School Security: Feeling the Pressure from Parents

Parents are nervous as their children head back to school after a long summer break and a respite form the school violence that shocked the nation starting with Parkland, FL in February through Noblesville, IN in May.

This 30 minute webinar is designed to help school administrators communicate the complexities of school violence and how to create a strong partnership for preventing violence.

Problem With Hiring People Before a Background Check is Complete

It is an HR manager’s dream: the perfect candidate walks into an interview with a superb resume, terrific qualifications, and great interview responses. Making them a job offer is a “no brainer.” This is the person for the job; however, this dream can turn into a nightmare very quickly.

This is how:

While the HR team waited for the results of the background check, the new-hire started work, and things were progressing well until a week later the when HR received the individual’s background check. What they learned was not good. There were many red-flags and prior convictions that left no other choice but to promptly fire the employee.

The next day, the new-hire was  terminated and had to be escorted off of the company property. This is not a scenario that any company wants to deal as it’s uncomfortable and disappointing for both the individual and the company.

Here’s the thing: this situation could have been avoided!

Although the candidate wowed the HR team and seemed to be a good fit, many companies would agree there are no excuses when it comes to criminal history. This simply provides too much of a liability to ignore. So what did the HR team do wrong in this scenario? They did not wait until receiving and reviewing the background check before extending an offer. If they had waited, they would have learned of the problematic incidents, and would have realized that this seemingly perfect candidate was not such a perfect fit after all.

The Takeaway

Background checks are important in detailing an individual’s history and play a big role in narrowing candidates. Depending on the type of background check, it can take some time for the results to return to the HR team. Although waiting for a check to clear may seem like an inconvenience, it can’t compare to the problems created by an ill-informed job offer. The screening process should not be overlooked.

Top 10 Reasons to Choose Safe Hiring Solutions

When searching for a background check company for your business or organization there are many different factors to consider. These can range from knowing exactly what a background check is to learning how helpful the company’s client services are when you are in need of assistance. So here are the Top 10 reasons to choose SafeHiring Solutions to conduct your business’ screenings.

  1. We know what a background check entails and what is important to search. Background screening relies heavily on incomplete public record sources. Our background screening program consists of multiple checks and balances that include identification, multi-state databases, county criminal searches and federal courts.
     
  2. Our background checks are thorough. There is no such thing as a dependable instant database search. If a background check is “instant”, then it is a database only search. There is no single database, not even the FBI’s NCIC, that is comprehensive enough to stand as a single-source screening program. Using only a database for employment purposes can open up FCRA violation issues. It is not even a viable option for volunteer organizations because most databases have a high failure rate even for convicted sex offenders. We use multiple databases when we conduct our background checks.
  3. Cost of our background checks. You cannot do quality background checks for $5, but at the same time, it should not break your piggy bank. Comprehensive employee background checks range from $20-$40 for a core national criminal background check. Volunteer checks can range from $10- $20 for a core criminal check.
  4. The depth that our background checks go to? A thorough background check should go back as far as allowed. We believe it is critical for our clients to have all the information they need to make informed decisions. Even so, there are strict guidelines from the EEOC, FCRA as well as state and local laws that must be followed. Consequently, what factors can impact how far back a background check extends? a. Convictions vs Non-Convictions. The federal FCRA restricts reporting of non-convictions to no more than 7 years unless the salary for the position is $75,000 or more. Some state laws further restrict convictions or do not allow their reporting. b. Individual state. Several states have further restricted the reporting of adverse information. c. How far back court records go. Some states maintain criminal records that extend 30 years or more. Other states purge misdemeanor records at 10 years.
  5. How our software searched alias names. Alias names are any other name your candidate has been known by in the past. With name-based background checks, it is critical to include any possible alias names to ensure your candidates do not have a criminal history under a former married name, maiden name, birth name, etc. Many screening firms do not include this service in their pricing and then, clients are unpleasantly surprised when hit with additional fees because a candidate has 3 different names. We do not charge extra for searching other names. We consider it an important part of a thorough search. It is included in the original quote.                                              
  6. Our employees of the screening firm are screened regularly. This is important because these are the people who you will be trusting with very sensitive information. Some screening firms “offshore” parts of their screening process like verifications. How do you ensure that none of your sensitive data on your employees, vendors, volunteers are not being sent to another country with little to no quality control? We re-screen our employees on an annual basis.
  7. Security of Data. We mentioned in #6 that some screening firms “offshore” data which creates security issues for how the data is transferred. More importantly, what happens to it on the other end where it could be taken, printed, sold, etc.? Security is a huge concern with all of our data, and you can be confident that our screening firm uses industry ‘best practices’ for securing your data both in transit and at rest. What does that mean? We use SSAE 16 and provide quarterly reports. In addition, we engage with cyber security experts to perform penetration testing to expose any vulnerabilities in our software.
  8. Compliance is a core mission. Complying with federal laws such as FCRA, DPPA and EEOC should be part of the core mission of any screening firm. The majority of compliance is incumbent upon the end user; however, you want a screening partner that will keep you abreast of changes and what is happening in the industry. We provide a number of educational opportunities each month i.e. live training events, live webinars, articles, and email communications.
  9. Customer service. Yes, everybody claims to have it but very few organizations truly do. With unemployment at all time lows in most communities, hiring is extremely competitive. When you have a question about a background screening report, you should be able to receive an answer quickly. We have removed all barriers to customer service communications by appointing a Chief of Client Strategies who oversees a team that works all day, every day, with clients. All of our clients have access to a direct line to the team, email, and chat. We believe technology is key to the background screening process, but we will not remove human eyes from the equation.
  10. Education. Things change in the background screening world very quickly. New movements like “Ban the Box” can start sweeping the nation making it critical that your screening partner provide opportunities for learning and education. We provide almost daily education opportunities with articles, live training, live webinars and one-on-one events.

I would like to learn more.

Should I Do Background Screening Rechecks?

Background checks are very important, but arguably, rechecks are just as important.  There are too many horror stories about organizations that have completed initial hiring checks, but have neglected to do a recheck on the same employee for many years. Imagine the shock of discovering that after 15-20 years have passed, a recheck has uncovered problematic information about a long time, trusted employee. Without diligence, this could happen to anyone. Performing routine background screening re-checks, especially in certain high-risk fields, is a necessary step in providing workplace and customer security.

