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Frequently Asked Questions

This information is not intended to be legal advice. It is recommended that you speak with your Legal Counsel to ensure compliance with applicable law.

What laws regulate the background screening process?

Employers conducting employment background checks need to understand and comply with the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) of 2012, as well as the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) 2012 Enforcement Guidance on the Consideration of Arrest and Conviction Records in Employment Decisions Under Title VII

Individual states and municipalities often also have legislation that may impact the background screening process, including ban-the-box laws.

Contact AccuSource if you have questions about compliance with federal and state laws regarding your background screening program.

Why can't I do my own Social Media Screening?

Just because you can do your own Social Media screening as a hiring manager or HR professional doesn’t mean you should. The main reason you should outsource your Social Media screening is that federal law prohibits employers from using protected class information to inform their hiring decisions.

Consider this scenario: as part of the background screening process of a potential hire, you look through the candidate’s social media profiles and learns information about their religion or sexual orientation. This is now information that you can’t “unsee” and you can not prove that this information did not influence your ultimate decision to either hire or not hire the individual. It’s better if you never saw the information in the first place so your organization can’t be accused of any legal or ethical violations.

AccuSource offers Social Media screening that protects you from any possible violations using a combination of continual learning, natural language processing, and workflow automation which insulates you from inadvertently discovering any protected class information. This provides actionable insights that employers can apply towards a compliant, bias-free employment decision.

What is included in a background check?

A background check can investigate many different aspects of a potential candidate’s background. Generally, County Criminal Record Checks, MVR Reports, Employment Verification, Education Verification, and Social Security Number Address Traces are basic searches ordered as a part of most background checks. Each type of check will reveal different information pertinent to that service.

However, there are many determining factors that go into deciding exactly which searches should be run by an employer. A robust background screening program should take into consideration things like: What is the level of risk? Is there a fiduciary responsibility in the job? Is necessary training or education required? Is the employer hiring for a particular department or level of management?

AccuSource can walk you through what types of background checks should be run for your organization based on its specific needs and goals.

What if I decide not hire someone based on the results of a background check?

Employers are legally obligated to follow a series of steps if they make the decision not to hire based on the results of an employment background screening. These steps are known as the “pre-adverse and adverse action process” and include the following actions:

  • Pre-adverse action notice: Prior to taking any adverse action, the employer must provide the applicant with a copy of their consumer report and a summary of the applicant’s rights under the FCRA
  • Waiting period: Before taking adverse action, the employer must wait a reasonable period of time to allow the applicant time to dispute the accuracy of the consumer report. Industry standard wait time is 5 business days
  • Adverse action notice: The employer must provide the following to the applicant when it has taken an adverse action:
    • Notice of the adverse action (i.e. not eligible for hire or denial of promotion)
    • The contact information of the consumer reporting agency that prepared the report
    • A copy of the Summary of Rights under the FCRA

AccuSource has prepared a handy infographic outlining the pre-adverse and adverse action process, along with descriptions of the steps required. Click here to download the infographic

What is negligent hiring?

Negligent hiring is a claim made against an employer by an individual. When an employer makes a hiring decision that results in the hiree injuring or harming a coworker, customer, or any person they come into contact with through their work, the employer can be charged with negligent hiring. The premise of a negligent hiring claim is that the employer should have known about the employee’s potential for violent behavior by running a thorough background check before hiring them.

About half of US states have laws on the books holding employers responsible for running background checks and verifying the references of job applicants before hiring them for positions of high public contact. Positions most at risk of resulting in negligent hiring claims due to en employer’s failure to do due diligence include one-on-one care workers, nursing and convalescent home workers, real estate agents, delivery persons, utility personnel, and service and maintenance positions.

Contact us today to find out how AccuSource can help you avoid potential negligent hiring claims against your organization by ensuring you have a robust and reliable background screening program in place. 

Do I need the applicant's consent to run a background check on them?

Yes. According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) employers must obtain written permission from a candidate or employee before running a background check.

Having a clear and consistent background screening policy and process in place ensures employers can certify that they have: notified employees and candidates of the background screening process; informed employees and candidates of their legal rights in the case of an adverse action related to the results of a background check; and made every effort to protect the candidate or employee’s privacy and avoid any discrimination.

In some states, such as California, laws preclude employers from getting ongoing permission to run background checks on employees. In these states, employers must obtain candidate or employee consent every time they run a background check. Please check with your legal counsel to find out more about the laws in your state or municipality.

What is Point of Collection (POCT) Drug Testing?

A point of collection test (POCT) is a drug screening test performed outside of a certified laboratory. POCTs are conducted using a variety of devices designed for this purpose. Some POCT devices test for a single drug while others can be used to test for combinations of drugs.

POCT results are verified at the discretion of the employer who must choose to send the sample to a certified laboratory for confirmation testing.

