Details NBC's Today Show Neglected to Disclose Regarding Background Checks

Earlier this morning, NBC’s Today Show aired a segment about how employment background screening inaccuracies can cost applicants their jobs. While the examples shared during the segment are unfortunate, they do not represent the overall standard of quality in the industry. More importantly, the practices discussed in that segment do not reflect the manner in which PreCheck conducts and reports criminal records to our clients.

We would like to take this opportunity to address some of the issues raised in the Today Show segment:

  1. Database Searches – It’s important to recognize that all the examples of errors featured in the story stem from one type of screening practice, that of automated database searches. When employers demand low-cost background checks and insist on completely automated products in order to get results back instantly and at minimal cost, rest assured there are background screening firms readily available to offer such options. However, PreCheck understands that such products do not meet the needs of our clients. Therefore, we conduct county level court searches to ensure accurate results for our clients.
  2. Name Only Records – PreCheck does not report records that are matched only by name with no other identifier. We believe that practice does not meet the legal requirement of “maximum possible accuracy” as stated in the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), the law that governs background checks. We typically report records based on name and date of birth match, in addition to other identifiers, if available. Further, we absolutely require an additional identifier for common names. However, employers and consumers alike should be aware that with the threat of identity theft, lawmakers and the courts are pushing to redact more and more identifying information on criminal records, believing such a practice protects consumers’ sensitive information. Unfortunately, removing unique identifiers makes it more and more challenging to clear possible records.
  3. 10% Error Rate – While the source of this figure was not cited during the interview, this error rate likely compromises all types of inaccuracies, not strictly misattribution of records where an individual is reported to have a criminal record when s/he in fact does not. PreCheck’s annual error rate based on total number of reports that we amend due to an error or inaccuracy versus total number of reports is .22%. We have over a 99.7% accuracy rate. When we calculate this percentage based upon the total number of individual criminal searches we conduct, the percentage falls to a miniscule .007% of all criminal searches that result in an error.
  4. Reinvestigations – The segment correctly stated that the FCRA allows background screening companies up to 30 days to correct any mistakes or inaccuracies, but when PreCheck receives any disputes from consumers, we work with them to resolve inaccuracies immediately. On average, we complete reinvestigations and amend reports in less than three business days. In the event it may take longer, it is typically because PreCheck must await additional information or materials from the subject of the report or from the actual court.

PreCheck feels it is unfortunate that the Today Show segment chose to focus strictly on a few sensational errors while completely failing to acknowledge the necessity in conducting employment background checks. We hope the points discussed above shed light on any questions you may have. We invite you to contact our Vice President of Compliance, Vu Do, should you have any concerns.

We also encourage you to read the official press release from NAPBS, Setting the Record Straight: NAPBS Responds to Today Show report on Background Screening.