All You Need to Know About SentryLink Background Checks

  • All You Need to Know About SentryLink Background Checks
04 Apr, 2024
Daniel Cohen
15 min
281
Man Viewing Documents from SentryLink

Fix SentryLink Background Check Reporting Errors: Everything You Need to Know to Salvage a Job or Rental Opportunity.

Did SentryLink misreport your criminal background with incomplete, misleading, misclassified, obsolete, or wrongful information? This unfair and illegal reporting can tank opportunities for jobs and housing. We explain how SentryLink operates, how data errors happen, how to dispute them, and why a consumer protection attorney is your best ally.

Quick Answers

If you’re one of the unlucky consumers who has been denied employment or housing opportunities due to inaccurate, misleading, or false criminal information in a SentryLink background check report, you know firsthand the consequences that flow from this type of error.

With seventy-five years of combined experience in consumer protection law, the lawyers at Consumer Attorneys have helped countless consumers like you find your back to financial and emotional stability after experiencing something like this.

I’ll tell you everything you need to know to understand SentryLink and its background check process, how errors are made, what to do when errors show up in your SentryLink criminal background check report, and whether you can sue SentryLink for this type of misreporting.

Read on to be fully informed and make the best decisions to protect your rights when SentryLink background check errors impact your life.

SentryLink is a company that buys and sells consumer data for profit, specializing in producing reports regarding criminal background checks, driving records, and identity verifications. SentryLink background check services are typically used by employers and landlords (or property management companies) as an assessment tool for vetting the eligibility of prospective applicants or re-evaluating current employees or tenants.

Employers and landlords using these background checks as a tool are concerned about mitigating their risk in making hiring, retention, and rental decisions. Because such important decisions hinge on the results of these background checks, they should be free of reporting errors, and the law requires this.

SentryLink conducts background checks by soliciting personally identifiable information from the applicant, employee, or tenant and then using algorithms to search, identify, review, and report information about that specific individual.

Most SentryLink background check reports are completed within one to four days. However, the process of gathering, reviewing, and compiling consumer data from various sources can be delayed for longer periods, even up to a few weeks.

Generally, when delays occur, the reasons revolve around information that requires further inquiry to determine which consumer it is correctly associated with. This need for additional inquiries can be due to things like commonalities among consumers (such as similar or identical names) that need to be further refined.

Many errors make their way into background check reports because of a failure to adequately investigate and refine results to distinguish between consumers.

What Information Does SentryLink Provide in Their Background Checks?

SentryLink background check reports cover three primary areas of consumer data: criminal record, driving record, and identity validation through social security number tracing.

SentryLink Criminal Background Check

The criminal search component involves a SentryLink national background check that conducts a nationwide scan for criminal history across all jurisdictions at the relevant state, county, and national levels. If a relevant jurisdiction doesn’t allow electronic data access, an in-person records request and review is completed.

The SentryLink criminal background check specifically includes an inquiry into:

  1. sex offender status;
  2. federal watchlist status;
  3. information on sexual offenses (even if not placed on the sex offender list);
  4. misdemeanors;
  5. felonies.

Criminal convictions are reported without time limitations, but events that don’t result in a conviction and are outside the prescribed time limit (seven years) do not meet inclusion criteria and will not be reported. The latter includes charges that were canceled or dropped and those resulting in a favorable adjudication. If this information is included, it is still considered an error, even though it may be factually correct.

The SentryLink website provides detailed information about each resource scanned or accessed to complete the report, so if there is a specific database you are wondering about, refer to the “Criminal Database Coverage” page.

SentryLink Background Checks for Rental Property

Rental property owners and property management companies use services like SentryLink to vet applicants before approval. This is done for various reasons, including compliance with HOA or property management restrictions.

Factors that landlords typically consider include criminal history, credit profile, and identity verification. The latter is used to identify whether a particular Social Security Number (SSN) has ever been associated with a different name or has been placed in the Death Master File (DMF) at the Social Security Administration (SSA).

The DMF is an official record of all SSNs associated with deceased individuals. When the SSA essentially retires an SSN to the DMF, it should no longer be in use. So if a SentryLink background check report indicates that an applicant’s purported SSN is listed in the DMF, it means one of three things:

  • there is an error with the SSN the applicant provided.
  • the applicant is potentially attempting to commit identity fraud.
  • there was an error at the SSA, and the applicant’s SSN was mistakenly added to the DMF.

This use of SentryLink is meant to provide:

  • basic safety precautions for the owner or property manager and other residents or users of a property or rental facility.
  • credit precautions so that landlords can mitigate the risks of renting to someone who may default on payment.

