What are common background check errors?

  • What are common background check errors?
01 Sep, 2023
Daniel Cohen
11 min
background check error

Undisputed background check errors can create chaos and loss of opportunity.

Background checks can cause serious problems. Learn what kinds there are, what causes them, and how you can fix them.

What is a background check?

A background check is a process that a person, company, or any other relevant entity uses to ascertain whether an individual is actually who they say they are. It creates the opportunity for one to check another’s past activities to verify their authenticity and validity.

There are different types of background checks, including employment, criminal, credit, education, national security, motor vehicle, and special industry mandates.

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What is a background check error?

Simply put, a background check error is a mistake made during the course of a background check. Essentially, these errors involve adding facts that are not true to a person’s record or excluding facts that should be on a person’s record.

For the most part, these inaccuracies always end up painting a bad (or worse) picture of the subject of the background check.

Some of common background check errors include:

  • Transposition of digits of the Social Security Number
  • Wrong or incomplete data in original documents 
  • Incorrect criminal records
  • Outdated information that should be expunged
  • Mistaken identity, leading to the criminal records of another on your background check
  • Crimes committed by another using your identity showing up on your background check
  • Data mixup, leading to the details of another person appearing on your background check

Factors responsible for background check errors

Now that you’re aware of common errors made during the background check process, let’s discuss what causes these errors to occur.

Most background check errors stem from the following factors:

Human mistakes 

Computers and other information processing machines have no other option but to churn out the information that people load onto them. If the data is wrong from the onset, it will be wrong at the end. Garbage in, garbage out. Isn’t that what they say?

Identity theft

This crime occurs when a person’s personal identifying information is used by another to commit a crime. Such a crime is attributed to the innocent, unsuspecting owner of personal information.

Machine errors 

Often, the companies that compile databases using public information normally utilize automated formulae. The challenge with this strategy is that the algorithm occasionally garbles the provided information.

Lack of updates 

Every now and then, government agencies expunge criminal convictions upon the completion of a probationary period of good behavior. However, many of their commercial databases don’t conduct the crucial updates to expunge the offenses that have been struck from public records.  

The dangers of background check errors

Background check errors usually have unpleasant consequences. This is because the errors typically smear your image and make you seem unsavory or undeserving of whatever prompted the background check in the first place.

To put it succinctly, background check errors can result in the loss of a job opportunity, a damaged reputation, denial of housing, and denial of various credit products.

What to do in the event of a background check error

Thankfully, a background check error is not the end of the world. The Fair Credit Reporting Act has made a number of rights available to consumers should a background check error rear its ugly head.

Firstly, employers or prospective employers must have one’s written consent for them to run a background check.

The act also stipulates that individuals must be notified if a background check is used against the person. Additionally, such a person is entitled to a copy of the background check.

If there are any errors on the background check, you have the right to dispute it. Errors on your background check must be rectified or deleted within 30 days of initiating the dispute.

When background check companies and consumer reporting agencies violate the provisions of the act, you have the right to sue.

As we mentioned, background check errors have far-reaching consequences. They can cause you to miss out on important opportunities, such as a house or a job. If you have been a victim of background check errors resulting in unpleasant outcomes, you might be entitled to damages!

Are you confused about rectifying this mistake? We’re here for you all the same. Contact us for the next steps.

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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