Why Not an $8 Background Check?

Tuesday, July 27th, 2021

Comparing the store brand with the name brand in a grocery store is a good use of time. The ingredient lists are often the same, despite one being a little more expensive. When it comes to background checks, though, it’s really important that you think about the phrase, “You get what you pay for.” In this case, cheaper is not better.

What do you get when you order an $8 background check? (Or $5, or $9, for that matter) In most cases, you’ll get a search on the National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW), but remember, you could do that yourself for free and come up with the same results. That website provides information as provided by each jurisdiction, meaning the data are only as good as the places that report it. Many locales do not report!

Another check you might get with this level of background check is a promise of “nationwide screening.” But there is no nationwide criminal search or national background check that will include all information. A national criminal database check does extend the geographical area being searched, but it still relies on a digital search of potentially incomplete or out-of-date information.

Tell me more. Most criminal records are stored in county courthouses across the country. Most convictions occur at the local level and appear on county records. County searches provide reporting for at least the past 7 years for that individual county. In some states, these counties sell their data to private companies, but not every state does this. Some files are complete, but some are missing file numbers, conviction dates and other identifying information. Digital searches are not as thorough as when you have people actually looking through the files and conducting proper fact-checking.

What about FREE background checks? If you are thinking about doing free background checks on the internet, it’s time to reconsider. In addition to the reasons listed above, be aware that some of these sites are not compliant with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FRCA), which means your background check may not even be legal. Bottom line: You get what you pay for when it comes to background checks. Trim the budget in other areas, but not your vetting of staff and volunteers. The safety of your vulnerable populations is too important.