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When Background Checks Go Bad: How to Fix Misinformation in Your Report

Handling incorrect background checks
Credit: Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock

Imagine this: You've made it to the end of an extensive interviewing process with your dream company only to find out that your background check did not come back clean. The worst part? What they found is not true.

Unfortunately, this is not a rare occurrence. Many job seekers are confronted with misinformation in their background checks, forced to prove the findings wrong and fight for the position they deserve. If you're afraid this might happen to you, it's never too early (or late) to tackle the issue. Here's how to prevent and fix misinformation in your background check.

You don't have to sit back and hope for the best when someone is running a background check on you; you can take action right away.

First, investigate online reputation management services to establish and reserve your best public image.

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Next, run a background check on yourself "to see what employers will see and double check that the information is accurate," said Elizabeth McLean, general counsel for GoodHire, an employment screening company. "However, it's important to use an FCRA [Fair Credit Reporting Act]-compliant consumer reporting agency – the same type of provider that an employer would use. Online background screening services that cater only to consumers may not have access to the proprietary resources and specialized databases that many employers require, and they won't show you the same depth of information."

When reviewing your results, check for misspellings of your name, forged signatures, a wrong Social Security number, bogus unpaid loans and credit cards, warrants issued over bad checks you never wrote, and suspended licenses falsely obtained in your name, said McLean.

To avoid such issues, there are simple fixes like making sure all dates, titles, and degrees or professional licenses on your resume are accurate and up to date, added Rebecca Weiser, compliance manager at Verified First.

"These are the easiest pieces of information to fact-check and are often where discrepancies arise," she said. "It's better to be honest about gaps in employment history or whether or not you graduated college than to have errors found during the verification process."

Additionally, if you have a common name, provide your potential employer with other information like past or current residences, your Social Security number, full middle name, suffix (Jr., Sr., etc.), birthdate, maiden name and any aliases you may have used, Weiser said.

If you find misinformation in your background check, don't fret – it's not too late to fix it. Even if your potential employer is the one presented with these discrepancies, you will have the chance to prove the errors and clear them.

"Employers should follow the the adverse action process outlined in the FCRA, notifying candidates they might not hire them due to information found on their background check," said Weiser. "Employers must give the candidate a reasonable amount of time  (defined by the Federal Trade Commission in the form of a letter as a minimum of five business days) to respond to the pre-adverse action notification before finalizing their hiring decision."

The employer will then provide you with a copy of your report, a copy of "A Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act," and the name and contact information of the CRA that compiled the report, Weiser added.

If you find anything strange, like signs of identity theft, follow the guidelines provided by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission for reporting and addressing these issues, said McLean.

"During the reinvestigation, the hiring manager cannot make a decision on the job to be hired for – they must wait until the matter is resolved," said Weiser. "The CRA will notify the company that a dispute is in process. Once the inaccurate information is corrected, then the hiring process may proceed."

Your potential employer may not necessarily appreciate the wait involved, so it's best to be proactive and check the information yourself to prevent the background check process from reaching this point.

Sammi Caramela

Sammi Caramela has always loved words. When she isn't working as a Business News Daily and Business.com staff writer, she's writing (and furiously editing) her first novel, reading a YA book with a third cup of coffee, or attending local pop-punk concerts. The only time Sammi doesn't play it safe is when she's writing. Reach her by email, or check out her blog at sammisays.org.