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November 16, 2021

I Need It NOW! Proceed Cautiously When Using Instant Criminal Searches

We live in the age of instant. From texts, pictures, videos, to finding the name of the oldest Full House kid, information and communication are at our fingertips, available in seconds. 

Stop riskWhy do employers get so excited about the idea of an instant criminal searches? 

We hear about them everyday from clients, and competitors constantly tout instant criminal records searches returned in seconds. As great as these instant background screening searches sound, they come with limitations you need to know about. Employers who trust these searches implicitly are setting themselves and their companies up for potential issues. 

Why? 

Instant background searches are not complete. 

Database searches house millions of records, and may uncover a crime in a place that was never targeted to search. For example, if your applicant lives in Tennessee, but committed a crime in Mississippi, regular county and state searches may not find this conviction, but a database "instant" search might. 

However, all counties and states do not report to a database, as each state has its own laws. So, if you only order an instant background search, and the conviction is in a state or county that does not report to a database, you will not gain a clear picture of the applicant's criminal history.

Missing this can cost you big, especially if you hire an employee who is dangerous. 

Instant background searches aren't always accurate.

If a company only uses instant background searches, they aren't being adjudicated. This means there are no parameters making certain the information is accurate. For example, there are tons of John Smiths in the world. Searching this name may show criminal convictions, when, in fact, your specific John Smith doesn't have a criminal record. Making decisions on instant criminal searches can cause you to deny employment based on erroneous information, setting your company up for big, expensive lawsuits. 

Speaking of litigation...

Used alone, instant searches can set companies up for hiring lawsuits. 

Instant background checks are not a complete picture. Using them as the sole background screening report gives employers a false sense of security, in that they think they know everything about the applicant when they actually don't. These searches can uncover crimes that are in fact not the applicant's, and they can miss crimes the applicant has indeed committed. Both of these scenarios set companies up for hiring dangerous employees, or not hiring competent employees, and dealing with costly litigation. Companies frequently end up on the losing end of such lawsuits, which causes embarrassing press, a tarnished reputation, and big payouts. 

So, should you use instant searches at all, ever? 

Yes! When used diligently along with county and state background searches, and pulled from a reputable, third-party background screening company that diligently vets the returned information, instant criminal records searches are a valuable component of a thorough background screening process. 

While there are some distinct advantages for using instant criminal records searches, they must be paired with other searches and a stringent quality control process to produce accurate results. 

Susan McCullah

Susan McCullah is the Marketing Project Manager for Data Facts Background Screening Division.

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