Because there are different types of background checks, we recommend different time frames to perform a screening re-check. SafeHiring has many schools and churches as clients, and we  recommend for them to perform rechecks at least every 1-2 years. Yearly checks would be even more ideal. Usually, volunteer background checks do not go into as much depth as an employee check, so it is important to have volunteers get rechecked more often. For school personnel, it is recommended to have a screening re-checks done every 5 years which is generally driven by state law. Recommendations for other businesses are based upon the specific nature of the businesses or the duties of the employees. If you have a question about when you should have your company or school perform background re-checks, do not hesitate to visit our online Chat feature at https://www.safehiringsolutions.com/! We can answer any specific question that you may have here. Just look at the bottom right hand side of the screen to locate a red Chat logo that reads online.

Background screening re-checks are very important for any organization for safety and peace of mind. Please visit our website above to learn more about the many great features that SafeHiring Solutions offers!

Can I Do a Background Check on Myself?

 

According to a recent study, over 20% of database criminal history records contain errors and incorrect information. Name changes, similar names, and human error account for some of these errors. How are you supposed to know if the information on your criminal record is accurate before missing an opportunity? We at Safe Hiring have an answer for that. Our new “Run My Own Criminal History” feature offers the option to run your personal full, comprehensive background check.

For just $35 you can receive the exact information that a prospective employer or rental agent is going to see should they conduct a background check on you. As the amount of employers running background checks on candidates is approaching 90%, it only makes sense to ensure that they are viewing accurate information.

To take advantage of this new feature, simply:

 

  1. Go to https://www.safehiringsolutions.com/self-screening

  2. Click on the ‘Services’ tab at the top of the page

  3. Click on “Order MyCrimHistory”

  4. Fill out your personal information and pay $35 fee

  5. Wait 3-5 days for background check to be completed

  6. View your personal background check

How Often Should I Do Employee Background Screening Re-Checks?

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Nearly all new-hires for organizations will go through a background check prior to being offered the position. This ensures that a potential employer is aware of the criminal history of the candidate; however, a background check is only up-to-date at the time it is conducted. Without periodic background checks being run, any new criminal activity could go unknown.

Employees who have been a part of a company for any extended amount of time most likely do not have updated background checks on file. In terms of the HR team, the question becomes, “How often should we re-check our employees?”

As many states are becoming more proactive in security and safety, laws are now being created that mandate a maximum amount of time that can go by before an employer must receive an updated background check. One example is Indiana’s HEA 1079 bill, which now requires every employee on a school’s payroll to receive a new background check at least every 5 years.

Unless there is a state law similar to HEA 1079, there are no stipulations for how often organizations should do re-checks. It is then left to the HR team’s discretion.

This article is meant less to encourage constantly updating background checks, and more to create awareness that background checks very quickly become ‘out-of-date’.  HR members may want to consider doing background re-checks on employees that have been employed for many years if they have not had a recent background check performed.

Learn more about ArrestAlert from SafeHiring which is real-time monitoring of more than 80% of the jails in the U.S.

 

Top Aspects to Look for in a Background Check Company

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There are various background check screening companies throughout the country. There are even some offered online as instantaneous checks. Other companies offer countless features for a seemingly insignificant price. With all of these options available to you, it has to seem like it is almost impossible to choose a perfect fit for your company or organization.

Begin the selection process by weighing all of your options and identifying the most critical features of the checks offered, and then compare them to your specific needs. It is important to remember that companies that seem too good to be true – usually are. If a company seems to offer numerous features for a comparatively low price, it probably produces a subpar check that accesses only one resource, and sometimes even that one source may not be reliable.

First thing to consider is the price. A comprehensive background check should range from $20-$40 for a national criminal background check. Another feature that is important to look at is how far back the check will search. It is important that a check go back at least 7 years.  But if there are no restrictions in your state on reporting, then you will want convictions that go back further.  You want to choose a company that will do that for you in your checks. These two features often go hand-in-hand because the farther back the check goes, the higher the price and vice versa.

Security is vital when it comes to background checks, and that is very important to consider when selecting a screening company. Some screening firms use “offshore” data and that can create security issues for how the data is transferred. You want to choose a firm that has a high focus on security and has in place procedures for keeping your information safe.

You also want to make sure that the company has a core mission of compliance. You want a company that will ensure you are compliant with the latest laws and regulations at all times.

Exceptional customer service practices will keep you informed of compliancy changes. Customer service is a priority when talking about background checks; consequently, you want to partner with a company that prioritizes great customer service. Your initial contacts with the right company should reinforce your value as a consumer of their services.

SafeHiring Solutions can be the perfect option for you if you are looking for a background screening company with great services at a reasonable price. If you would like to learn more about SafeHiring Solutions, please follow this link to the website for more information!

Devin Patrick Kelley: Failure of a Single Source Database

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I am not a gambler, have never really gambled, and I tend to be a guy who likes checks and balances in my life.  When I leave on vacation, I always have a jump starter in case the vehicle battery dies, a can of tire flat, and an extra set of keys in my wife’s purse in case I lose a set. I like backup plans.

Maybe that goes back to my years as a Violent Crime Detective.  Serving a warrant on a violent felon does not always go the way you plan.  I learned very quickly, after a fellow officer was killed trying to serve a warrant, that the felon plays a huge part in how this goes.

Regardless, I have spent my career working in law enforcement and then the past 20 years as a Violence Prevention Consultant and owner of a background screening firm and visitor management company. There is very little room for error in these careers.  Checks and balances are critical.

For the past 13 years as the CEO of Safe Hiring Solutions, I have provided testimony and guidance to lawmakers on the best practices in background screening.  What I have learned is that policymakers at the state and federal level rely heavily on the advice of law enforcement, and that their first inclination is to mandate a fingerprint background check solution.

I started Safe Hiring Solutions in 2004 because of the failure of a state background check system.  Two sex offenders were hired by a large metropolitan school district in Indiana after having been cleared in the state criminal database.

An audit of the state screening program found that many courts were not sending their conviction data to the state even though state law required them to.

What we learned is that the state was at the mercy of the courts to send the data, and if they did not send the data, then it did not exist in the database.

