The term “criminal background check” is a general term that means different things
to different people. To a police detective with access to powerful state and federal
law enforcement databases, it means a comprehensive summary of all arrests, convictions
and other contacts with the criminal justice system. To a licensed private investigator,
it may mean a more limited but carefully crafted review of available public records.
To a member of the public, it may mean something else altogether.
This special report seeks to put forth in plain language the elements of a private
sector criminal background check and to discuss some of the pitfalls inherent to
using Internet-based criminal record services. It concludes with a model criminal
background check and final remarks on the use and limitations of online criminal
record sources like Crime Smasher.
Summary of Available Data
Sources for Private Sector Criminal Background Checks
Pitfall 1: Data Blind Spots in Internet-based
Criminal Record Searches and the Myth of “Nationwide” Criminal Background Checks
Pitfall 2: Use of Personal Identifiers to Verify
Identity of Offenders
Pitfall 3: Criminal Background Checks for Employers:
The Importance of Redundancy in Records Checking
Model Private Sector "Best Practices"
Criminal Background Check
Conclusion: The Role of Internet-based Criminal
About the Author and Disclaimer
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