When your criminal past isn't yours

  1. Evo

    Staff: Mentor

    This is really frightening. I think there should be laws requiring anyone that "sells" these services to update their databases at least every 30 days and have HUGE penalties for providing false information.

    continued...

    http://finance.yahoo.com/news/ap-impact-criminal-past-isnt-182335059.html
     
  2. jcsd
  3. She can sue the background check firm for damages (lost wages) but she'll have to get the pharmacy to confirm they would have hired her if not for the bad report.
     
  4. Evo

    Staff: Mentor

    In the meantime she's homeless, she may or may not be able to get legal help, and if she does, it could take years, and even if she wins, after the lawyers take their cut, she won't have much.

    Something needs to be done to prevent this, as the article states, this has become a mom & pop business where there are no validation, no updates and no minimum levels of accuracy required. A business selling supposed criminal records of people needs to be highly regulated.
     
  5. D H

    Staff: Mentor

    This isn't anywhere close to the first time this kind of incident has happened. A lot of them can be attributed to identity theft, but that doesn't apply here. This is just sloppiness.

    Since these companies make huge amounts of money on the information they gather and sell, the penalties have to be HUGE. And it shouldn't matter if they unknowingly pass along false information. Sloppiness, mistaken identity, and identity theft costs money, costs livelihoods, and even costs lives. Sloppiness and mistaken identity are negligent behavior. Even identity theft is. These companies prosper from identity theft; most of the anti-identity theft programs are sold by these same companies that keep these records. These companies are arguably feeding identity theft.

    I don't have a problem with the basic concept of credit agencies. I do have a problem with them erroneously ruining peoples' lives.
     
  6. Evo

    Staff: Mentor

    This is worse than credit agencies, these people are selling criminal records assigning them to the wrong people. This kind of stuff gets propagated on the internet and you may never get it fixed. You can eventually fix your credit, how do you fix bogus criminal records?
     
  7. lisab

    Staff: Mentor

    I agree, they shouldn't be able to just say "Ooops, we goofed!!" and go on to destroy the next life, without consequences.

    Makes me a bit worried...I have a common first name (Lisa) and a fairly common last name. I may be starting a job search soon - I don't want any unpleasant surprises. Is there a way to do a background check on myself, for free? I think we can do that once a year for credit checks.
     
  8. D H

    Staff: Mentor

    Another option is to sue the pharmacy who relied on the erroneous information. They are at fault, too. Think of it in terms of an automobile manufacturer who installs faulty equipment bought from a third party in their automobiles. Both the auto manufacturer and the third party are liable for damages that result from that faulty equipment.
     
  9. I doubt this would work, because the pharmacy had no duty to hire that person. "Having the same name as a criminal" isn't a protected class, so the business can hire or not hire the person for whatever reason they want (unless it's based on being a member of a protected class, as mentioned above).
     
  10. government doesn't work for the people. it works for the corporations who lobby it. and as we all know, they say the sky is falling, and people are going to lose jobs, yadda, yadda, yadda...
     
  11. Evo

    Staff: Mentor

    Just so happens that I am about to start a criminal record protection service, you can be my first vic, I mean client.

    Seriously, I don't doubt that people will start up such a business soon. Heck, all you need is a computer, internet connection and a website, the criminal records are free for the asking. You just have to query EVERTHING under the sun.

    But then all they could tell you for certain is that YOU don't have a criminal record, they still can't prevent some lame company from confusing you with a criminal and destroying your life.
     
  12. AlephZero

    AlephZero 7,298
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Under the UK system you can't request a check on yourself, but the situation in the OP probably wouldn't arise either. The only people who can request checks are those who are registered to request them and legally required to request them. If an employer requests a check (and that would be legally required in the UK for anybody working in a pharmacy, because of access to drugs and poisons) the applicant has to give permission, and automatically gets a copy of the data. So it should be rather obvious something is wrong if there is a 18-year age discrepancy and a wrong address, for example. There is a straightforward appeals procedure which does NOT include the applicant "having to sue somebody".

    But in the UK the whole scheme is run by the government, which might be a non-starter in the USA....
     
  13. I think it ought to be run by the government. Perhaps make a law which states that no one is allowed to sell public records. The background checks can then go to the government. One of the primary complaints about these companies in the article is that they do not keep their information updated. So that apparently means that the government clerks are catching mistakes and fixing them, records are being properly expunged, ect. Allowing a middle man only increases the chances of mistakes.

    In some states there may be a problem with charging for public records but they should be able to get around that by saying that they are charging for the service of going through the records and generating a report. In some states they already charge for online access to public records anyway.
     
  14. If the government had a centralized database of criminal backgrounds, then perhaps companies would stop going to these companies specializing in aggregate record compiling. Seems like good old uncle sam, could do something to prevent companies from hiring based on these external records systems, and even turn a profit by selling access themselves.
     
  15. AlephZero

    AlephZero 7,298
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Actually there were plenty of "human rights" protests when the UK system was first introduced. There are two levels of search (and the law specifies which level applies for different purposes). The cost for a "base level" is about £20 (say $30) which is hardly profit-generating. Another advantage of a centralized search is that the results remain valid for a period if time, so if you apply for say 10 teaching jobs at the same time, only one search is required to cover all of them. (I assume the search would disclose if you had been charged with relevant criminal offences but the legal process was not yet completed - it certainly dicloses formal police warnings, cautions, etc, as well as convictions)

    One thing I didn't say about the UK system is that the search request is actually submitted by the job applicant, not by the employer (though the employer has to formally request it from the applicant and state the reason why it is required), and the applicant has to supply ID such as passport, driving licence, tax number, etc - this seems like a good way to reduce "identity errors."
     
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