There were several flaws with the government background screening database:

  1. Single source. The source of the data was not sending the data to the state.  This is the inherent problem with government background screening databases.  No checks & balances.
  2. Contained only convictions for Class A Misdemeanors and above.
  3. Accurate final dispositions.
  4. Relied on state and local law enforcement to submit.

I launched Safe Hiring Solutions to provide a solution to this problem.  The first thing we focused on was the problem with single source criminal databases.  We created a background screening process that contained multiple solutions and checks and balances that included:

  • Solutions to Identify
  • National Criminal Database
  • National Sex Offender Registry
  • Federal District Courts
  • County Criminal Searches

The package we created removed the single source failures.  The case study above with the 2 sex offenders was solved.  A convicted sex offender should appear 3 times in the private background check:

  • National Criminal Database
  • National Sex Offender (if required to register)
  • County Criminal Search

Therefore, if any of the sources fail, there are backups in place.

The argument made by law enforcement is always that without a fingerprint, you cannot conduct a thorough background check.  This simply is not true.

I recently explained to a group of policymakers that I had gone through the process to obtain a gun permit and could have easily exploited the fingerprint process.  How?  Well, let’s assume I had a prohibitive felony or misdemeanor (I don’t).  I registered online and selected a date, time, and location to submit my fingerprints.  I could have easily handed my ID to my brother, who looks much like me, and sent him in to submit a set of fingerprints.

How do I know that would have worked?  Because it was the government issued ID that was my source of ID - not the fingerprints.  The person collecting the fingerprints glanced at my ID for 2 seconds.  She had someone coming in every 15 minutes.  A quick glance at the BMV photo and my brother would have raised no red flags.

The fingerprint process does not pop up and say, “This is Mike McCarty!”  No, the system looks for my fingerprints in a database that are attached to a criminal record.  If there are no fingerprint matches with a criminal record, then the report is clear.

The shooting this past Sunday in Texas has brought into question the NCIC and government system of background checks.  What we now know about Devin Patrick Kelley:

  • He was convicted in the military of a prohibitive crime e.g. domestic violence.
  • The Air Force did not send the conviction to the FBI.

With a single source database, Devin Kelley was allowed to purchase an AR-556 in San Antonio.  Why?

  1. The conviction in the military was not sent to FBI; AND
  2. The unstable Devin Kelley did NOT self-disclose and check a box acknowledging that he had a prohibitive conviction. How many criminals would have the integrity to admit to their criminal history?  Self-disclosure systems are ludicrous.

Over the week, I have heard so many in Congress put forth ideas to quickly solve the issue:

  • Call a voice vote to mandate all data providers send their information to the FBI. Was this not a requirement before?
  • Universal background checks. How do universal background checks solve the problem of Kelley being able to buy a handgun?  NCIC was already clear.  That is the problem, you could check NCIC a hundred times and if the data is not there, it is not there.

I took a call while writing this article from a friend who works in federal law enforcement, and we were discussing the incident.  That’s what law enforcement officers do.  Look at the evidence and determine what we can learn to prevent or minimize the occurrence of another incident like this.

Then he asked me the magic question. “Could your background checks have flagged this?”  In all honesty I explained that there is much we don’t know, and I have not run Devin Kelley’s name through our screening process.

I also told him that we don’t do background checks for gun permits because that requires NCIC; however, a comprehensive private background check using a myriad of available solutions might have flagged him:

  • Something caused TX to refuse the gun permit - something other than NCIC.
  • County criminal searches may have revealed arrests.
  • An ITRV (Income Tax & Employer Verification) would have revealed his military history and prompted a search of his military records. This was the most likely way of flagging Kelley without an honest self-disclosure.
  • A Civil search may have found a protective order if one had been issued which is very common in domestic violence cases.
  • DCS Index Checks. These can be conducted in TX, not in NM, but a check could have revealed issues with child abuse that could have lead to a criminal case.

Understand that all of this is hypothetical and intended to simply show a small snapshot of how private screening firms might approach a background check like this.  It is the layers of checks and balances that provide the comprehensive nature of a thorough search.

At the end of the day, we do not need more gun laws.  We have laws prohibiting Kelley from purchasing guns.

We do not need laws requiring reporting to NCIC (I am sure they exist), but we need a larger debate on whether private screening firms can play an active role in the background screening process.  We need to have healthy engagement in Congress and in the states where private firms are being excluded even though they can provide comprehensive screening solutions that are often times faster and much more cost effective.

Join us for a webinar on best practices in background screening & making your voice heard to policymakers.  Register.  Limited to 100 each session.

7 Reasons a Criminal Passes an Employee Lyft or Uber Background Check

Uber and Lyft, two of the largest ride-sharing platforms, have been catching a lot of heat over their background screening programs.  In light of the latest terrorist attack by a NY Uber driver, as well as the case of the Lyft driver who was convicted of federal terrorism 5 months before he started driving for Lyft, I feel it’s the perfect time to examine how two such employees were able to pass background checks. First, let’s not point the finger at Uber and Lyft.  Let’s start with the background screening industry.

The background screening industry is NOT the most transparent industry.  For over 13 years I have owned a background screening firm and for that entire time, I have been saying that our industry has evolved into a competitive environment in which screening firms will cut corners, remove solutions from packages, and limit reports when not required by law in order to stay competitive in pricing or turnaround times.

I spend an inordinate amount of time working with lawmakers on best practice policies and defending this challenging industry. My recommendations are always to define in the code what the background check requires. Doing so will remove the option for screening firms to cut corners.

I am NOT saying that the background screening firms for Lyft and Uber cut any corners.  I have no way of knowing this without running the background checks myself, but I will say that it is extremely hard for organizations to understand exactly what their background screening provider includes in an employee background check.

There are 7 reasons a criminal could pass an employee background check:

  1. Convicted in County Outside of Where They Live. Background screening firms generally rely on SSN Trace to provide an address and then they search counties associated with this address for a 7 or 10 year period.
    1. No Federal Criminal Courts Search. Background check firms do not always add the Federal Criminal Search to their packages.  It appears that the Lyft driver who was convicted of federal terrorism was convicted in federal courts.

     

    1. Only Search Federal District Court. Only searching the federal district courts where the applicant has lived for 7 or 10 years does not provide a thorough report.

     

    1. Not Searching Alias Names. It is still not a common practice to include an alias or other names on the background check,  but doing so is a best practice that should ALWAYS be included.

