What Can I Do About False Information in My Background Investigation Results?

A question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about negative information
in a background database. 

I was labeled a thief on a contributory database without any due process or them contacting my professional board. It is viewed by any company that subscribes to it. I’ve been turned down for 1200 jobs. What gives? I have three degrees!

I can imagine how terrible it would be to have incorrect information or skewed information, on such a database. Keep in mind that background investigation providers do not create the information, they combine reports from a variety of sources, put it together and present it to clients as an overview of history regarding the subject’s finances, criminal history and sometimes, their social website history. (Clients pay for the level of investigation they wish to have done.)

So, it is likely that other databases would have the same information. Often the failure with all such background companies is in delving further to find out if, for example, a charge was expunged after a sentence was served or if restitution was made and the case was then dismissed. However, nearly always the defense of background companies is that they only report what they have taken from official files, so the grievance should be aimed at those who maintain those files.

Some states have state statutes about how often reporting companies have to update their files, so if your situation is because of that, it may be they have violated a state law. But, you would need an attorney to best deal with that issue.

1. Consider going directly to the background company to dispute the information in your file. Check their website and find out what to do if you feel the information is in error. Most of them have an FAQ, with that as one of the frequently asked questions.

If you challenge the records, you will need to provide proof or statements that can be verified, to show the truth of the matter.

2. At the same time, you need to get your police records or other sources of information corrected. You may need to hire an attorney to help you with this or may be able to do it yourself, if you have good documentation to show why there is an error.

3. If you did, in fact, get charged with a crime, but it is not the crime being reported on the database, you will need to have an attorney assist with getting court records changed or police records changed, to reflect the correct charge.

4. If you get to an interview, perhaps you can be proactive and mention the situation and why it doesn’t apply to your suitability for employment. Some people incorporate positive references by current employers right into their resume letter or letter of interest. Nowadays, a lot of hiring is done online, so the personal communication is missing, but perhaps you will have a chance to talk to a real person about it.

5. If you have been doing a good job in your current work, perhaps your employer could link you with someone in the geographical area in which you are seeking employment.

Your case certainly does point out why it is crucial for reporting companies to maintain accurate records—and why prospective employees should keep track of their own criminal and financial records, before they need to have them reviewed. Most of us, including me, never think to check on ourselves or correct errors. Then, when we need to have a good looking file, it’s too late to stop the errors from going out. In your case, it seems it would be worth the money investment to have someone help you cleanse your record as much as possible.

I wish you the very best with this. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.

Tina Rowe
Ask the Workplace Doctors

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.