Top 5 risks of online public records screening

The Top 5 Risks of Online Public Records Screening

Screening through online public records carries several risks. They often include inaccurate or unreliable information, are extremely time-consuming to complete, use vague data sources, are not always legally compliant, and are not worth the price tag, even when free. It's crucial to use reputable screening services for more reliable results, better legal compliance, and more cost-effectiveness.

Remember that this material is intended to provide you with helpful information and is not to be relied upon to make decisions, nor is this material intended to be or construed as legal advice. You are encouraged to consult your legal counsel for advice on your specific business operations and responsibilities under applicable law. Trademarks used in this material are the property of their respective owners and no affiliation or endorsement is implied.

Free online public record searches may look like an oasis in the desert, but they’re often just a dangerous mirage. The lure of free searches and easy access seem promising, but the closer you get, the more you realize you’ve just wasted your time––and potentially jeopardized your future. 

It’s critical to protect your small business, not just from the outside threat of ill-fitting employees, but also from the threat of destructive lawsuits and bankrupting expenses. Unfortunately, when it comes to free public online records searches, the risk of DIY is just not worth the potential gain.

Why? Several reasons. First, even small businesses can get hit with hiring discrimination settlements of hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to the EEOC. These lawsuits can cost you big in money, time, and headache––not to mention potentially damage your hard-earned reputation.

What’s more, inaccurate or misleading records and dodgy sourcing in public records could get you to pass over great candidates, or worse, miss out major employment red flags.

Thankfully, there are several options for fast, affordable, and reputable online pre-employment screening, including ShareAble for Hires®. Here, you can get professional reports with legally sourced, more accurate information––without resorting to Google.

This article covers what you need to know about DIY background checks for employee screening, including the top five risks of using online public records.

Here are the top five risks:

1. Unreliable and Inaccurate Information

Online public records are notoriously unreliable. Like a lot of the Internet, online public records are like the wild west. Anyone can post anything for any reason or motivation––without regard to its truth or usefulness.

The purpose of many websites is to drive traffic, which in turn increases ad revenue. If an online public record site’s primary function is generating ad revenue through clicks and views, they may not be so concerned with the accuracy, organization, or quality of their data. They just want eyeballs on the page.

These conditions are ripe for false positives, close name matches, missing records, and more. Plus, if you don’t already know what shows up on a background check you might not even notice critical information is missing, which makes it even riskier.   

Data company Thomson Reuters also points out that the nature of search engines makes them really bad at providing quality data for background checks. For example, searching someone’s name might provide millions of results. Only a tiny fraction will be related to the person you're trying to find. This then turns into trying to find a specific grain of sand on the beach.

Search engines are bad at providing quality data for background screening

How to Get More Reliable and Accurate Results

You don’t have to rely on shady sources with questionable accuracy. ShareAble for Hires operates on a robust, logic-matching system that results in fewer false positives. You can feel more confident that the data you’re seeing is for the actual candidate you have in front of you––not someone who has a similar name or birthdate.

You can even run a fast, online identity verification check to make sure the candidate is really who they say they are. This helps you double-check your data accuracy and may also help weed out potential fraudsters and bad actors.

Identity checks comb through hundreds of millions of biographical records in several key databases to help investigate:

  • Fraud alerts
  • Deceased person alerts
  • Social Security Number check
  • Address check
  • Name check
  • Date of birth check

Pro Tip: Background checks aren’t the only place inaccuracies can show up. Learn how to spot fraud and red flags on resumes and other application materials.

ShareAble can help you spot red flags on resumes and application materials

2. DIY Public Records Checks Take a Lot of Time and Effort

If you’re trying to cobble together a background check from free, online public records, better clear your calendar for the rest of the day––or month. Piecing together a profile from various, potential suspect sources is incredibly time consuming.

For example, just for a thorough criminal background check, you’d need to personally check with multiple agencies on the federal level. Then, you’d need to figure out which states they’ve lived in in the past and check with local law enforcement agencies for each.

Each of these agencies and clerk offices have their own regulations and procedures for requesting information––and sometimes can take weeks to get back to you. This time doesn’t even include the work you’d need to do to check for financial responsibility or confirm their identity.

A DIY public records background check can be a huge drain on your small business. Even traditional background check companies can take weeks or even months to complete. Meanwhile, your excellent candidate may look for jobs elsewhere.

Given how resource-intensive online records searches are, it rarely makes sense to try it––especially when there are speedy, affordable, and reputable options available. 

How to Get Ultra-Fast, Hassle-Free Background Checks

You don’t need to waste time and effort with the DIY route. Get more reliable, on-demand screening reports in just minutes with ShareAble for Hires.

The steps for running a professional background check couldn’t be easier. Here’s how it works:

  1. Create a free account
  2. Enter your job applicant’s email address
  3. That’s it! The system handles the rest.

Once your employee consents, reports are run immediately and you get data-backed, easy-to-read reports in just a few minutes. There’s no more running around to multiple sources, no waiting for approvals or site visits, and no other barriers to screening. You can even interview, screen, and provide a job offer on the same day.

Pro Tip: You can save even more time by not having to hire new talent in the first place. Learn tips on how to help retain great employees and be a more attractive employer.  

3. Online Public Records Use Vague, Unverified Sources

Would you drink water if there’s a chance it came from a sink of dirty dishes? Probably not. Similarly, if you don't know where your data comes from, how can you know you can trust it?

When you’re looking through free online public records, the source of the data is often unknown or obscure. As you search through information, there are many questions to consider, such as:

  • What sources is this data coming from?
  • Is the source trustworthy?
  • When was it last updated?
  • Could it be missing any information?
  • Does the site have legal permission to provide the data?
  • Do you have the legal right to access the information?
  • Is this even for the right person?

