What to Do If a Background Check Turns Up the Wrong Data?

Posted by on April 24, 2012 in Business Start Up Advice [ 3 Comments ]

background check for businessA 2010 study by the Society for Human Resource Management found that almost 75% of companies conduct criminal background checks for at least some job applicants. Unfortunately, simple clerical errors can result in a background check showing false information about a job candidate.

If you are a job candidate, it’s important to know what to do if a background check shows false information about you. You will need to dispute the false information with the employer, the agency that provided the background data, and sometimes with the court system.

Information You’re Entitled to After a Background Check

The Fair Credit Reporting Act says that if a background check ties you to a criminal act or other information that causes an employer not to hire you, the employer must give you notice that your background check turned up negative information and they must provide you with a copy of the report showing the information about you. You have the right to know what is in the file provided by the agency the employer used, and you have the right to dispute inaccurate (or incomplete) information.

Disputing Inaccuracies with the Employer

In a hiring situation, you may not have time to properly dispute the information with the background agency before the employer chooses another job candidate. If this is the case, go ahead and provide the employer with whatever proof you have that the information was incorrect. The background report may link you to the wrong Social Security Number, or may otherwise be linked to someone with the same name as you. Some employers will reconsider when presented with proof, but you should still dispute everything formally through the background agency, or else it will happen again, and could affect things like your credit rating.

Disputing Mistakes with the Background Reporting Agency

The employer is required to provide you with the contact information for the reporting agency that conducted the background check. You should contact them in writing asking them to provide you with your complete background check report. If you request it within 60 days of being notified of the negative information, the report will not cost you anything.

In your letter of rebuttal, identify the exact finding(s) in the report that you wish to dispute. Provide the agency with proof that the information is wrong. If the agency requests any specific documents as proof, you must submit these documents or the agency will dismiss your dispute for failure to provide sufficient information.

The agency has 30 days after receiving your claim to investigate. They must also notify the source of the disputed information (such as a court system) after receiving your claim. If the agency says the investigation did not substantiate your claim, you may request a reinvestigation. If the reinvestigation again says that your claim could not be substantiated, you still have the right to place a statement of dispute in your file. Your statement of dispute will be included with other information whenever a company requests background information about you from that agency.

Disputing Inaccuracies with the Court System

You have a right to access public record information about you. Contact the court that provided mistaken information to the background agency to request your public records. If you find mistakes, contact the court system. You will need to inform them which information is wrong and provide documentation proving your claim. If the background shows a criminal charge, but the charge was dismissed, you’ll want to provide the court with documentation stating this. Keep a copy of the order expunging your record in case you run into a similar problem in the future. Follow up with the court if you don’t receive a statement from them that the information was corrected.

Covering All the Bases

Contact all major background reporting agencies if you have to dispute information in your records. Clearing up the information with one background check agency does not clear up the mistake with other agencies, so it is important that you provide proof of inaccuracies to several agencies, because you never know which agency a new potential employer will use.

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3 thoughts on “What to Do If a Background Check Turns Up the Wrong Data?


  1. avatarDusty

    Great Article. We can not stress enough, that companies using a pre-employment screening firm, need to ask the right questions to ensure the data they are getting is accurate and fresh. Reputable companies will be able to provide all of the correct forms and Adverse Action Processes for their clients. Feel free to visit http://www.eischecks.com for more information.


  2. avatarAmanda DiSilvestro Post author

    Thanks for the helpful link! It’s scary to think that a background check could be incorrect, but it’s good to know that there is something that can be done to minimize this risk. Thanks for reading!


  3. avatarJohn Head

    There are hundreds of background check companies.
    How is someone to know which companies have the correct information and which do not. It would cost a fortune to pay for hundreds of background checks from each company in order to find out. How could anyone possibly contact them all. Its my experience that possible employers and especially staffing agencies do not abide by FTC regulations, and will not provide you with a copy of a background check they did on you. No matter how much you remind them of the regulations, they don’t obey the laws themselves. And they’re providing background check information on other people, what a joke!


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