Can You Dispute a Background Check’s Accuracy?

Background checks

Background checks are being used for more purposes than ever before. It is now common to have to complete a background check during the hiring process for most companies. Background checks are also increasingly being used when applying for rental housing. And while these background checks can benefit both parties in most settings, they sometimes make things more complicated. This is especially true if you find an error in your background report, which can quickly become a nightmare.

If you find yourself being passed over for employment or housing, the party that has completed the background check is required by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) to provide you with a copy of the report. If it contains an error and the error results in the denial of your application, you should immediately become familiar with the provisions of the FCRA. 

If you are denied employment, housing, or financing because of an error on the background check, you are still protected by the FCRA. If the party using the background check to deny services did not follow the provisions of the FCRA, they could be liable. There are many instances where a company had to pay large sums as a legal remedy for missteps in the required FCRA process. The FCRA requires many things, including:

  • Informing the applicant that their information may be used in making decisions.
  • Obtaining written permission from the applicant consenting to all information sought.
  • Compliance with anti-discrimination laws throughout the process.
  • Providing the applicant with a copy of the report and a summary of rights provided through the FCRA.

If erroneous information is found on the report and results in an adverse action, a notice of adverse action must be provided to the applicant. This notice must include the contact information for the company completing the report, a statement from that company indicating that they did not make the decision resulting in an adverse action, and a notice of the applicant’s right to dispute the accuracy or completeness of the information contained in the report.

If the organization using the background information to make a decision did not follow the required FCRA process, the applicant might have a legal claim.

The reality is that background checks contain more errors than most people would expect. These errors can occur for many reasons, such as:

  • Wrong or incomplete data in the source documents
  • Typos
  • Copying, filing, and search mistakes
  • File or data corruption
  • Duplicative information
  • Outdated negative information
  • Mistaken identity
  • Identity theft

No matter the cause of the error, you must follow the same process for disputing any information, which includes the following steps:

  • Get a copy of the background report. If it wasn’t provided to you by the party conducting the background check, they may not be in compliance with FCRA regulations if they have taken adverse action. They are legally required to furnish a copy and explain your rights under FCRA.
  • Read through the report in full, looking for errors. You may find more than one, and it is easier to dispute all at once. Some errors, such as mistaken identity, are common with similar names. In addition to inaccurate information, you can also look for information that should not be on the report, such as arrests that led to no charges, information that should be sealed or expunged, or the classification of misdemeanors as felonies.
  • Identify the source of the mistake. If it was made by the company conducting the background check or the company using the information to make a decision, they must correct it immediately.
  • If the mistake comes from a different source, you must get the source to correct their information. For instance, the credit reporting agency must be contacted if there is an error in your credit report.
  • File a dispute with the background screening company. You should have their contact information. Each company will have a unique dispute process, but they will have a method to investigate the mistake quickly. The company is required under FCRA to reinvestigate within thirty days after the dispute has been filed.

If the company is not being responsive, you can also contact an attorney, who may be able to provide information about legal actions that may be an option given the unique factors of your experience. Disputing a background check is not a fun process, but it is one you are legally entitled to. To learn more about background checks, contact USA Fact today.

USA Fact Global Screening Services provides comprehensive background and criminal checks for employers that comply with federal and local laws. By helping you eliminate high-risk applicants through tailored solutions, USAFact enables you to create a safe and productive work environment and a foundation for future success.