     

    1. Limit the Scope of Background Check. Many screening firms adopt a 7 year restricted search nationwide.  We suggest that the information only be restricted to what federal or state laws require.  Example, a conviction in Indiana should not be limited to 7 years because the state allows reporting of all convictions as does the federal FCRA.

     

    1. Not Conducting Employee Rechecks. Background screening is not a one and done process.  Employee background checks should be conducted on an ongoing basis.

     

    1. The Criminal Conviction Not Reportable. Yes, it is true many states have adopted restrictions on what convictions can be reported.

This wave of ride-share drivers with serious criminal backgrounds will likely result in a knee jerk reaction from policymakers who do not understand everything and therefore assume that a government background check like the FBI conducts would have caught this.  Not true.

The terrorist in NY appears to have had some citations in his background.  This would be easily found in an MVR check; however, if they were non-moving violations, they would not necessarily be exclude him from driving.  Also, traffic citations are not likely to show up in an FBI background check.  It would still take a private company search of MVR records to obtain this important information.

I would suggest that ride-share companies like Uber or Lyft review their background screening programs and determine where the ball was dropped.  If it was as a result of the screening firm not using best practices, then correct that by finding a new partner.  If it is because government has restricted what information can be reported, then make that public in order to open up lines of communication with lawmakers with the intent to remove these restrictive loopholes that may be allowing terrorists to slip through the cracks.

An obvious solution is to ensure that you are using the best screening solutions available.  Our leadership team and advisory board of law enforcement, secret service, Navy Seals, and cyber intelligence experts are continually adopting the most cutting-edge technologies.

Three solutions that we have that could greatly reduce your risk:

  1. ArrestAlert.  We have direct integration with 80% of the jails in the U.S. and can access arrest data that can be used for:
    • Pre-Employment. Find arrests outside the scope of where a candidate has lived or worked.  Most jail data goes back a minimum of 10 years.
    • Real-Time Monitoring. We can add your employees to real-time arrest monitoring, so you are immediately notified of any arrests.
  2. The software will automate the process of managing re-checks as well as real-time ArrestAlert monitoring.
  3. Real-Time MVR monitoring. Not every state provides real-time MVR monitoring, but where available, this will alert you to any traffic citations.

If you would like more information, please email or call us:  sales@safehiringsolutions.com or 866-434-0002

How Did the Criminal Background Check Come Back Clear?

Several times over the past 13 years, I have taken a phone call from a disgruntled applicant for a volunteer or employment criminal background check whose chief complaint was that this was the first time the criminal record had shown up.  I love these calls.  It goes something like this: “Mr Candidate, are you disputing the accuracy of our report?”

“I am upset because I have done background checks through state police and federal agencies, and this has never shown up before.”

“I understand, Mr. Candidate.  So you are not saying the criminal record is not yours. Correct?  You are upset that we reported it?”

This is an important distinction because if a candidate is disputing the accuracy of our information then we have to initiate a re-investigation.  However, if they are only disputing the fact that we found a criminal history that exists but had never before been reported, then the conversation is over. I am always tempted to add:

“Mr. Candidate, can we add your dispute to our marketing materials?”

However, it frequently happens that a prospective client will contact us about our services and will eventually ask a question about a background screening report they had received from their current provider that came back clear when the applicant had a criminal record.  How could that be?

A screening firm acting like a used car salesman might say, “Because your current provider does not know what they are doing.”  That, however, is NEVER my response.  I list the following reasons that a criminal background check might come back clear when there is, in fact, a criminal record.  This allows the prospective client to determine if there was a legal justification, or if instead, their current provider was cutting corners that could place them at risk.

Here are the six main reasons a criminal background check comes back clear when the candidate has a criminal history:

    1. Scope of search limited.
      • The background screening industry as a whole operates on a 7 year rule.
      • Relying on incomplete criminal databases.
    2. Alias Name Not Searched.
      • It is not uncommon for a screening company to neglect searching alias names i.e. other names your candidate has been known by such as former married, maiden, etc.
      • They charge additional fees to search other names.
    3. Expungement or Sealed Record.
      • Most states and the federal government offers some form of expungement. This allows a person with a criminal history to petition the court to have the record removed.
      • Expungement erases the criminal record and it is NO longer reportable.
    4. Federal or State Law.
      • The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act restricts reporting of non-convictions to 7 years (unless the salary of the position is $75,000 or more).
      • States can further restrict what is allowed to be reported.
    5. Age of the Record.
      • State courts’ archive records- vary from state to state.
      • Some states like VA destroy misdemeanor records after 10 years.
    6. Screening Package is Too Narrow. This is very common and most troubling.
      • Only searching county criminal records in county of residence.
      • Not searching alias names.
      • Relying on incomplete databases or state repositories.

If the reason the report came back clear was # 3, #4 or #5, then this is based on legal issues that cannot be prevented; however, if it is because of #1, #2, or #6, then your background screening provider is providing a low-quality product and service, and we need to evaluate your screening program.

Please email us or call to setup a FREE evaluation of your background screening program:  

Sales@safehiringsolutions.com

Toll Free 866-434-0002

Why Are Employment Background Checks Considered Consumer Reports?

That is a great question, and we can thank the federal government for making the language surrounding employment background checks so confusing. The quick answer is, “YES!” Employment Background Checks are considered a consumer report under the Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act if:

  • You partner with a consumer reporting agency (background screening firm); and
  • They compile background screening reports on consumers; and
  • You pay them a fee to do this.

Since I launched Safe Hiring Solutions in 1994, we have consistently heard from candidates and clients that they wanted to run criminal background checks NOT a consumer report. The belief is that a consumer report is synonymous with a credit report.

That is understandable since a credit report is probably the most recognizable type of consumer report; however, any report on a consumer compiled by a background screening firm is also considered to be a consumer report.

I agree the language is a confusing.  Let me provide a few key definitions so we can better understand what all of this means.

  • Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA).  A CRA by federal definition is an organization that collects or assembles information on consumers for a fee.  A company that compiles criminal record data that sells that data for conducting employment background checks is a CRA.
  • Consumer Report.  A consumer report is a report prepared by a CRA that includes information on an applicant’s or employee’s credit worthiness, credit standing, credit capacity, character, general reputation, personal characteristics, or mode of living and is used or expected to be used for employment purposes.  A consumer report could include:
    • a Criminal Record Check
    • a Civil Record Check
    • a Motor Vehicle Record Check
    • Education Verifications
    • Employment Verifications

Investigative Consumer Report.  An Investigative Consumer Report is a special type of consumer report that is gathered from personal interviews of neighbors, friends, associates, or current and past employers that may have information bearing on the applicant’s credit worthiness, credit standing, credit capacity, character, general reputation, personal characteristics, or mode of living and is used or expected to be used for employment purposes. This means that an Investigative Consumer Report is NOT a Criminal Background Check but could be:

  • Personal Reference Checks
  • Professional Reference Checks

It is critical to understand the definitions because the FCRA has very specific requirements for employers who use Consumer Reports or Investigative Consumer Reports.

Would you like for us to audit your employment screening program?  You can email us at clientservices@safehiringsolutions.com or call toll free 866-434-0002.

Should You Be Conducting School Background Checks on Board Members?

As a former Violent Crime Detective, I was called upon to provide equal protection under the law.  What does that mean? Equal protection is a 14th Amendment protection that simply means that everybody receives equal protection under the law- no matter who they are.  This means nobody is above or below the law.

When I worked with victims of violent crime, sometimes the victims themselves were not always upstanding citizens.  Some of them were prostitutes, drug abusers, or alcoholics. Some of them had lengthy criminal records.  Guess what?  They deserved the same equal protection, under the law, as any law abiding victim.

As a detective, I was also tasked with investigating police officers who abused their spouse or partners.  This abuse could range anywhere from pushing and shoving to murder/suicide.  Investigations were even more complicated because during the early 1990’s, there was still a strong adherence to the “blue wall”. Police departments often operated under the belief that “cops take care of their own”.

Believe me, police officers survive by taking care of each other.  I have been on calls where a simple disagreement turned into a gun battle. Shots were fired with people being seriously hurt.  One of my friends, a fellow officer, was killed as we served a warrant.

But for me, a child, grandchild, cousin, brother, and husband of a police officer (active and retired), once a police office abused a spouse, partner, or child, a line was crossed placing them clearly on the other side of the law.  I always did my job with pride ensuring that violators were successfully prosecuted.

This is an example of equal protection under the law   Nobody, even officers themselves, are above the law.

So when I was recently asked about whether a school corporation should conduct school background checks on board members, my response was simple-  absolutely!

Why should an administrator or school board member be exempted from the school employment background check policy?  That sounds suspiciously like being above the law and a clear example of unequal protection.

“Unequal protection” in law enforcement is when groups of people are unfairly exempted from a policy.  For example, many states have mandatory arrest laws for domestic violence.  Yet, if a police officer does not make an arrest when it is another police officer, that is unequal protection. Unequal protection exposes the department to possible liability as well as the victim to increased danger. Obviously, the danger of continuing abuse increases when there is a lack of consequences and accountability.

When a school board member is excluded from the background check policy, it creates a flawed policy, reflects poorly with the rank and file, and increases the possibility of future embarrassment, even criminality.  It sends the message that those who approve policy are above it.

We have all witnessed elected officials who have fallen from grace.  A former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Dennis Hastert, was released from prison less than two months ago after being convicted of sexually abusing kids  while a wrestling coach and teacher before he was elected to office.

In the past few weeks, I have witnessed school board members in different parts of the country that have caused embarrassment for their school districts after being arrested.  In the Southwest, a new school board member resigned soon after taking his seat because of financial problems, bankruptcies,  etc.

In the Midwest, a large metropolitan school district was hit by partners in crime.  Two school board members, a husband and wife, were recently arrested after stealing a shopping cart full of merchandise.  It was later revealed that this was not the first criminal record for theft for one of the duo.

Thankfully, these last two examples of lack of oversight primarily resulted in embarrassment to the respective school corporations; however, what if the board members had been violent criminals or even sophisticated white collar criminals? The consequences of allowing unequal protection could have been much greater.

The bottom line is that whether elected or appointed, school board members have huge responsibilities and oversight and need to be held to the same background screening standard as all other school employees.

For more information on implementing a school board screening program, please contact us.  We provide this services for hundreds of school districts.

10 Things to Know Before Selecting a Background Screening Firm

Selecting a background screening firm can be a daunting task. An online search for background screening firms will reveal countless organizations that provide these services. This certainly muddies the waters enough to make any selection more than a little difficult. Choosing a reputable and proven background screening firm is one of the most critical business decisions you will make.  Yet, the background screening industry itself has not helped to make this an easy decision.

Unfortunately, a lack of transparency still forms the foundation of the screening industry. A close examination of listings will reveal that screening providers are more focused on providing what they want to provide rather than what is needed. What does that mean?  It means speed and low price has become the key competitive advantage points.  And quality often takes a backseat.

Granted, the efficient use of technology can drive down costs AND shorten the turnaround time.  But when screening companies purport to complete background checks not in days, but in minutes, I take pause.

Yes, more and more courts records are becoming automated and readily accessible.  However, many courts records still necessitate a court researcher to do the job correctly. In certain regions of the U.S., clerks are required to do the search. Sometimes, when a county has upper and lower courts that are not connected, each has to be searched separately.

When I read that a screening company is completing a background check in minutes, it leads me to conclude that they are relying on databases and they are neglecting to search lower courts. Nor do I have any idea what they are doing with the counties that require a county clerk to conduct the search.

Background screening is a risk-management solution.  This is not a process that allows you to check a box and claim you have done your due diligence. Poor research can foster complaints of negligent hiring and negligent retention as well as give rise to a proliferation of federal lawsuits related to federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) violations.

We understand that it would be impossible for a lay person to know many of the problems inherent in the screening industry, so we have assembled a list of questions that should be asked of your prospective screening companies.

  1. How do you define a background check? There is no standard definition; however, background screening relies heavily on incomplete public record sources.  A thorough background screening program should consist of multiple checks and balances that include identification, multi-state databases, county criminal searches and federal courts.

 

  1. Is the background check instant? There is no such thing as a dependable instant database search.  I assume that if a background check is “instant” that it is a database only search. There is no single database, not even the FBI’s NCIC, that is comprehensive enough to stand as a single-source screening program.  Using only a database for employment purposes can open up FCRA violation issues.  It is not even a viable option for volunteer organizations because most databases have a high failure rate even for convicted sex offenders.