SentryLink Background Check for Employment

Employers use services like the SentryLink background check report to assess whether an applicant has any disqualifying history, including criminal activity, driving infractions, or credit problems. The nature of the job determines the extent and character of the background check. For instance, only a job with driving requirements includes a driving record screen.

Not all employers perform background checks, but for those who do, these reports are used in two ways.

  1. Initial intake screening before hiring. Some applicants are subject to an initial screening process to determine whether their employment will present any safety problems.

    For instance, a particular job may require access to security information, which requires that an employer have a heightened degree of trust in the candidate’s responsibility with such information.

  2. Post-hiring monitoring.  Some employers run background checks on current employees as part of an ongoing monitoring protocol to ensure continuous accountability and compliance with eligibility criteria.

    For instance, employees who have to operate motor vehicles during employment may be subject to periodic background checks to ensure that no new driving infractions or vehicular misconduct have occurred that might warrant suspension or termination. These also serve as an incentive to continue driving safely.

What Are the Consumer’s Rights when Verifying Their Background Check?

The consumer data industry is governed by federal and state laws, which regulate the rights of consumers and the obligations of consumer reporting agencies (CRAs), such as SentryLink.  A listing of consumer rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) includes:

  • The right to know whether and when a background check is performed.
  • The right to be informed that a rejection for a job, loan, housing, or other opportunity is based on negative information in a background check report.
  • The right to be informed which information in particular resulted in the adverse decision.
  • The right to file disputes or appeals of errors (including inaccurate, misleading, false, or non-reportable information) and to an investigation into the errors.

SentryLink does not publish a public list of companies that use its services. However, individual businesses will frequently identify the background check company they use. So, if you’re curious about which background check service a particular company uses, just research that specific company, rather than trying to discover which companies use SentryLink.

The companies that use SentryLink tend to fall into one of two categories:

  • Property owners/landlords/property management companies: these entities use SentryLink background checks to identify potential long-term tenants or short-term guests who may pose a risk of fraud, violence, other criminal behavior, or non-payment. It can be used to justify the cancelation of pre-existing rental reservations.
  • Employers: these entities use SentryLink background reports as a checkpoint to identify applicants or employees who might fall within the parameters of a particular prohibition based on the nature of the work. In other words, either before or during employment, some employers screen for violations or crimes that signal incompatibility with the job or would amount to grounds for termination.

Absolutely, yes. Any company in the consumer data business has the potential to include errors in its background check reports. The errors that plague this industry are not limited to any one company, nor is any one company immune to reporting errors. The sheer volume of information processed on a daily basis makes the industry prone to errors.

What Causes Errors in Background Checks

SentryLink, like all CRAs, draws from various data streams in compiling individual reports. A SentryLink background check report may include errors because of the following:

  1. Data entry errors. These errors have a human origin and occur when information is being input into a database. Such mistakes include things like incorrect dates, birthdates, spellings, etc.
  2. Mixed file errors. These errors occur when the information from two different, unaffiliated individuals is mistakenly co-mingled. It tends to be caused by algorithms that gather data but lack the ability to refine the results adequately.

    However, it may also mark a policy failure in terms of review protocols. For instance, a human reviewer may be more apt to catch, investigate, and correct these discrepancies prior to reporting, but companies favor algorithms over human review.

  3. Identity theft errors. These errors occur when someone without authorization can access, steal, and utilize the identity credentials of another person. The consequences of this crime are far-reaching and can result in data mix-ups when records are gathered for a background report. (Optimize your online privacy and security to help prevent identity theft and the subsequent reporting errors that result.)
  4. Failure to update errors. When certain convictions are expunged (erased) after a period of time, municipal systems update their records to reflect this, but sometimes CRAs like SentryLink fail to update theirs. Measures are supposed to be in place to process and implement updates, though such measures are frequently not utilized adequately or effectively.

Main Types of Errors

For SentryLink background check reports (and those from similar companies), the most common errors are:

  • Transposition of digits in a Social Security Number.
  • Wrong or incomplete data in original documents.
  • Incorrect criminal records.
  • Outdated information (e.g., expunged convictions that were not updated).
  • Mistaken identity resulting in unaffiliated criminal records being associated with the wrong person.
  • Identity theft that results in crimes committed by someone using another person’s identity.
  • Mixed files resulting in someone else’s information appearing on the wrong SentryLink background report.

SentryLink does not publish data regarding the number of errors in its background check reports. However, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently published a study looking at complaints about errors in tenant background check reports industry-wide and found that these errors are a significant problem in the rental housing market.

