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How to Fix Errors on a Background Check

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By Christopher Coble, Esq. on April 27, 2015 10:15 AM

According to a report by the Society of Human Resources, 69 percent of employers conduct criminal background checks on all job candidates.

However, since there is no licensing requirement for background checking companies, errors occur all too often. Stories of people losing their job offers because of faulty background checks are not rare. In many of these cases, your rights as a job applicant are being violated.

So, what can you do if there are errors on your background check?

Common Errors

According to the National Consumer Law Center, background check companies routinely mismatch people with similar or common names, report an arrest without reporting that no charge were filed, reveal sealed or expunged information, list single charges multiple times, or misclassify misdemeanors as felonies.

Fair Credit and Reporting Act (FCRA)

While there is no licensing requirement to be a background check company, criminal background checks and the use thereof is regulated by the Fair Credit and Reporting Act and enforced by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and The Federal Trade Commission.

According to the FCRA, criminal background check companies must notify you and the employer of a background report at the same time. If an employer finds something on your background check that may affect their decision to hire you, the employer must notify you first before making a decision. It must give you a chance to explain or dispute the information before making a hiring decision.

Correcting Errors

If you do find an error, you can dispute it the same way you would dispute a credit report error. Contact the background check company, and notify them of the error. By law, they have to investigate the error and make any corrections within 30 days of your complaint.

If the background screener refuses to make a correction or even investigate your claim, you can file a complaint with the FTC at FTC.gov or at 1-877-382-4357. While the FTC cannot make corrections to your background check, it can investigate and sue the background check company if it does find evidence of wrongdoing. For example, in 2012, the FTC fined the company Spokeo $800,000 for not following regulations, and HireRights Solution agreed in a settlement to pay $2.6 million for "failing to ensure 'the maximum possible accuracy of information.'"

If you believe that a background check company is violating the FCRA by not addressing your complaint, consult with an experienced employment attorney to assess your options and file a claim.

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