For employers seeking the convenience and increased cost control of testing applicants onsite with results available in minutes, AccuSource offers a full line of instant oral swab and urine cups. All products are high-quality, proven accurate, tamper-resistant and made in the United States. Full administrator training is provided free of charge for all instant onsite products.

Who Uses E-Verify?

Unlike Form I-9, which is a requirement for every employer, not every employer uses E-Verify. Some employers are required to use E-Verify by law, such as federal and state government contractors and sub-contractors. There are also several states that require all employers in the state to use E-Verify.

Many employers that aren’t required to use E-Verify opt to use E-Verify as another step to confirm their employees are all legally authorized to work in the U.S.

What is included in a motor vehicle search?

A Motor Vehicle Record (MVR) search is a search of a state’s Bureau of Motor Vehicle records for driver information. Information revealed during the search can include license status, license class, issue date, expiration date, violations, suspensions, licensee address, date of birth, and physical description. These records vary and provide different information depending on the state. The MVR record is the best source for verifying an applicant’s DOB. The number of years shown on driving reports varies by state, so criminal traffic offenses may not always appear on the MVR report; only suspensions or cancellations will show.

The MVR report can be affected if the license number provided by the applicant is an ID card number or if it is not formatted correctly for the provided state. Please note, certain states require specific applicant release forms.

An employer may check the motor vehicle (or driving record) history of their candidates, particularly those who will drive the employer’s vehicle or operate machinery, or whose job duties include frequent driving. Employers are generally looking to uncover a history of unsafe driving or poor decision making that may put the employer, its employees, its customers, or the general public at risk.

MVR reports are generally returned within one to three business days. However, as each state had its own rules and regulations on how records are kept and released, turnaround times can vary depending on the state.

What are Form I-9 and e-Verify?

Form I-9, officially the Employment Eligibility Verification, is a United States Citizenship and Immigration Services form. Mandated by the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, it is used to verify the identity and legal authorization to work of all paid employees in the United States. All U.S. employers must ensure proper completion of Form I-9 for each individual they hire for employment in the United States.

 E-Verify is a United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) website that allows businesses to determine the eligibility of their employees, both U.S. or foreign citizens, to work in the United States.

E-Verify was originally established in 1996 as the Basic Pilot Program to prevent illegal immigrants and other people who have violated immigration laws from obtaining employment illegally in the United States. In August 2007, DHS started by requiring all federal contractors and vendors to use E-Verify. The Internet-based program is free and maintained by the United States government. Use of E-Verify at the state level varies; some states have mandated use of E-Verify or similar programs, while others have discouraged the program.

E-Verify compares information from an employee’s Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9 to data from U.S. government records. If the information matches, that employee is eligible to work in the United States. If there is a mismatch, E-Verify alerts the employer and the employee is allowed to work while he or she resolves the problem; they must contact the appropriate agency to resolve the mismatch within eight federal government workdays from the referral date.

What are my responsibilities under the FCRA as an employer?

The Fair Credit Reporting Act, also known as the FCRA, was first enacted in 1971 “to ensure that consumer reporting agencies exercise their grave responsibilities with fairness, impartiality, and a respect for the consumer’s right to privacy.” In essence, the FCRA exists to protect the consumer by putting limits on what can be reported by third-party consumer reporting agencies.

Although the name of the act specifically references “credit reporting”, the FCRA applies to all consumer reports, including pre-employment background checks. Any report on a consumer’s credit history, character, reputation, mode of living, criminal history, or similar information that might be used to determine a person’s eligibility for credit, insurance, or employment is regulated by the FCRA.

Within the FCRA there are a number of exceptions and rules on what can and cannot be looked for or shared. For instance, bankruptcy cases can be no older than 10 years and all other adverse information, with the sole exception of criminal convictions, can be no older than seven years. In addition, no medical information can be shared unless the report is being used for insurance purposes. However, in the case of companies running background screenings on potential employees, the rules about what information cannot be reported do not apply if the employee would be making at least $75,000.

In addition to protecting the consumer once the check is underway, the FCRA also requires the employer to disclose some information and obtain the consumer’s permission before the check can legally begin. These forms do not require a lot of effort and simply serve to inform the applicant that a check will be done and what the applicant’s rights are.

We have created a short video outlining an employer’s responsibilities under the FCRA for your use. Click here to see all of our informational videos.

Do I need to run both a National Criminal Search and a county criminal records or federal criminal records search on my applicants?

National Criminal Searches are generally database products versus primary source searches. While extremely useful in a comprehensive criminal background check due to their typically wide breadth of records and low cost, they are simply comprised of data scraped from open public records sources. Unfortunately, unlike direct source records, database records are not subject to update when new action occurs in a criminal case. The records commonly only contain high-level detail. This makes it difficult to verify that a record belongs to the applicant and is reportable under applicable state and federal guidelines based solely on a National Criminal Database search without additional direct court research.

