Background Checks Don’t Tell the Whole Story

When it comes to background checks, the National Crime Information Center is the gold standard. It is only available to law enforcement agencies and is the most accurate and complete database tracking convictions and arrests in the US. That sounds pretty great, right? Unfortunately, it’s not all as it seems.

The Department of Justice

The Department of Justice recently released a report based on a two-year study of convictions and arrests from 2016. The report shows that a very low percentage of convictions and arrests actually make it to the National Crime Information Center. What does this mean? It means that even if a commercial background check company is using the best information, it’s only able to get information on about 13% of all crimes. On top of that, there is a pretty standard 30% error rate on background checks based on factors such as typos, misspellings, and data entry errors. Yikes.

The Reliance of Background Checks

It doesn’t matter if you are an employer, a landlord, or even a private citizen hiring a babysitter or contractor, odds are good that you think a criminal background check is a good idea. But, the fact that we not only rely on these checks, but also believe that they are fool-proof, is quite problematic.

Other Implications of Background Checks

The inaccuracy of background checks is only one of the issues associated with them. Another issue is that there is a big possibility that these commercial background checks could violate the Fair Housing Act because it might be seen as intentional discrimination. Additionally, though people with criminal records are not protected under the Fair Housing Act, statistically, this creates a disproportionate impact on minorities. According to the Fair Housing Act, minorities are protected.

Though it seems like a great idea to run a criminal background check, as you can see, it’s not always a black and white result. Criminal history databases are not complete, there are high rates of errors, and these background checks might be violations of the Fair Housing Act. At the very least, someone could have a good case against it if you use a criminal background check as a basis for a housing decision. When thinking about if a background check is worth it or not, it probably is, but you also have to be aware of the possibility that you are not going to get the entire story.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of Identity Theft Privacy: Security Protection and Fraud Prevention: Your Guide to Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft and Computer Fraud. See him knock’em dead in this Security Awareness Training video.

5 More Online Security Tips for Valentine’s Day

A scammer typically contacts a target and strives to project an image of someone who has it all together financially and socially, claiming to be a successful entrepreneur or something similar. Or scammers may claim to be facing adversity, claiming they are widowed, down on their luck, or, like many, simply lonely. This is a strategy that has worked in the past.

Follow these tips to prevent getting scammed:

#1 Unless this person becomes an actual significant other, never give out personal information like passwords, credit card numbers or Social Security numbers.

#2 Know that bad guys lie, a lot. And they will keep up the ruse until they have what they need or until you are in a vulnerable place. Pay attention to their intentions.

#3 Get their name, address, previous address, home phone, cell phone, place of birth, birth date, where they work, license plate and if you can squeeze it out of them, and I kid you not, get their Social Security number and do a background check.

#4 Go online and Google search every bit of information about them you have acquired. You want to know as much about this person as possible. Search name, phone, email and screen name. The goal is to look for truth and lies. If you see inconsistencies, or red flags that can’t be easily explained, run really fast.

#5 Never open attachments from anyone you don’t know well. And if you can avoid it, don’t click on links they send. Scammers will think nothing of sending you a virus to infect your PC and steal your identity.

Robert Siciliano personal and home security specialist toHome Security Source discussingInternet Predators on Fox Boston

Should Dating Sites Require Background Checks?

It’s no secret that there are kooky people in the world, and those kooky people seem to gravitate to the Internet. My theory is that those with ulterior motives relish the anonymity of the web, which allows them to lure in their victims more easily. I can see why they’d appreciate that. It’s easier to lie online.

There’s no body language, no intonation in one’s voice, and no emotional connection to the other person. It’s harder for a person’s sixth sense to connect with an avatar.

The Internet provides a great cover for predators.

In Connecticut, State Representative Mae Flexer introduced a bill designed to make online dating safer. “Sexual predators now have a new tool to find victims — Internet dating websites,” she told the General Law Committee.

And in Texas, State Representative Diane Patrick, is proposing that online dating sites be required to disclose to members whether or not background checks are done, which she believes would make online dating safer.

Online dating sites argue that people should use common sense, and point out that not all background checks are entirely accurate. What if the person’s profile is made from stolen information in the first place? The fact is, online dating sites are selling a lot more than an opportunity to connect. They market to the public, inviting them to find love using their website. And they give users an air of legitimacy by default. Posting a profile on a mainstream dating site implies a certain level of credibility.

Background checks would be a good start, and can often provide someone with all they need to make an informed decision. But they may also create a false sense of security and cannot be relied upon completely, especially when people lie about their identity.

Dating sites could incorporate another layer of protection, such as checking the computer used to create the profile in the first place. Device reputation spots online evildoers in a fraction of a second, by examining the computer, smartphone, or tablet used to connect to the dating website or social network. If a device is associated with unwanted behavior, such as spam, online scams, fake profiles, bullying or predatory behavior, the website can reject the new account or transaction. If the computer or smart phone passes the first test of not being associated with unwanted behavior, further identity and background checks would be performed. If the device does not pass, there is no need to pay for further checks.

According to Jon Karl, Vice President of Marketing at iovation Inc., “We stop 150,000 online fraudulent activities every single day. At one of our international dating clients’ websites, one out of five profiles created are found to be fraudulent. We help protect their brand and keep their members safe by identifying the bad actors upfront before they have a chance to come in contact with legitimate members.”

That being said, it would be a good and prudent practice for any online dating site to further vet and screen users. It won’t keep all the bad apples out, but it will significantly reduce those who are currently using the system for no good.

Robert Siciliano, personal security and identity theft expert contributor to iovation, discusses Safe Personal Dating on Tyra. (Disclosures)