 

  1. Cost of a background check? You cannot do quality background checks for $5, but at the same time, it should not break your piggy bank.  Comprehensive employee background checks should range from $20-$40 for a core national criminal background check.  Volunteer checks can range from $10- $20 for a core criminal check.

Always Read the fine print carefully.  Many screening firms do not clearly articulate all of the hidden costs e.g. aka names, additional counties, expanded past 7 years, etc.

 

  1. How far back do your background check reports go? This is a question you should always ask as there are several factors that impact this answer. A thorough background check should go back as far as allowed. We believe it is critical for our clients to have all the information they need to make informed decisions. Even so, there are strict guidelines from the EEOC, FCRA as well as state and local laws that must be followed. Consequently, what factors can impact how far back a background check extends?
    1. Convictions vs Non-Convictions. The federal FCRA restricts reporting of non-convictions to no more than 7 years unless the salary for the position is $75,000 or more. Some state laws further restrict convictions or do not allow their reporting.
    2. Individual state. Several states have further restricted the reporting of adverse information.
    3. How far back court records go. Some states maintain criminal records that extend 30 years or more. Other states purge misdemeanor records at 10 years.

 

  1. How are alias names searched? Alias names bring up thoughts of Jason Bourne and espionage, but really, it is a fancy way of saying any other name your candidate has been known by.  With name-based background checks, it is critical to include any possible alias names to ensure your candidates do not have a criminal history under a former married name, maiden name, birth name, etc. Many screening firms do not include this service in their pricing and then, clients are unpleasantly surprised when hit with additional fees because a candidate has 3 different names.  We do not charge extra for searching other names. We consider it an important part of a thorough search.  It is included in the original quote.

 

  1. Are employees of the screening firms screened regularly? It seems like a question you would not need to ask, but I would encourage you to inquire about the backgrounds of the people you will be trusting with such sensitive information.  Some screening firms “offshore” parts of their screening process like verifications.  How do you ensure that none of your sensitive data on your employees, vendors, volunteers are not being sent to another country with little to no quality control?  One of our large international volunteer partners told me that several of their affiliates were adamant about using a specific local background screening company.  A quick internet search by our partner revealed that the screening firm operated out of a house where the owner also sold jams and jellies.  This was not the secure environment they had hoped for. We re-screen our employees on an annual basis.

 

  1. Security of Data. We mentioned in #6 that some screening firms “offshore” data which creates security issues for how the data is transferred. More importantly, what happens to it on the other end where it could be taken, printed, sold, etc.?  Security is a huge concern with all of our data, and you can be confident that our screening firm uses industry ‘best practices’ for securing your data both in transit and at rest.  What does that mean?  We use SSAE 16 and provide quarterly reports.  In addition, we engage with cyber security experts to perform penetration testing to expose any vulnerabilities in our software.

 

  1. Is compliance a core mission? Complying with federal laws such as FCRA, DPPA and EEOC should be part of the core mission of any screening firm. The majority of compliance is incumbent upon the end user; however, you want a screening partner that will keep you abreast of changes and what is happening in the industry.  We provide a number of educational opportunities each month i.e. live training events, live webinars, articles, and email communications.

 

  1. Customer service. Yes, everybody claims to have it but very few organizations truly do.  With unemployment at all time lows in most communities, hiring is extremely competitive. When you have a question about a background screening report, you should be able to receive an answer quickly.  We have removed all barriers to customer service communications by appointing a Chief of Client Strategies who oversees a team that works all day, every day, with clients. All of our clients have access to a direct line to the team, email, and chat.  We believe technology is key to the background screening process, but we will not remove human eyes from the equation.

 

  1. Education.  Things change in the background screening world very quickly.  New movements like “Ban the Box” can start sweeping the nation making it critical that your screening partner provide opportunities for learning and education.  We provide almost daily education opportunities with articles, live training, live webinars and one-on-one events.

 

In summary, a background screening firm should be more than willing to answer these questions.  If they are not, move one.  There are numerous screening firms that will.  You do not want to place the safety and security of your background screening process in the hands of an organization that is cutting corners or providing low quality products or services.  If a company won’t take the time to answer your questions in order to win your business, how responsive will they be when you are a client?

 

Please give us a call or an email, we are glad to answer any questions you have or provide an audit of your current screening program:  Toll Free  866-434-0002 or sales@safehiringsolutions.com

Securing Your School with SafeVisitor

Do you know who is entering your school doors each day? We spend a lot of time ensuring that we hire quality school employees and conduct high quality school background checks on our employees. However, we don’t always recognize that the vendor stocking the pop machine is actually a convicted sex offender. Or the parent volunteer that is working closely with our children had a conviction for soliciting a child in a neighboring state. If you are only checking the state police criminal database, the record did not show up.

The truth of the matter is that a school district will have thousands of visitors walk through their doors each year and we do not always know who they are or what risk they might pose to our children. A school district with 900 employees might have 2,500 volunteers, 100 vendors and hundreds of temporary visitors that enter the school each year.

In the past, having someone stop by the office and sign in was adequate. But in today’s world where schools are increasingly becoming a target for violence, knowing who walks through our doors is critical.

Safe Hiring Solutions has developed and released the only visitor management system in the U.S. that is integrated with comprehensive national background checks to ensure that your visitors are identified and do not have unsuitable criminal histories.

SafeVisitor is deployed at a growing number of school districts including very large school districts like Fort Wayne Community Schools. “Safe Hiring Solutions has been very excellent to work with in developing a visitor management system that is easy to use, as well as quick and affordable for our large urban school district. They have been responsive to our customer needs, and we are very happy with the increased security SafeVisitor provides,” explains Dottie Davis, Director of Security, Fort Wayne Community Schools.

SafeVisitor manages all types of visitors for your organization which include temporary (those attending meetings), volunteers and vendors. Temporary visitors scan in using their government issued ID and receive a self-expiring ID badge so they cannot re-enter the school the next day.

Volunteers and vendors all pre-register, undergo a comprehensive background check and when approved are issued an ID card that they use to enter and exit the schools. This provides a fast and accurate system for knowing who is in the buildings, who has visited buildings and flag those that are not allowed to enter the buildings.