Best practice is to conduct a direct county criminal records search and direct federal district records search in all jurisdictions where an applicant has resided in the most recent 7 years along with a National Criminal Database search to potentially identify any additional criminal records in other jurisdictions. If a potential record is identified in the National Criminal Database search, a search of the county court where the record is held is required to meet Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) compliance prior to use in an employment decision.

For more information on the availability and use of criminal records searches in hiring decisions, please contact 

Is using pre-employment background screening discriminatory?

When considering discriminatory practices, the most important piece of any background check program is consistency. Instituting a clear written policy and establishing consistent job-related standards regarding what types of negative information collected during a background screen can be used to preclude a candidate from employment is considered best practice to avoid discrimination claims. Again, following and applying these standards consistently across the board is key.

There are also clear guidelines established by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on how an employer can use the information gained from a criminal records search. For example, an employer cannot preemptively disqualify applicants with criminal records without first conducting an individualized assessment, taking into consideration several factors. These factors include the nature of an offense, the time elapsed since the offense, and if the offense is relevant to the position for which the candidate is applying. When an employer fails to take these factors into consideration claims of discrimination and scrutiny from the EEOC has often followed.

What is the Professional Background Screening Association (PBSA)?

The PBSA is a network of more than 880 members who are all connected, in one way or another, to the background screening industry. These members include background screening agencies, legal firms, consulting agencies, insurance agencies, human resources professionals, public record companies, and technology companies.

The organization was founded as a non-profit trade association in 2003 with the mission of advancing excellence in the background screening industry while working to be the industry’s trusted global authority in establishing and promoting a high level of ethics and performance standards for the screening industry. Its stated core values include:

  • Integrity & ethics
  • Advancement of knowledge
  • Compliance
  • Service to its members
  • Collaboration
  • Proactive engagement

AccuSource is proud to be a founding member of the PBSA and works tirelessly to uphold and advance its mission and values.

Why do some county court record searches take longer to process than searches in other county courts?

There are many factors affecting the time required to process a county court record search. The most common reason for an extended time in processing is because the court requires clerk-assisted searches. This means the researcher is required to provide the court clerk a list of names to search and the court clerk processes the requests directly themselves. Factors including the number of court clerks available to assist with research, the number of requests submitted at any given time for research and specifics on how the records are housed all impact the time required to complete the research. As many criminal records are indexed by name only, candidates with common names may require more time to research as potential records matches often involve actually viewing the case files to locate additional identifiers to confirm a record match. In contrast, some courts allow researchers direct access to court records either via online access or at access terminals in the court itself. Often research with this type of record access often aids in a swifter research process. Other factors that may impact the time required to complete research at a particular court may also include delays due to weather issues, court closures, court holidays and the need to access a potential record match case file in offsite archives. For additional information on county court records research services, please contact AccuSource at (888) 649-6272 or email us at

What options are available in criminal records background screening?

Criminal records generally fall into two main categories, violations of state laws and violations of federal laws. Federal law violations are tried in a federal district court. Violations of federal law may include kidnapping, drug trafficking, human trafficking, fraud and more. A direct search of federal criminal records is required to identify potential federal convictions. Criminal offenses involving state laws are adjudicated at county courts. State laws violations commonly include theft, drug offenses, DUIs, crimes against persons, and more. A direct search of the county court of record is often required to uncover state law violations and convictions.

Some states offer direct access to the records repositories (databases) for county criminal records. However, the number of states with quality direct record access are very limited. CRAs (Consumer Reporting Agencies) often offer services to search for potential criminal records through proprietary state and national criminal record databases. While database searches offer an opportunity to economically expand the scope of a criminal records search, employers must confirm any records found in a database search through a direct court records search prior to use in an employment decision under FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act) guidelines. Additionally, since there is no guarantee as to the breadth and quality of the records in a proprietary database product, it is always suggested database options are used to complement direct court searches rather than serve as standalone products.


For more information on criminal background screening or other background screening topics, please contact AccuSource at 888.649.6272 or

What is the Department of Transportation (DOT) Verification service and what does it encompass?

The DOT Drug and Alcohol Records Verification is a crucial step in mitigating risk and ensuring regulatory compliance for DOT-regulated employers. The process includes the applicant completing a 49 Part 40 Drug and Alcohol Records Release Request for each employer where the applicant held a regulated role (safety-sensitive job duties) for the statutory period of time defined by the applicable governing agency of the DOT. For example for most roles, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires a 2 year history. However, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires 3 years. AccuSource contacts the employer, provides release and directly facilitates obtaining necessary documentation.

AccuSource’s DOT Drug and Alcohol Records Verification Services include the following:

  • All necessary release forms
  • Electronic storage of all release forms
  • Documentation of verification attempts – including date/time of contact, method of contact, name/title of contact and result of attempt(s)
  • Continuous follow-up on records requests until obtained, until determined records are not available or until the 30 day response period has elapsed (with documentation of “Good Faith” exception.)

For additional information on AccuSource’s DOT Drug and Alcohol/Safety Records Verification services or other Employment Screening Services, please contact us today!

