In this age of “just Google it,” searching for information seems as easy as pushing a button. But when it comes to conducting background checks for your job applicants, the process is not that simple. Nor should it be. Effective background screening is very in-depth and requires careful protection of Personally Identifiable Information (PII) like Social Security Numbers, birthdates and addresses. It is essential that a screening company have qualified and highly-trained people able to interpret screening results. Neither of these things can happen if you are using a company that offshores tasks to workers in another country.
If you hire a company that offshores criminal searches, you could be putting your company at risk. Offshoring criminal searches is nothing more than a short-cut and a way to boost profits. Too often, employers are the ones left holding the bag. Here at EBI, we consider that "Screening Malpractice." The consequences of Screening Malpractice are worrisome. Your company could face a negligent hiring lawsuit because a background report missed important criminal history details, or an applicant could sue if records are mistranslated and paint them in a bad light.
Doing the process the right way doesn’t add too much to the final cost, and gives you peace of mind in the long-run.
Why Other Companies Offshore Background Screening
Companies save money because utilizing offshore labor is much cheaper than paying American workers. Since they save so much money, they can offer lower prices to their customers. They make so much money from offering lower prices that they would rather throw money at lawyers to deal with the multitude of mistakes and resulting lawsuits than spend more to offer a better product.
How Things Go Wrong
Offshoring in itself is not always a bad thing. If you are assembling ladders, for example, it really doesn’t matter where you do it or what language your workers speak. But would you go to India to hire a lawyer to defend you if you are arrested for murder in the US? Probably not, because that lawyer likely doesn’t have the best working knowledge of our legal system, and he might even misunderstand highly technical or idiomatic phrases. If there is one time you don’t want any misinterpretation, it would be now!
Unfortunately, many background screening companies offshore criminal checks. This means if you partner with one of these companies, you likely have a non-native English speaker evaluating your applicants’ records. Have you ever noticed seemingly ridiculous and even embarrassing errors on a report? Maybe it said someone served 10 years in prison for a traffic violation, or went to jail for a non-conviction. These little things that don’t seem to fit could be clues that records are being evaluated by someone without a working knowledge of our legal vernacular. Interpreting legal documents can be challenging enough for native English speakers, but if English is an employee’s second language, interpreting “legalese” is essentially a third language. This is a place where serious mistakes are made.
Things can also take a turn for the worse when PII is not properly secured. You might have to dig a little to figure out if your screening provider is serious about protecting sensitive information. A company that says all their servers are “under their roof” might not be telling you the whole story. If those servers can be accessed from around the globe, or if proper information security controls are not in place throughout the company, they can be at risk. Background checks cannot be processed without access to PII, and it is malpractice not to protect it at every turn.
An Example: Stolen PII
Here is a real-life example of how a crisis can develop in mere seconds. A very large screening provider had a very public data breach when a laptop was stolen in Mumbai, India. That laptop had the names and personal information of 100,000 people on it. To make matters even worse, the laptop was not encrypted! Just imagine the nightmare for all of those people learning that their Social Security Numbers, addresses, birthdates and much more was lost oceans away.
While computers can be stolen anywhere, if this company had been serious about protecting PII they would have taken several steps to make sure such a crime would not happen at all. At the very least they would have encrypted their hardware so a lost laptop wouldn’t be an open book. For that matter, if they really cared about their clients and their information, they wouldn’t have shipped this information overseas in the first place. There really is no good reason to offshore PII unless bargain basement cost is your only concern. As with everything else in life, you get what you pay for.
How to Prevent Screening Malpractice
A good way to find a provider that is doing everything in their power to protect sensitive information is to look for the ISO 27001 certification for Information Security Management. This certification needs to apply to any and all locations where the company does business. Having a satellite office with weaker controls or allowing people to handle PII from home would not be appropriate because just one breach can have far-reaching consequences. ISO systems are designed to protect information and to limit the impact of a breach, should it happen.
This aversion to offshoring is not just a lofty ideal from the leaders of EBI. We believe offshoring sensitive information actually goes against the intent of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. While offshoring is not banned by name, the FCRA does require Consumer Reporting Agencies (CRAs) to strive for “maximum possible accuracy” when conducting background checks. How can a company meet that standard if they are using non-native English speakers to read and evaluate legal documents? The simple answer is – they can’t. EBI takes this FCRA standard seriously. We also take the integrity of our products and services seriously, and for that reason, EBI will never offshore any part of our process. We take pride in saying all of our work is done in the USA, and for that reason, we hope EBI is always synonymous with quality and peace of mind.