistakes. Your next step would be to contact an employment or consumer attorney who will be able to offer you further assistance.

FAQs About Background Check Mistakes

Can I sue over incorrect information on my background check?

If you have been denied employment or suffered another loss due to inaccurate information appearing on your background check, you have the right to sue the background check company for damages under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

How long does it take to dispute a background check?

It can take up to 30 days to dispute a background check. This is according to the laws under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), which state that background check companies and employment report agencies have 30 days to correct any mistakes on your background check after you have initiated a dispute.