Worker Doing a Criminal Background Check on the Computer Cardoza Law CorporationDoesn’t it feel like there’s no privacy anymore? Every time you turn around, it seems like someone is running a background check on you. Why do they need so much information all the time? Why is it even legal?

You may be surprised to learn that you do have rights when it comes to people accessing your background information. Included in these rights are restrictions on who can request a background check, what they can do with the information, and what and when you need to be told about it. But if you don’t know what your rights are, you won’t know if they have been violated. We take a look at how agencies that run background checks for other parties often violate consumer rights and what can be done about it.

What Is a Background Check Company?

Like with so many things, as soon as people figure out there’s a need for a service, companies providing that service crop up everywhere. Running background checks is no exception, and modern technology has made it even easier to operate this kind of business. Why should an employer or landlord request a credit report or criminal record check himself when he can pay a third party to do it? Background check companies do just that. Someone needing a background check pays a fee and gives the company a name. The background check company runs whatever checks are needed—criminal records investigation, credit report, driving record, employment history, etc.—and sends them the report.

What Are Your Background Check Rights?

You may be desperate for the apartment or job that requires a background check and have no problem agreeing to it—if you are even asked permission. However, if you are aware of the rights granted to you under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), you can make sure that your rights are not violated at any stage of the process. Under FCRA, employers must:

  • Run a background check for a permissible reason, such as to determine fitness for employment or to update information on current employees
  • Tell you they are going to run a background check via a written disclosure statement that is not bundled with other documents
  • Get your signature granting consent before running the background check
  • Share any negative findings with you and allow you time to correct or clarify them before they make a final employment decision
  • Provide you with a Fair Credit Reporting Act Summary of Rights
  • If you are not hired or are fired because of information gathered in your background check, the employer must directly inform you of the decision in a written statement of adverse action

For a background check company to be FCRA-compliant, they must tell you they are going to run a check, get your signature granting permission, and give you a copy of the report when the check is complete. If the employer decides not to hire you based on information in the report, the employer must tell you that in a notice of adverse action.

Where Things Can Go Wrong

If you have good credit, a clean driving record, and no criminal history, you may not be too concerned about a background check. However, mistakes are made all the time. Your identity may have been mixed up with someone less impressive. Negative entries that should have been removed years ago could still be on your record. The background check agency could have checked the records of someone else and reported that information to the employer. If you have not been told that a check is being run and you are not given a copy of the report, you may never even know that you were turned down for a job or an apartment because of a mistake.

Cardoza Law Corporation Can Help

Not only can we help you get your credit report corrected if it contains false negative information, but we can also hold employers accountable for taking adverse action against you without following the law. Contact me online to tell me what happened or feel free to call my office directly at 855.982.2400. I will be in touch right away to explain your rights and help if I can.


Michael F. Cardoza, Esq.
Connect with me
U.S. Marine & Consumer Financial Protection Attorney helping victims of ID theft and Credit Reporting errors.