What is the purpose of a SSN (Social Security Number) trace?

A SSN trace provides key information needed to conduct a comprehensive criminal background screening search. Utilizing data from credit bureaus and other consumer data sources, the SSN trace identifies names and addresses previously associated with a specific Social Security Number. This data can then be used in criminal records research to identify other jurisdictions where criminal records may exist beyond the previous addresses disclosed by the applicant (consumer.) Additionally, the SSN trace may also reveal alias names used by the applicant that were not previously disclosed. As most criminal record information is indexed by name and date of birth, searching alias names in addition to the applicant’s primary name is key to ensuring effective criminal records searches.

When an applicant self-discloses they have a criminal record and they provide the location where the case was tried, why does my background screening provider sometimes return a result of no record found?

There are several reasons why a screening provider (CRA) may not legally report a criminal record, even when the record is located by the CRA and the applicant has disclosed to the employer a record exists. First, it may be a case where the record of the charge and subsequent adjudication is outside of the reportability scope for the jurisdiction governing the applicant’s legal rights. Regardless if the applicant indicates the record exists, the CRA must follow both the FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act) and any local or state laws applicable in the governing jurisdiction (normally, where the applicant resides.) In some situations, court records of the offense may not be publicly available because the record has been sealed or expunged. Additionally, if a case is housed at a lower court (often in the case of an infraction or minor misdemeanor), the case will not be located in a standard county level criminal record search.

Why do employers ask for professional references?

Employers find that questioning a professional reference can enlighten them to character issues, particular work habits and work performance.  In certain instances, employers request personal references rather than professional reference which can be as helpful as its  counterpoint, however professional references are typically considered more credible than personal references.

Why do employers do drug testing?

Subject to applicable law and the employer’s policies, an employment-related drug test may be performed prior to starting a new job. Also, employers use drug testing to help ensure a safe, secure, and drug-free work environment. Drug testing is a very controlled process to ensure the integrity of the sample provided by an applicant. This process is monitored so sample tests are not adulterated or mixed with other samples.

Although there are many different types of tests available, most employers used urine-based test testing. However, others methods such as hair, saliva, and breath testing are also available to employers.

The samples are tested at laboratories that set cutoff levels designed to accurately identify the drugs being tested. The process to establish cutoff levels will also help identify the most used adulterants and rule out passive exposure as a reasonable explanation for a positive result.

Today’s confirmation testing methods are very sophisticated in identifying the exact substance that is present in the drug screening specimen. As a further measure to assure accuracy and integrity of the drug screening process, employers may utilize the services of Medical Review Officers to afford donors an opportunity to provide legitimate medical explanations for any positive test results.

All these precautions are designed to help protect the donor and help alleviate concerns over their prescribed medication use and consumption of foods.

For commercial driving positions regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation, regular drug testing is required as a condition of employment.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) requires certain background checks and drug tests be performed by regulated employers of individuals working in safety-sensitive positions. All DOT-regulated employers also are required to perform drug and alcohol testing, as well as verify that the candidate did not violate the drug and alcohol testing regulations during any previous safety-sensitive employment.

Every regulated transportation employee must take, and pass, a pre-hire (or pre-assignment) drug test before being permitted to perform any regulated safety-sensitive work. DOT regulations require transportation employers to administer random drug and/or alcohol testing programs that ensure the testing of a certain percentage of workers each year. And, all transportation employers are required to conduct reasonable suspicion drug and alcohol tests when warranted.

There are also other employment screening requirements specific to the various transportation modes (i.e., airlines, railroads, municipal transit, pipeline, etc.).

For example, for covered truck and bus operations, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) also requires a three-year driving history on all commercial driver candidates, which means that these employers must review motor vehicle records from every state in which a driver has held a license during the past three years.

FMCSA also requires at least three years of employment history, as well as three years of drug and alcohol violation test history, be verified with previous employers.

Additional requirements related to drug and alcohol testing and physical qualifications are mandated. Post-hire FMCSA regulations require an annual review of each driver’s motor vehicle records and every two years the commercial driver must renew their physical examination.

How is Medicinal Marijuana viewed by employers in drug testing?

Several states have passed medical Marijuana laws, making it legal under state law to use Marijuana for certain medicinal purposes when such use is authorized based upon “physician recommendation.”

Regardless of state laws authorizing medical Marijuana use, Marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I controlled substance under the federal Controlled Substances Act, which means that under federal law Marijuana cannot be “legally prescribed” for use in any state.

Also, the Department of Transportation (DOT) has made its position on this issue for regulated companies clear – DOT’s Drug and Alcohol Testing Regulation does not authorize “medical marijuana” use under a state law to be a valid medical explanation for a transportation employee’s positive drug test result. Even though Marijuana is a prohibited Schedule I drug, there is currently an FDA approved Schedule III medication (Marinol), with a second Schedule III medication in the FDA approval pipeline that can be prescribed and legally used to meet patient needs under federal law.