We are one of the most affordable visitor management systems available and when you combine that with our history of providing comprehensive criminal background checks we become the only visitor system that reaches this level of security.

The timing could not be better for Indiana schools. Governor Pence has allocated another $3.5 million dollars for school security. So implementing SafeVisitor can be FREE.

Please join us for an upcoming online demonstration of SafeVisitor. We have several options over the following month.

You can register for a webinar here: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/rt/8232241839242121474

How to Screen for the Undetected Sexual Predator

How to Screen for the Undetected Sexual Predator Did you know that 80% of sexual predators in the United States do NOT have a criminal record?

Seriously? How could that be?

There a number of reasons some of the most violent offenders in our country are still walking the streets. Are still working as school teachers. Are still volunteering in your youth programs. Are still working as a youth pastor in your church. Are still providing legal counsel. Are still working as a police officer. Are still working as a prosecutor.

They have NO criminal history!

The most common reasons for this are:

  • The criminal justice system does not understand the victim of sexual assault. We are still a culture that is fond of victim blaming. “If you weren’t drinking…” “If you weren’t hanging out at…” “If you weren’t wearing…”

As a former violent crime detective, I have heard all of this from fellow police officers, prosecutors and even social workers. I have also traveled all over the world working with communities to end violence against women and children. And I have never encountered a law that said it was justified to rape someone if they were wearing the wrong clothing, drinking or using substance or hanging out in a place their mother would not approve.

The criminal justice system prefers that our victims all fit into a category of Betty Crocker. Research also confirms that a victim is more likely to have their case prosecuted if they had not been using drugs or alcohol, did not wear anything promiscuous and did not engage in any kind of risky behavior.

  • Society does not understand sexual violence. We believe that sexual predators are always strangers, who operate at night on the other side of town. Research confirms that more than 80% of sex offenders (4 out of 5) are known to the victim. They are spouses, former spouses, teachers, family members, neighbors, etc.
  • Victims of sexual assault do not report the crime. There are a number of valid reasons a victim might not report the crime.

 

  • The criminal justice is less than “user friendly”. Victims have described the “interrogation” by the law enforcement as being as traumatic as the rape.
  • The rapists is known to the victim. If I am a child, this might be my primary caregiver. Or I was told I would be killed for reporting. Or something bad would happen to me. Or I am dependent on them financially. Or they are in a position of power and will be believed over me.
  • Trauma. The crime is so violent that I literally block it from my consciousness.

So how does this impact criminal background screening?

Significantly if you are relying exclusively on a criminal record check to keep sexual predators away from your children. You already are losing the battle.

We can only block 20% of sex offenders from our organization with criminal background checks. We must adopt other screening procedures to detect the other 80% of sex offenders with no records.

One of the best screening solutions is the reference check. Communicate with people who know your candidates.

That seems so simplistic, I know. The problems with traditional phone-based reference checks is:

  • We don’t have the time.
  • We don’t have the resources to call 3 references on all of our volunteers.
  • We can never get references to call us back.
  • They take too long.
  • The information provided is reduced to “name, rank and serial number” by corporate policies.

The great news is there is a way to conduct high quality reference checks, quickly, cheaply and without any labor.

We have recently released RapidRefCheck in version two. RapidRefCheck is a candidate-driven automated software program. That means your candidates enter their references. The system sends the surveys to the reference and provides all of the reminders and then collects and scores the data in easy to read reports

Join us for a webinar to see how RapidRefCheck can help you keep undetected sex offenders out of your organization:

 

Automated Reference Checks: The New Gold Standard

automated reference checksTraditional reference checks are extremely time-consuming and a labor intensive process. Your candidate provides the typical three references. Then you assign someone to call them, ask a series of questions and try to write down the responses as the reference answers. More than likely you come face to face with organizational policies that limit their responses to name, rank and serial number. And you are left with very little information on your candidates.

And this has been the gold standard for reference checks for decades.

Until now. Traditional reference checks are going the way of the landline telephone. Goodbye.

Yes, there will be many that hang on to the old. We all have a hard time with change, even when we know it is a good thing.

Some will argue that they feel most comfortable speaking with references on the phone, listening to voice inflection or hesitations when answering pointed questions. I understand that. What is normal is most comfortable.

But is the voice inflections and hesitations really an indicator of anything? I am sure your days trek very similar to mine, running from meeting to meeting, hundreds of emails, projects that needed completed yesterday and then the phone rings and someone asks me if I have a few minutes to provide reference feedback.

I hate to admit this, especially if I know the candidate (which I should if they are calling), but my first thought is, “no, I don’t have time right now. You just interrupted the 10 minutes I had between meetings to answer five very important emails.” Not that the call isn’t important, but it is not at the top of my to-do-list at that moment.

I have been interrupted and they only have half of my attention. That’s not good for the reference. And it’s not good for you if I am distracted.

And as a proficient multi-tasker, I am still reading through emails while I am on the phone with you. So when you ask me a very important question, I am slow to respond because I just received a Skype from one of our business development team members about the huge prospect we having been communicating with for the past twelve months.

Unfortunately, you mistakenly read too much into the pause. You think I am playing ping pong in my head, trying to determine if I can answer your question or better yet how I should answer your question. Hmm must be something there.

When I am actually being rude and not giving you my full attention. You have interrupted me and I am having a hard time shifting gears to a task that is, quite honestly, not as important as the business development Skype.

Or you leave me a voice message requesting feedback. I am out of the office in meetings and it is a day or two before I get the message and write a Post-it-note to myself to call you back. But I also have six other phone messages to add to the hundreds of emails.

My day is one million percent about prioritizing. There are many tasks that never make the cut each day. If I am lucky, a team member will run with them. If not, it might sit for a few days.

So if you want honest, objective, competency-based feedback from me on your candidate in a timely manner then:

  • Don’t interrupt me
  • Let me provide feedback when it is convenient for me
  • Understand my feedback will be immensely more valuable if I can focus 100%
  • Let me do it any time (sometimes after the kids go to bed is when I get caught up)
  • Let me do it anywhere
  • And if you want me to be candid, let me do it anonymously

And guess what…. That is an option.

RapidRefCheck is available and meets all of the above requirements and many more.

Progressive and tech savvy HR leaders are embracing the new technology with open arms. Partners who have used automated reference checks will never pick up the phone again.

