Today I want to share with you three things that commonly go wrong in background checks.
1. Wong Location
This is a subtle mistake and you don’t think it will happen to you, but it happens more than you might suspect.
It seems like an impossible mistake to make because the person lives in this city and they work in this city and their mom lives there and this is where they grew up so it’s got to be the right place to run a background check, but…
When you’re doing a background check, it’s very common to miss things from where the person was outside of the city or county where they are now.
For example, a person is born and raised in the county where you are doing the background check. But what if he went to college out of state? If that’s th case, there’s four years (or more!) where there could be a criminal or civil issue and if you only check locally, you’ve missed it!
A very common variation of this is when a city overlaps two or more counties.
This commonly happens with cities that have rivers that run through them. Sometimes that’s the dividing line between, not only for the counties or cities, but even states!
One side of the bridge will be one state, the other side will be the other state and this is the type of thing that can be hugely problematic when conducting a background check.
And a lot of background check mistakes have the potential to make a life or death difference…
Not long ago, down south, a young mentally disturbed man (and I could use much stringer language to describe him), went into a church prayer meeting, pulled out a gun and shot and killed a bunch of people.
It’s a tragedy. It’s straight up evil.
One of the first things everybody asked, no matter what side of gun control you’re on is, “Where did he get the gun?”
Did he steal it? If so, the pro gun lobbies, sigh a deep breath of relief because they say, “Look, even if we had greater regulation, it wouldn’t have stopped this guy — he stole the gun!”
If we find out that the person bought the gun legally, then people start to ask, “Should there be more restrictions on purchasing a gun?” And of course that freaks out the pro-gun lobbies!
In this particular case I’m talking about down south, the person purchased the gun legally. However, there was a flaw in the background check.
He lived in one of those cities where (and I can’t remember if it was the county line or the city line), but I believe the county line runs through the middle of the city. And the background check was run for the county on one side of the city, but the other half of the city was missed!
Let’s face it, if you live someplace like that, you’re crossing over the county line all the time. Maybe you’re going to dinner across town, maybe you work across town. Heck, maybe the mental health facility he attended was across town. I don’t know. But what I can tell you is essentially half of the city was not checked to see if this guy had a disqualifier for buying a firearm!
And guess what? He did have a legal disqualifier. And it was missed because of a poor background check (preformed by a Federal Agency)!
Don’t let this happen to you! Don’t be the investigator who runs the background check in the wrong location or missing a location!
2. Wong Database
The second common, very common(!) mistake I see people make with background checks is they don’t understand the proper database or databases to check even when they are in the right location.
I see this all the time. I think, most commonly I see people do it with different courts.
They don’t understand there are different criminal courts. There’s upper courts (sometimes called Common Pleas Court) where the felonies or large dollar civil cases are handled. Then there are lower courts (sometimes called Municipal Court) where misdemeanors and low dollar civil torts are handled. Small Claims Court is in this lower or Municipal court system.
Amateur investigators stumble around online. They find one criminal court, they type the subject’s name and nothing comes up so they say, “Oh, this person doesn’t have any criminal history!”
It drives me up the wall. Yeah, they checked in the misdemeanor court, but they missed the felonies that this person has against them because they didn’t check the right database (Common Please Court).
They checked the wrong database even though they were searching in the right location.
3. Database Limitations
The third thing I want to warn you about is the limits of the database.
This is so common, even among professional, licensed private investigators.
Licensed investigators have access to databases that most people don’t, but as a licensed investigator, you have to understand what’s really in that database and (more importantly) whats not!
For example, you may have a database that’s the arrest records for your state. But you have to understand where those records are compiled from. Usually, the database will collect the records from the different counties and jails in your state. However…
Some of those county records may only go back two years.
Some of them may have a gap where they’re missing a couple of years.
Even in this day and age, not every county will have the ability to electronically submit or be electronically searched so some counties may be left out completely!
This may not be a deal-breaker for you. If it’s a largely agricultural county with a low population that’s far from your location, maybe that’s not a big deal to you, but… you need to know that that’s a blind spot in the database.
Don’t miss this…
Also, these things change! In my state, you used to be able to go to the Department of Corrections website and bring up everybody who’d been in state prison (even after they’d been released). And that’s a valuable thing for an investigator.
But then… with no real warning, no public announcement, no press release… the database change to only currently incarcerated inmates.
So if you’re not following closely, if you don’t understand that sometimes databases change, and you think you’re running a statewide prison records check for somebody who’s done time in your state, but the database changed last week to only reflect currently incarcerated people, you’re going to miss a ton!
I don’t even want to think about the liability on something like that. Let alone the fact that it can be very costly to a client who’s relying on the information you found!
So what can you do?
As near as I can figure, there’s only two ways to fix these problems.
One is with training and the other is by experience. And experience is a terribly painful way to learn because you only learn when you make those mistakes!
And when I say training, I don’t have any skin in the game on this one. I don’t have anything that I’m selling right now that teaches you about doing background checks!
I mean The Investigator’s ultimate Guide to Process Serving has a good section on skip tracing and a lot of that overlaps when you’re looking at a subject’s background. But I’m not selling you a background training course so you can just take money off the table as any kind of objective I’d have for sharing this information with you.
I want you to know this stuff because the consequences for failure are so high and the results can be so dire.
So keep learning whether it’s from free online videos, blog articles, books, paid training or from working under an experienced investigator. Just do whatever it takes to be able to do the job right. It reflects well on everybody in our industry and it can save someone in your world (a client or family member that you’re helping out) a lot of pain and grief.
How about this… let me share with you some more free training with my special report If You Want To Be a Private Investigator Give Up… Unless You Do These Three Things. You can get it right here…
Committed to your success,
Larry Kaye, P.I.