If prescribed, these two drugs could cause a confirmed positive marijuana metabolite result, but the prescription would constitute a legitimate medical explanation.

Some states allow employers to prohibit the use of medical Marijuana for safety and other reasons. In these states, employers may be able to maintain a zero-tolerance drug-free workplace policy. In other states, however, they may be prohibited or restricted from taking adverse employment actions.

Whether or not a company decides to accommodate medical Marijuana is dependent upon a variety of laws.

Do employers check E-Verify?

If you’ve been employed in the U.S. anytime over the last several decades, you’ve probably filled out a Form I-9 and provided identification documents that prove you’re authorized to work in the U.S.

But more recently, the federal government has introduced a system called E-Verify that allows employers to further validate your identity and your U.S. employment eligibility.

E-verify is an online program managed by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) where employers can verify the employment eligibility of their newly hired employees.

How long does a background check take?

Typically a background check takes between 1 and 3 business days. The nature and scope of the research can play a large factor in turnaround time. There are extenuating circumstances that can delay a background check. The list below will help you understand what causes delays and how you can help:

  • AccuSource has difficulty establishing contact with your former employers or educational institutions. In such cases, AccuSource may ask you to supply a W-2 or additional information to help substantiate the information in your application or resume. Having this documentation handy and providing it quickly will help speed up the process.
  • Courts are inundated with requests and can be backlogged.  
  • If an employer is requiring drug testing, A Medical Review Officer may contact you regarding a sample’s results.
  • International background searches might require additional information which can delay the process. International criminal searches and employment of education verification will typically require more time to receive a response.
Why do employers do background checks?

Background checks provide employers with the information needed to make informed hiring decisions. Typically, employers are not looking for “dirty laundry” as they are attempting to verify the truth to the applicants claimed History. Do potential applicants have the education or training necessary for the position? Is there criminal activity that could be a potential liability for the employer? Is the applicant truthful about the claims of former employers? These are only a few things that employers look at. Employers generally do not assume that applicants are lying or puffing their history. The background check is often a final step taken by employers to help ensure a sound hiring decision and protect the employer from a number of potential risks.

Job Competence

For many employers, a background check is a reliable way of verifying claims made by job seekers during the hiring process. Overstating educational qualifications or enhancing job histories can be problematic with potential hires. Wouldn’t you feel more assured in knowing that the people you might work with have been screened to ensure they are qualified for the jobs they hold?

Workplace Safety

Employers are responsible for their employees’ welfare while working in the capacity of their employment. They are also responsible for the safety of customers, vendors and visitors.

If an employer hires an employee who harms another employee, the employer may face claims for negligent hiring. Employers are vicariously liable under the doctrine of “respondeat superior” for the negligent acts or omissions by their employees in the course of employment. The key phrase is “in the course of employment”. For an act to be considered within the course of employment, it must either be authorized by the employer or be so closely related to an authorized act that an employer should be held responsible.

Workplace Theft

Theft from within the company is of the greatest loss to employers. Background checks help employers make informed hiring decisions. In turn, this can help employers minimize the risk of theft.

Honesty and Integrity

Is the applicant honest? A background check will help employers determine if a potential applicant misstates or fabricates information made by the applicant. If an employer questions the honesty of an applicant, it is enough to move on to a potential applicant that shares the same skill and provided truthful information during the hiring process.

The Reputation

A bad hire can reflect poorly on an organization reputation based on the behavior of a”bad” hire. The background check can help an employer safeguard their reputation by hiring the most qualified, responsible employee.

Why do employers check credit history?

A search of the credit bureau files to provide a profile of the applicant’s financial history.

This search can show additional addresses and names and consumer credit activity covering a seven year period detailing overdue or slow accounts, charge offs, collections, suits, tax liens, public records, judgments and bankruptcies.

This is heavily restricted search requiring authorization. Young applicants and individuals new to the country, might not have developed a credit history yet. Typographical and /or transposition of numbers at the time a Social Security Number is used by a creditor to initiate a credit inquiry can create errors in the data. Applicants must be given information on how to contact the credit repository to request changes if errors are found in the report. Material is available through the AccuSource online system for learning how to read credit reports.

Employer’s request credit reports for applicants involved with fiduciary responsibility, handling inventory or knowledge of sensitive company information. A credit report can alert an employer to an applicant’s sense of responsibility and if there can be a potential risk of theft or dishonest behavior. A credit report requires experience to analyse of should be used with caution.

Providing a credit report for the purpose of employment, does not disclose a credit score and will not adversely impact your credit score.

How long does it take to get drug test results?

Generally, workplace drug test results are received in just a few days. If an employer needs faster results, there are options which can provide results on the same day and even instantly. AccuSource also offers Breath Alcohol Testing using a breathalyzer which yields immediate results.

For traditional drug testing methods (urine tests), negative results are usually received within 24 hours. A positive test, however, will require further testing and results may a few days and up to one week.