Cash-strapped volunteer organizations are realizing how valuable automated reference checks can be in protecting their kids since 80% of sex offenders do NOT have a criminal record. So I better be checking references to uncover any boundary issues a potential volunteer might have with children.

What are the simple benefits of automated reference checks:

  1. Fast. 72% of references respond within the first 24 hours.
  2. Efficient. Requires a name and email address to initiate and the system does everything else, including reminders.
  3. Quality. Receive competency-based feedback from as many references as you choose.
  4. Cheap. Depending on your volume, each candidate could cost you less than $1.

So if you are interested in learning more about how your reference checks can be automated:

OR

  • Email to setup a live demo: mike.mccarty@safehiringsolutions.com

Valentine's Day Murders Define Career of Safe Hiring Solutions CEO

choking-in-fearAre you the type of person who likes to know about the people you are doing business with? Maybe it is just me, but I am very relational.  I love meeting people, learning about them, their professional and personal lives.  And that is the way I have built the culture at Safe Hiring Solutions.

We make sure we hire people of integrity but we also want people with personality and curiosity.  That are "people-oriented".  That are passionate about life and their career.

This translates into great customer service.

So I thought I would divert off our normal path on this article.  It has nothing to do with trends in background screening or tips to keep your organization safe.  This is an article about a horrible mass murder that propelled me on a course of becoming a violent crime detective and ultimately to launch Safe Hiring Solutions.

I'm sure you were not expecting an article on one of the most shocking murders in American history when you clicked on the blog link.  But stay with me.  There are no grisly details and it will help you better understand how we approach keeping your organization safe.

Here we go...

I grew up in the sleepy small town of Waveland, Indiana in the west central part of the state, the son of an Indiana state police officer.  As a kid, a major crime in our community was a stolen bicycle.

Until Valentine's Day 1977.

That's when four young men burst into a home shortly after midnight, just four miles down the road from my home, and lined the mother and her four sons up on the floor and executed them with shotguns.  Purely for the sport of killing.  The mother survived after her wig was blown off in the dark and the killers believed it was her head.

The crime shocked the nation and choked my community with fear.  The killers were unknown for more than three weeks as my dad and the Indiana State Police tracked down hundreds of leads.

I was nine years old and terrified.  Our entire community was panicked.

Then the killers were identified and one of them confessed.  The other three perpetrators had fled the state.

My fears were heightened because they were young men my dad had arrested.  And the gang was led by a sociopath my dad had prosecuted for a multitude of crimes including statutory rape of a fourteen year old girl.

There was no guide for processing a crime of this magnitude.  My response was to save every newspaper article I could get my hands on.  I collected them off of footstools and kitchen tables, every place I found some bit of information on this crime.  My parents thought I was obsessed.

This preoccupation gnawed at me even after the four killers were tucked away in prison.  I graduated from college and headed for law school but I could find no personal fulfillment in law school so I did what most men in my family have done- I became a police officer.

I carried the manila folder of yellowed newspaper clippings with me when I moved to Nashville, TN and became a violent crime detective.  I would sit and re-read the articles as a young detective.

It puzzled my family.  Why couldn't I file this crime away and move on?

I needed answers.  I needed to know how a crime like this could have been committed in my community.  I needed the truth and how that truth might help me as a detective prevent a crime like this from ever happening again.

So I reached out to the surviving mother, friend of my family.  And she shared everything, including her personal letters she had written to the boys after the murders.

Then I wrote letters to each of the four killers.  And one of them responded and agreed to answer my questions and meet with me so we could better understand this crime.

He eventually wrote the forward to my book.  And the surviving mother allowed me to publish her letters as part of the book.

Yes, I finally wrote a book.  It was originally published ten years ago, coincidentally this coincided with my launch of Safe Hiring Solutions.  However, the original publisher was very difficult to work with and did not make the book readily available.

Then they wanted me to pay them for the rights to my book.  I refused.

But over the years I would receive a large number of calls, emails or social media messages from people looking for the book.   But I was too busy to republish.

Then in October 2013, the Discovery Channel called me and wanted to do a documentary based on my book.  They have a series entitled "Very Bad Men" and wanted the final in the series to be about this crime.

The documentary ran a couple weeks ago.  And I was able to get my book published again, literally hitting Amazon two hours before the documentary aired.

Choking in Fear:  a Memoir of the Hollandsburg Murders is now back on the shelves.

As the Founder & CEO of Safe Hiring Solutions I want you to know that we are not just aggregators of data like much of the background screening industry.  We are focused on safety and security because it is part of my DNA and ingrained in our culture!

Are You Interested in Accurate Background Checks?

accurate background checksThat seems like an odd question to ask.  Can you imagine anyone saying that they are not interested in accurate background checks?

However, I speak with prospective clients every single day who are most interested in speed and cost.  They would accept a fast and cheap background check regardless of the quality.

That is scary.

I will agree that a lot of this is driven by a frantic world that believes that a comprehensive criminal record check can be completed instantly.  But unfortunately, it cannot.  And a background screening industry that is focused more on profit that safety and security.

I made a personal pledge to myself, my staff and the clients we serve that we would not sacrifice quality for speed or being the cheapest provider in the background screening space.  I will admit that it would be very easy to give in and offer a low quality, cheap and instant product.  They are highly profitable and require very little labor.

But that is not who we are.  We are a niche background screening firm that is one hundred percent committed to accurate background checks.

The world is requiring accuracy.  Lawsuits against background screening firms and organizations alike are at an all time high.  And the foundation for almost all of these lawsuits is “inaccurate” information.

Lazy background screening companies that do not want to take the time or spend the money to verify information and determine if the criminal record is your candidate or not.  Criminal record searches that are limited to 7 years (even if not required by state or local laws).

The number of Fair Credit Report Act non-compliance lawsuits is higher than they have ever been.  Quality background screening firms should be committed to the spirit of the federal FCRA.

The EEOC has made it clear that they believe that the proliferation of criminal record checks has placed certain minority groups at a disadvantage.  So they have offered guidance for companies to ensure that you are using criminal background checks in a responsible manner.

There has honestly never been a more critical time for organizations to review their background screening process and make sure they are receiving accurate background checks.  Anything less places your organization at significant legal risk.

If you are interested in reviewing your screening program, please contact us and we will provide a guide that will help you evaluate if you are receiving accurate background checks.