Ask the Screener: March, 2010


Here at EmployeeScreenIQ, we answer hundreds of questions every day for HR professionals regarding a variety of topics: criminal records, verifications, drug testing, court research, I-9 verifications, etc. What we find is that many of our clients, whether Fortune 100 organizations or small family owned businesses, have many of the same questions when it comes to conducting background checks and making hiring decisions. Therefore, we thought that we would address some of the questions we see on a regular basis so that all of our clients may benefit. These might be cases here where you say “Oh, I already knew that!” or there may be situations where you think “Hmm…I never thought of that!” Either way, our hope is that this column will demonstrate how we are here to help.

1.  If my applicant received a traffic citation in a state he or she does not reside in, will it show up on a Motor Vehicle Report?  What about points on their license?

The main factor that will determine if your applicant’s offense will show up on his or her MVR report and whether points will be assigned to the license is the agreement between the home state and the visiting state.

For example, let’s say your applicant has an Illinois driver’s license and is cited in Wisconsin for driving against traffic (i.e. wrong way on a one way street).  In Wisconsin, that violation adds three points to your license.  If the Departments of Motor Vehicles in both states are friendly with each other, Wisconsin may pass this information along to Illinois and Illinois will subsequently add the violation information and negative points to your applicant’s record.

Now let’s say that Illinois and Wisconsin don’t have a tendency to share information with one another.  It’s possible that Illinois will never find out about your candidate’s violation.  Wisconsin may just want the fine paid and wash their hands of the incident.

Some other scenarios that may play out could be that Wisconsin tells Illinois about the offense but since Illinois doesn’t agree with Wisconsin’s point system, Illinois will add the violation to the record, but not the points.  Or perhaps Wisconsin has an agreement with Illinois to only report more serious violations.  In that case, it’s possible you won’t find out about that illegal u-turn made on a main road but discover that your applicant was cited for a DUI.

When it comes to out of state traffic violations, it’s really a crap shoot.  You may have better luck running a National Driver Register search, but even then it isn’t guaranteed you will find every violation.  The NDR search only contains information from the states which have reported information on the driver and is only a three year history regardless if an older violation is still active.  Running an MVR report and an NDR search together may not always get you every bit of information out there, but it is as close as you could ever get.

2.  Addresses show up on my applicant’s Social Security Number Trace and Credit Report that they say they have never lived at.  Could they be a victim of identity theft?

Maybe, maybe not.  It really depends on if your applicant recognizes the addresses contained on the report(s) and if they can identify the financial tie that exists between himself and the person living at that address.  If the addresses that appear on the report(s) are that of a child, sibling, parent, friend, significant other, etc., then they may not necessarily be a victim of identity theft.  Addresses contained on a Social Security Number Trace and/or credit report appear due to some type of financial connection.  For example, if they were a co-signer for a car loan for their son while he was in college, then their college address may show up on the report(s)  Your applicant’s and their child’s social security numbers are linked together by that loan.  Your applicant’s address would most likely show up on their child’s trace and/or credit report as well.  Another example could be a former spouse.  Even though the two of them may have moved on relationship-wise, there may be some financial connections that will remain for some time after the separation (a mortgage, a joint credit card, etc.)  So, if your applicant knows who lives at the address contained on their report(s) and can identify the financial tie between the two, it’s likely that they have little to worry about.

If your applicant is not familiar with the address that appears on their trace, that is then cause for concern.  In that case, there exists the possibility that someone living at that address may have used their social security number fraudulently to secure a loan, open a credit card or even provide to an employer, to name just a few.  If the applicant does not recognize the address, the recommendation would be to contact each of the three major credit bureaus (TransUnion, Experian and Equifax) and dispute the information with them directly.  The credit bureaus should hopefully be able to tell your applicant the name of the financial institution that reported the address.  Depending on the credit bureaus’ findings, it may also be necessary for your applicant to file a police report to catch the culprit responsible.

3.  The school my applicant attended is now closed.  Am I still able to verify their degree?

It’s very likely you will still be able to verify that your applicant attended and/or graduated from the closed institution.  When high schools or colleges close, that doesn’t mean the records of those who attended or graduated from the institution disappear.  Schools recognize the importance of this information and will usually turn their records over to a surrogate institution such as another school, a local board of education or a state department of education.  It may take a little digging to find out who retains the records and, when found, the information may be limited, but I think it is safe to say that most of the time the pertinent information can be verified.

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