In the case of a negative initial screen, a medical review officer (MRO) typically contacts the employer with the results. When a positive result is recorded, the MRO contacts the applicant directly for further questioning. It is the applicant’s responsibility to notify the MRO of any prescription, over-the-counter (OTC), or herbal medications being used. The MRO may require the applicant to provide proof of valid prescription and prescriber information.

How far back does AccuSource report criminal record information?

AccuSource follows Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) guidelines plus any applicable state and local guidelines in determining the length of time for reportability of criminal record information. Some states and municipalities have reporting guidelines which are more restrictive than the standard provided in the FCRA and may limit the reportability time period to as low as 7 years with even greater reporting limitations for certain minor crimes. Additionally, state and local guidelines may also limit the types of adjudication information that is reportable (such as limiting reporting to convictions only.) Generally, it is the laws governing the applicant’s current residence which are applicable in determining which guidelines to apply. Employers should check with their legal counsel or our Compliance Department for questions specific to reportability guidelines in a specific jurisdiction.

How is the decision to hire made?

The background verification is a key milestone to helping candidates get hired. Employers engage AccuSource to conduct background verifications.

Please note that AccuSource does not make the hiring decision, and cannot provide you with details as to the reasoning behind your prospective employer’s hiring decision. For the status of your candidacy for employment, you should contact the hiring company directly.

What are the differences between criminal records search options (County, Federal, State, National Database)?

County and Federal direct criminal court record searches refer to the court of jurisdiction. Violations of state laws and statutes are tried at county-level courts. Violations of federal laws and statutes are tried at federal district-level courts. Records relating to cases tried at county or federal courts are held at the court where the case was adjudicated. Therefore, county criminal records searches relate to searches for state-level criminal convictions and federal criminal records searches relate to searches for federal-level criminal convictions.

Some states house some or all county court records tried in courts in their state in records repositories. Other states afford direct online access to some or all of the county court criminal records. Statewide criminal records searches are often available in states with these types of research resources.

Finally, there are several proprietary national criminal databases options available. Database owners generally use data scraping software to obtain information from online resources to build and supplement the records contained in their products. While direct court searches are still the gold standard in background screening, database products can provide an economical option for casting a wider net to potentially uncover additional criminal activity. However, it is important to note, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires any information identified in a database product to be confirmed at the direct court of record prior to use in an employment decision.

What is a Social Security Number Trace and why is it important?

A Social Security Number Trace is a search of credit headers and other database sources to provide a history of the applicant’s names and addresses as they originate from credit headers. This also validates the number’s authenticity, as well as year and place of issuance.  It is used as a criterion in checking criminal history. Addresses and names provided within a social security search can be used to determine what names and jurisdictions to search for criminal activity.

Younger applicants and individuals new to the country, who might not have developed a credit history yet, might not have an SSN history.  Typographical and /or transposition of numbers at the time a Social Security Number is used by a creditor to initiate a credit inquiry can create errors in the data. Interpretation of data is critical; although the search can uncover evidence of identity theft, fraud must not be assumed without further investigation such as validation directly through the Social Security Administration.

The Social Security Trace is the first step in a thorough background check for employment. By identifying a potential employee’s address history and discovering any aliases that may be associated with a Social Security Number, AccuSource can then run a comprehensive criminal record search. Relying only on information supplied by the applicant can result in past convictions being missed and a negligent hire being made.

**An employer should never make a direct hiring decision based upon the information contained in the Social Security Trace; however, the information in a trace report can be the basis for further research of an applicant.

What is a Social Security Number Trace and why is it important?

A Social Security Number Trace is a search of credit headers and other database sources to provide a history of the applicant’s names and addresses as they originate from credit headers. This also validates the number’s authenticity, as well as year and place of issuance.  It is used as a criterion in checking criminal history. Addresses and names provided within a social security search can be used to determine what names and jurisdictions to search for criminal activity.

Younger applicants and individuals new to the country, who might not have developed a credit history yet, might not have an SSN history.  Typographical and /or transposition of numbers at the time a Social Security Number is used by a creditor to initiate a credit inquiry can create errors in the data. Interpretation of data is critical; although the search can uncover evidence of identity theft, fraud must not be assumed without further investigation such as validation directly through the Social Security Administration.

The Social Security Trace is the first step in a thorough background check for employment. By identifying a potential employee’s address history and discovering any aliases that may be associated with a Social Security Number, AccuSource can then run a comprehensive criminal record search. Relying only on information supplied by the applicant can result in past convictions being missed and a negligent hire being made.

**An employer should never make a direct hiring decision based upon the information contained in the Social Security Trace; however, the information in a trace report can be the basis for further research of an applicant.

What is a Global Homeland Security Search?