For example, let's say you're trying to figure out how to read an employee credit report. It's not helpful if the information hasn’t been updated in two years, or red flags show up for “unpaid” debts that were actually resolved ages ago. 

To conduct better screening and help protect your business, it’s essential to use a professional service with an experienced track record and good reputation.

How to Access More Reliable Data Sources

With ShareAble for Hires, all reports are backed by TransUnion, a major credit agency with four decades of data expertise. This experience means you get FCRA-compliant reports from a respectable source with more reliable data. 

Plus, you get the insights and benefits that come with analysis of hundreds of millions of consumer records. Knowing your reports are more trustworthy can boost your hiring confidence.

Pro Tip: With better data, you may uncover more than you expected. Know what to do if someone fails a background check ahead of time, so you’ll already be prepared if it happens.

4. Your Online Public Records Check Might Not Be Legal

A job applicant’s personal data isn’t just up for grabs for whomever wants it. The personal information that’s revealed in background screening is protected by a set of laws called the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

The FCRA dictates what information you can get about other people and the circumstances under which you can request information. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), one of the major steps for running employee background checks is to first get consent from the applicant and confirm you’ve complied with all FCRA regulations.

If you’re getting data from just anywhere without applicant consent, how do you know you’re complying with FCRA? How do you know you won’t get fined or sued for improperly handling or misusing consumer data?

What’s more, laws differ from location to location. What’s ok in one state might be completely illegal in another. If you or your candidate live somewhere where background check laws are more stringent, how will you know if you accidentally violated them––and now risk a heft lawsuit?

How to Run Legal, FCRA-Compliant Screening for Employment

To help prevent violating consumer laws, it’s critical to always use a professional, FCRA-compliant screening service, like ShareAble for Hires.

One major requirement of FCRA regulations is to provide specific communication and notices  to your job applicants as you run their reports. ShareAble for Hires has all FCRA-required communication already built-in, so you don’t have to worry about it.

Additionally, to start the process, your job applicant has to consent to the check and enter their own information––another FCRA requirement. This consent increases their privacy, reduces the risk that you’ll enter their info incorrectly, and helps make sure you’re following the laws.

Pro Tip: FCRA-compliance isn’t the only thing a quality screening service should have. Know what to look for in background check companies to help you hire the best employees.

5. Cost Benefit Analysis Doesn’t Add Up

It’s financially risky to run a business. That’s no secret. According to Fundera, 82% of failed business owners cite lack of cash flow as a major contributor to their collapse. And, given typically smaller margins, small businesses have to be even more careful with money.

82% of failed business owners cite lack of cash flow as a contributing factor

Even so, skimping with DIY background checks isn’t the way to save money––no matter how tempting that free price tag may be. The risks are just too high.  If you miss warning signs with an incomplete report, you might get hit with a negligent hiring lawsuit

Or, if you deny an applicant based on incorrect information, you might possibly open yourself to a discrimination lawsuit. According to law firm Kingsley & Kingsley, the average hiring discrimination payout is $40,000. This would be a huge hit for any business––especially a small organization.

Given the modest cost of employee background checks, it doesn’t make financial sense to trust online public records. 

How to Get Affordable Employee Background Checks

You can easily get fast, flexible screening with small-business friendly prices through ShareAble for Hires. There’s no reason to risk improper or insufficient screening when you can significantly lower your hiring risks for the cost of a candidate lunch.

Additionally, with ShareAble for Hires, you pay only for what you need and only when you need it. There are no memberships, subscriptions, start-up costs, inspection charges, hidden fees, or any other add-ons for screening.

Simply create a free account and screen with straightforward pricing.

Bonus: A Note About Social Media Screening Risks

According to job site Zippia, 92% of employers check a candidate’s social media pages, and 54% have rejected a candidate based on what they found there. While it may be tempting, observing a candidate’s socials may not be the best idea.

92% of employers check a job applicant’s social media pages

By checking out social media, you might inadvertently learn things about the candidate that can’t legally be a part of your hiring decision. For example, pictures and statuses can reveal information about race, family status, religion, sexual orientation, and other protected class information.

This is why some thought leaders, such as the Harvard Business Review, are urging hiring managers to resist the appeal of checking your prospective worker’s social media pages.

Whatever you decide to do, it’s important to always follow the law when going through a hiring process and contact your legal counsel if you have any questions.

Pro Tip: While social media can be dicey for screening, it can be a fantastic strategy for small business recruitment. Read the article to find out how.

Get Better, More Accurate Results with Pre-employment Screening Through ShareAble for Hires

When something seems too good to be true, it usually is. Whether that’s a beautiful lake in a desert or the lure of free online records searches, it’s best to go with your head over your gut. Help reveal the reality of your candidate with flexible, online employee screening through ShareAble for Hires.

Instead of sorting through mounds of reports on your own, get them all in one place. Criminal background checks zip through 375+ million records and dozens of law enforcement agencies to identify any matches with your potential hires. This can provide valuable information about a candidate’s criminal history––information that could protect your current employees and business. Additionally, identity verification helps ensure the accuracy of their application details, instilling confidence that your potential new staffer is who they say they are.

Incomplete, misleading, or outright incorrect records can lead you straight into quicksand. With FCRA-compliant employee credit reports, you can gain insights into an applicant's financial patterns and debts, helping you assess their reliability and trustworthiness as a potential employee.

Don’t be fooled by the illusion, no matter how tempting. Get the speed, data integrity, legal compliance, and affordable cost of the real thing with ShareAble for Hires.

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Sign-up Now. Reports Now. Hire Now.

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