Imagine this scenario: you’re about to get the job you’ve always dreamed of, but it falls apart at the last second through no fault of your own. A background check has given incorrect information that makes hiring you impossible. This could happen, especially since 96% of employers run background checks. And while background check services are often very accurate, sometimes mistakes are made leading to inaccurate or incorrect results, which can have real consequences. Fortunately, there are ways to fix this and prevent it from happening in the future.
Why Background Check Results Can Be Incorrect
The main reason things go wrong with a background check is due to the nature of the searches themselves. Background check services often look up people by using their name, birth date, and location, instead of a unique identifier like a Social Security number. Although this means services get the maximum number of results, it can also create mistakes.
The main reason for wrong information showing up on a background check is mistaken identity. You don’t need to have a common name like John Smith or Mary Williams for this to happen though – chances are that there are more people than you think with the same name as you in your local area. Nowadays, background check services also search for social media posts, and you don’t want to be turned down for a job just because @JohnSmith4102490 from your hometown said something awful on Twitter. Human error is also a factor as the results themselves may be incorrect (a ‘Smyth’ can easily become a ‘Smith’) and from there the mistakes will multiply.
A more sinister reason for incorrect information is identity theft. If someone steals your identity then they could ruin your credit score or commit crimes in your name, which would then show up in any background checks. Imagine not being able to rent a property because the landlord thinks you’re a bank robber! Fortunately, there are identity theft protection services available that will alert you in case of identity theft.
The Consequences of Wrong Information
Incorrect results from a background check can have real consequences, making it harder to get a new job or find a new place to live. Even if it’s established that the information from a background check is wrong, it may still be too late – HR departments aren’t going to fix it for you, and they may need to move on to another candidate before you can clear your name.
Employment and housing aren’t the only reasons that background checks are made. Background check services are often utilized for checking up on a potential partner for a date, where a criminal background isn’t going to help. People also use background check services to reconnect with long-lost friends and family, and if there’s inaccurate information it may hinder a family member’s attempt to find you.
Check Yourself First
Of course, you don’t want to get caught out by a bad background check so it helps to be prepared. The best way to do this is by performing a background check on yourself first. You’ll have to pay a small fee to run a background check but it’s a worthwhile investment, especially if unexpected background check results are preventing you from getting a job. If you’ve already had a background check run on you by an employer, then you can request a copy and from there set about fixing any errors.
How To Fix Errors on a Background Check
You’ve performed the background check and found some glaring inaccuracies that could be having a negative effect on your prospects. What’s the next step? First, you need to find the source of the misinformation and this depends on what mistakes have been found. For example, a mistake on your criminal record would mean contacting the relevant police department that dealt with the case originally to clear up the confusion. If the issue is with your credit report then you’ll need to contact the credit bureaus directly. When it comes to more simple things like incorrect addresses then you can contact the background check service yourself and they should amend the information for you. One key thing to bear in mind is that when it comes to background checks, the law is on your side. If challenged, background check companies have 30 days under federal law to prove a report is accurate or update their information.
It’s important to always stay vigilant when it comes to your identity, so if you haven’t run a background check on yourself before – or haven’t done it in a long time – then now is the perfect time to do it.
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