Background checks are often requested by employers on job candidates for employment screening, especially on candidates seeking a position that requires high security or a position of trust, such as in a school, courthouse, hospital, financial institution, airport, and government. These checks are traditionally administered by a government agency for a nominal fee, but can also be administered by private companies. Background checks can be expensive depending on the information requested. Results of a background check typically include past employment verification, credit history, and criminal history. The objective of background checks is to ensure the safety and security of the employees in the organisation. Peoples backgrounds can be something they are born into or born with for example being born into a religion or being born with a disability. They can also be developed over the course of someone's life that will affect them in the future.
In the United States, the Brady Bill requires criminal checks for those wishing to purchase handguns from licensed firearms dealers. Restricted firearms (like machine guns), suppressors, explosives or large quantities of precursor chemicals, and concealed weapons permits also require criminal checks.
Since the onset of the financial crisis of 2007–2010, the level of fraud has almost doubled and some experts have predicted that it will escalate further. Background-checking firm Powerchex has claimed the number of applicants lying on their applications has been increasing since the summer of 2007 when the financial crisis began. In 2009, Powerchex claimed that nearly one in 5 applicants has a major lie or discrepancy on his or her application.
While background screening and verification is well established in Australia and New Zealand, it is in its infancy in Asia and regulations vary widely across the region. Leading background screening companies in the region must navigate different regulatory frameworks and market leaders offer a full complement of services including financial probity, education, criminal background checking where legal, directorships.
Due to the sensitivity of the information contained in consumer reports and certain records, there are a variety of important laws regulating the dissemination and legal use of this information. Most notably, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) regulates the use of consumer reports (which it defines as information collected and reported by third party agencies) as it pertains to adverse decisions, notification to the applicant, and destruction and safekeeping of records.
There are a variety of types of investigative searches that can be used by potential employers. Many commercial sites will offer specific searches to employers for a fee. Services like these will actually perform the checks, supply the company with adverse action letters, and ensure compliance throughout the process. It is important to be selective about which pre-employment screening agency one uses. A legitimate company will be happy to explain the process. Many employers choose to search the most common records such as criminal records, driving records, and education verification. Other searches such as sex offender registry, credential verification, skills assessment, reference checks, credit reports and Patriot Act searches are becoming increasingly common. Employers should consider the position in question when determining which types of searches to include, and should always use the same searches for every applicant being considered for one.
Drug tests and credit checks for employment are highly controversial practices. According to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a project of the Utility Consumers' Action Network (UCAN): "While some people are not concerned about background investigations, others are uncomfortable with the idea of investigators poking around in their personal histories. In-depth checks could unearth information that is irrelevant, taken out of context, or just plain wrong. A further concern is that the report might include information that is illegal to use for hiring purposes or which comes from questionable sources.
There has been a growing movement on the web to use advertising-based models to subsidize these checks. These companies display targeted ads next to the reports delivered to landlords or employers. Some of the reports provided by these pay sites are only expanded versions of a basic people search providing a 20-year history of addresses, phone numbers, marriages and divorces, businesses owned and property ownership. Usually, these sites will also provide a nationwide criminal report for an added charge.