Further, the CFPB states that there are thousands of complaints about “incorrect information” in background check reports and thousands of complaints about “obstacles faced trying to get companies to fix their errors.” CFPB Reports Highlight Problems with Tenant Background Checks This makes correcting these errors doubly tricky and highlights the benefit of working with an excellent consumer protection lawyer.

Consequences of having errors in your background check report

Errors in a SentryLink background check report can impact your ability to get hired, retain employment, access loan or credit approvals, secure long-term or vacation rental housing, etc.

You Can Contact SentryLink if You Need to Correct an Error in the Background Check Report

SentryLink’s website offers customer service contact information for disputing errors in a background report. Typically, disputing incorrect information requires authentication through the provision of documentation in support of your position. 

Be cautious. We recommend filing disputes and providing documents via certified mail rather than online or via phone. Many online dispute platforms provided by CRAs require the user to waive the right to file a lawsuit over the handling of disputed errors. It is generally not a good idea to waive your legal right to sue SentryLink before you know how the situation will play out. Notifying SentryLink that you are disputing errors via phone does not provide adequate documentation of your efforts.  

What to Do if You do not Recieve Answers to Your Questions on the Background Report

You should contact a consumer law attorney right away if you have tried disputing the errors in your SentryLink background check report and have provided documentation but have yet to receive an adequate or effective response.

You Can Sue SentryLink if Your Report Contains Errors

SentryLink is a consumer reporting agency (CRA) under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), which means that all phases of its data handling (gathering, reviewing, and reporting) are subject to federal regulations. In addition, most states also have comparable legislation on the state level.

The FCRA sets forth consumers' rights with respect to the reporting of their data in background check reports, credit reports, and other similar reports. Among these rights is the ability to sue the CRAs that are in violation of their obligations under the law and a right to compensation to aid in making a full financial and emotional recovery.

We caution that once you lose a particular job due to a background report error, you are not necessarily entitled to reinstatement to your previous position, even when an investigation confirms the mistake. However, compensation is possible, and this is intended to account for any such loss.

Notably, Inflection Risk Solutions, another company offering similar background reports and also prone to reporting errors, was successfully sued in a class action dispute, resulting in a four-million-dollar settlement.

Who Can You Contact to Solve the Problem with an Error in the Background Report from SentryLink

If you are one of the unlucky consumers who has lost out on a job, housing, loan, or other opportunity due to errors in a SentryLink background report, you should contact a consumer protection lawyer.

A skilled and knowledgeable attorney can guide you through the complex legal landscape and advise you on best practices for protecting your rights under the law, correcting the errors in your reports, and getting your financial and emotional life back on track through compensation. 

Assistance in Disputing SentryLink Background Report?

Can you go it alone? Of course. You are empowered to seek resolution of these errors and restitution on your own. However, an experienced consumer protection lawyer knows the tricks, tactics, and strategies that CRAs use to appear legally compliant while not actually addressing the problems.

A lawyer also knows how and when to hold SentryLink accountable, the statutory time frames, the types of errors that give rise to a right to compensation, the available compensation types, etc. When bad data derails your life, the value of working with a great attorney cannot be overstated. Supporting yourself with legal assistance throughout this process is priceless.

And best of all? It costs you nothing out of pocket to fix these errors. At Consumer Attorneys, our consultations are always free, and the companies we sue pay our costs and fees. You pay nothing out of pocket. 

Recent Lawsuit Against SentryLink

One of our talented lawyers at Consumer Attorneys just helped Robert get his life back after errors in a SentryLink background check report cost him a job.

When SentryLink reported errors in Robert’s criminal history to his potential employer, his employment application was denied. He missed out on a well-paying position due to this mistake, which turned out to be the result of a mixed file in which someone else’s criminal history was reported as Robert’s.

We sued SentryLink on his behalf and won.

Call Us Today!

The top-tier team of lawyers at Consumer Attorneys has over seventy-five years of combined practice experience. With lawyers in twenty-five states and counting, plus a thriving nationwide referral network, we have your legal needs covered from coast to coast.

There are several ways to reach us: call (+1-877-615-1725), email (info@consumerattorneys.com), fill out the online intake form, or use our virtual chat option.

Let our expertise power your win! We’ll help correct the errors and make you whole!

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About the author
Daniel Cohen
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Daniel Cohen is a Founding Partner of Consumer Attorneys and a co-chair of Consumer Finance Litigation practice. Since 2017, he is a member of the National Association of Consumer Advocates and the National Consumer Law Center. Mr. Cohen is a nationally-recognized practitioner of consumer protection law. He has a wealth of proven legal experience in the US in: collective claims, representing visually impaired people who believe their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act have been violated in both the physical and digital environments, corporate governance and dispute resolution. Read more

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