A Global Homeland Security Search is sometimes called a Global Homeland Security Background Check or a Terrorist Watch List Search. The Global Homeland Security Search is an investigation of a proprietary database comprised of data continuously collected from over 125 state government agencies, U.S. federal agencies, and international governmental agencies pertaining to individuals who may be involved in terrorist activities, money laundering, illegal imports, fraud against government agencies, violations of federal banking regulations, and criminal activity (fugitives from justice).

A Global Homeland Security Search helps an employer with Patriot Act Compliance and OFAC Compliance.

In addition, the database includes healthcare sanctions exclusions lists, abuse registries, and more. Information accessed may include data relating to citizenship, memberships and personal or professional affiliations.

Will a DUI show up on the driving records section of a background check?

Yes. If the applicant was convicted of driving under the influence in the same state they have a current driver’s license in, the DUI will show up on a Motor Vehicle Records (MVR) report. However, a better way to find a DUI on a person’s record is via a criminal record search of the state or jurisdiction where the DUI occurred.

How do background screening companies (Consumer Reporting Agencies or CRAs) search for criminal records to potentially report in an employment background screen?

The primary sources of criminal records are at the courts where each criminal case is adjudicated. This may be either a county, municipal or local court for state criminal offenses or a federal district court for federal criminal offenses. For many courts, this may include an in-person search for records. CRAs may also utilize criminal database options, where available, to identify the existence of a potential criminal record. However, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires CRAs to confirm any potential records located through database options at the primary court of record prior to reporting for use in employment decision-making.

How does the Education/Employment Verification process work?

Click here to download a complimentary Verification Process Infographic

Verifying an applicant’s educational accomplishments and employment history is a fundamental step in any thorough background check. AccuSource follows a rigorous and detailed process to help ensure your next hire is exactly who they claim to be.

The process starts with validation of any institutes of higher education to verify the school is not a known “diploma mill”.

Next, we consult our extensive database to determine the organization’s preferred method of verification. Many businesses and schools have a detailed process by which they verify degrees earned and work history, and AccuSource has long-standing relationships that allow us to quickly and accurately verify claims.

Our experienced verifications department will either consult a database service or make direct contact with the organization’s registrar or HR department to verify any degrees earned or employment history.

Finally, all verifications are reviewed by our quality assurance department for accuracy and to discover any discrepancies that may exist.

Can employers still test for marijuana in states where recreational use has been legalized?

The short answer is yes. Although laws vary from state to state, generally laws in states where marijuana has been legalized for recreational use tend to favor an employer’s right to maintain a drug-free workplace.

There are some exceptions where medical marijuana is concerned, however. Arkansas, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island all have rules in place which specifically ban employers from discriminating against lawful medical marijuana users.

As marijuana laws continue to evolve across the country we can expect standards to change accordingly. Currently, navigating the ever-changing landscape of marijuana laws and how they affect employers remains rocky terrain. Always be sure to consult legal counsel before instituting any policy changes which may be affected by local employment laws.

Do pending charges show up on pre-employment background screenings?

It depends. In many cases, pending charges will indeed show up on employment background checks. However, the agency that conducts the background check, the location of the crime, the nature of the charges, and the location of the background check requestor can all affect what information appears on the report. 

For example, some states and counties do not report misdemeanor charges at all, while other jurisdictions do report misdemeanor convictions but don’t report charges or warrants. 

There is also the chance that a pending charge, warrant, or conviction will slip through the cracks. Sometimes the crime was committed in a jurisdiction the offender never lived in so the investigator would have no way of knowing to check that jurisdiction for any criminal records.

How can a consumer address inaccurate information on a consumer report?

If a consumer identifies an item on a Consumer Report prepared by a Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA) they believe is inaccurate, they are encouraged to contact the agency who prepared the report to dispute the report findings. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) defines a consumer’s rights in disputing inaccurate or incomplete information. Each CRA is responsible for providing a resource for consumers to dispute the results of reports prepared by their organization. If the consumer report was prepared by AccuSource, please contact AccuSource’s Compliance Department either by phone, email, or by completing the Online Dispute Form located on our website.  Within 5 days of receipt of a dispute claim, AccuSource will begin re-investigation process. Depending upon the type of information in dispute, the re-investigation will involve directly contacting the court of record, employer, educational institution, etc. to further investigate the initial findings as well as gathering additional documentation as available and necessary to remedy the dispute. Re-investigations are generally completed within 30 days or less, with results provided to the consumer.

Is AccuSource a member of trade associations or professional groups?

AccuSource is a member of several trade organizations. We are a founding member and are accredited by the Professional Background Screening Association (PBSA). We also are active members of the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM), the American Staffing Association (ASA), and the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR)

What information is required to run a background check on an employment candidate?

The scope of employment background screens can vary widely from employer to employer. Even the type of position sought and employer’s industry can impact the breadth of the screening components contained in a specific screening request. The types of services or products contained in each background screening request has a significant bearing on the types of information required to facilitate research.

In standard criminal history background screen, most Consumer Reporting Agencies (CRAs) begin with a social security trace (SST) or address locator search to identify any previous addresses or alias names associated with the applicant. The applicant’s social security number (SSN) is generally required to conduct this type of search. Additionally, applicants are asked to provide their full legal name, date of birth and at least 7 years of address history. The address history (both developed by the SST and applicant-provided) aids in determining the courts searched for potential criminal records. Most criminal records are indexed by the defendant’s name and date of birth. Once a potential record match is located, additional information is sometimes required to confirm the record match.

Employers often request additional services to meet their specific screening needs. These services commonly include verification of employment and education history, verification of professional licenses, personal and professional references, and driving records. Each type of search has its own set of search data required to ensure a quality result. No two employers are completely alike in their program needs and organizational requisites are ever-evolving. For more information on AccuSource’s individualized screening services or an analysis of optimization opportunities, please contact us at

Why do employers check criminal history?

A search for criminal convictions at the appropriate county, state or federal courts. Records are available in each county throughout the United States.

AccuSource performs a 10-year records search for misdemeanor convictions. Felony convictions are reported as far back as state guidelines permit and/or are available from the courts and are legal to report. Reveals felony (i.e. murder, rape, lewd acts/sexual abuse on a child, robbery etc.) and related misdemeanor convictions (i.e. spousal abuse, DUI, shoplifting, petty theft, possession of a controlled substance etc.). Completed reports can include: case numbers, offense and disposition dates, charge, and type of charge, disposition and sentence. In addition to convictions, open cases (as state guidelines permit) as well as active warrants will be reported.

Courts are searched directly at the source in person, via court Internet websites or direct connection into the court index.

A criminal record search is a common search within a background check.

AccuSource is generally considered “Consumer Reporting Agencies” and are regulated under the Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). AccuSource has a responsibility to use reasonable procedures to ensure maximum accuracy in reporting of information.Even with reasonable procedures, however, cases of mistaken identity can still occur and often are the result of the information available in a public record. For example, while courts often require a name and date of birth to retrieve a matching record, the courts usually do not include Social Security Numbers with the records.

In a case of mistaken identity, or where a background report otherwise may be inaccurate, the FCRA requires consumer reporting agencies to have a process in place to allow the subject of the report (a job candidate) to dispute the inaccuracies in their background report and require the consumer reporting agency to timely investigate the dispute.

Can AccuSource provide a background screening report that was requested by another company?

A consumer must provide written consent for an employer to request a consumer report for employment purposes. Therefore, a copy of the report cannot be provided to another employer or third-party without the consent of the consumer. For this reason, a copy of a background screening report that was requested by one company generally cannot be provided to another company. Each company is required to obtain applicant consent for the specific purpose and scope defined in the applicant’s signed authorization form.

The subject of a background screening report has the option to request a copy of their own report. For screening reports processed by AccuSource, the applicant can simply go to, click on the “Applicant Resources” link at the top of the homepage and follow the instructions for requesting a copy of their report. Or, click here to go directly to the request page.

Does a background check show current employment?

Only if the applicant includes their current employer in the information given to the potential employer as part of their work history.

It is a common misconception that background checks can reveal a person’s work history via a Social Security Number (SSN) Trace/Address History Search. However, the SSN/Address History trace can only tell a background screening company which names and addresses have been associated with that SSN in the past. Employment history is not associated with, or accessible by, running a trace on a SSN.

While no database of previous employment exists, it is technically possible that a previous credit check for employment would show up on a person’s credit report. If a potential employer were to run a credit check on an applicant, they might see these past credit checks on the report and thereby deduce that the person had at the very least applied for a job with that organization in the past.

Who does the background check and how do they get the information?

Most employers know the value and perform some form of employment background check. The employer decides what searches to include in the background checks performed on their potential hires. The type of business or the position to be filled are among the factors which may be considered by the employer in determining what is included in a background check. The risk and budget for any given position or industry helps determine the use of a Consumer Reporting Agency CRA (background company) or performing selected services in-house.

Regulated industries such as transportation and health care have very stringent screening and testing requirements dictated by various laws.

Contrary to some common misconceptions about background screening, there isn’t a single centralized government database that houses information about you that is accessed by commercial background screening companies. Each service provided are access directly from the source that maintains the information. For example, criminal records are housed at courts, education records are housed with the educational institutions and driving records are maintained through each state’s Department of Motor Vehicles.

Do employers use Form I9?

Every employer in the U.S., from the smallest business to the largest multi-national employer, is required to obtain a Form I-9 on every employee to verify the individual’s identity and that they are legally authorized to work in the U.S.

This is a government requirement. If employers do not obtain, and if applicable, update the I-9 documents correctly, the employer may face steep fines, penalties and even possible criminal charges by the government.

What’s Required?

The Form I-9 is a short document that requires the employee to provide the following information:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Date of Birth
  • Social Security Number (if you have one)
  • Citizenship status
  • Copies of ID in accordance with U.S. Government requirements as provided on the I-9 instructions.