Who Am I Dealing With?? Watching Your Back(ground) Checks.

Lately, we are requested quite often to research the backgrounds of prospective employees, personal and business partners and corporate entities.

With our now internet-enabled reach (not just to locate web-based information but to network with other investigative specialists), we are able to access nationwide data as to the personal, work and credit backgrounds of potential new hires.  We have gained the ability to likewise perform these background search services on a global basis for those seeking new business alliances, products and services.   Today, given the mobility and globalization of people and companies, often the backgrounds of the those with whom we might form potential partnerships are, at best based on hazy anecdotes and very basic, publicly available information.  Unfortunately, these types of non-professionally investigated histories can easily be manipulated, i.e., by net savvy perception managers.  For this, and many other reasons (personal security, access and information verification, to name several) we will always steer people away from the alleged “free” searches available online.  If one is serious about researching a potential employee or partner’s background, get it done right — by an experienced, highly rated private investigator.

Below we outline several types of background searches, their information yield and best applicability situations.

Basic Background Check, Individual:

Primary Uses:  Prospective new hires, subject identification, tenant verification.

Should yield:

  • DOB & Alias Names
  • SSN Verification
  • Address History (20 yr)
  • Address Summaries
  • Others Residing w/Subject
  • Possible Phone #s Associated w Subject (landline/mobile)
  • Email Addresses
  • Nationwide Criminal Profile (Includes State & Nationwide Criminal Databases, National Warrant Databases, Department of Correction Records, Nationwide Sex Offender Check)
  • Property Transactions
  • Civil Judgments, Tax Liens, & Evictions
  • Bankruptcies
  • Registered Vehicles *
  • DL Information *
  • Voter Registrations
  • Hunting & Fishing Permits
  • Professional Licenses
  • Possible Work Affiliations
  • Relatives & Associates

*In available states.

Recommendation: If the new hire will have access to accounting and or client information, we also suggest obtaining a release to conduct a standard asset search.

Comprehensive Background Check, Individual:

Primary Uses:  Prospective partners, major settlement/award cases, potential private care (nannies, housekeepers, home nursing aides…) and personal/business financial services providers (attorneys, accountants, brokers…)

Should yield:

  • All of the above plus :
  • Credit check (obtain authorization)
  • Financial background (to include but not limited to assets, banking information,  involvement in fraud investigations)
  • Professional background (to include but not limited to being a named party in any legal action, professional sanctions, industry rating)
  • Verified (in person/voice) and thorough reference checks

These are basic searches to conduct in the above referenced circumstances.  Of course, no two files will ever be the same and each search should be geared towards individualization.  A good professional investigator will know where to look and when to dig deeper.

As always, stay safe.

Divorce, 2015 and Dating Strangers.

divorce rate global 2014

(Check out the global divorce stats on the above map.)

The divorce rate for the U.S. holds at 53% but, at least in this category, we are not No. 1.   And, while the divorce rate is still high in the U.S., it is surpassed by Spain, Portugal, Luxembourg, the Czech Republic, and Hungary, all ranking higher than 60%.

The dubious honor of the highest divorce rate in the world goes to Belgium with married couples divorcing at a staggering 70%!  The lowest official rate is in Chile with 3%.

Returning to a domestic focus, marriages in the Untied States are actually stronger today than they have been in decades.  The divorce rate spiked in the 1970s and early 1980s and has been declining for the past three decades since.

According to the recent New York Times article in its The Upshot section, The Divorce Surge Is Over, but the Myth Lives On

About 70 percent of marriages that began in the 1990s reached their 15th anniversary (excluding those in which a spouse died), up from about 65 percent of those that began in the 1970s and 1980s. Those who married in the 2000s are so far divorcing at even lower rates. If current trends continue, nearly two-thirds of marriages will never involve a divorce, according to data from Justin Wolfers, a University of Michigan economist (who also contributes to The Upshot).

So it appears that marriages are going the distance in larger numbers as people have adjusted to the myriad of societal shifts, two-income households, the feminist movement (two-thirds of divorces are initiated by women as women have become increasingly economically empowered), technology, etc.,  that contributed to divorce in the past.

We’re now curious to see how the current trend of meeting prospective spouses online will ultimately impact on the divorce rate.  We already know technology’s effect on marriage. From USA Today:

Findings, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, put the percentage of married couples that now meet online at almost 35% — which gives what may be the first broad look at the overall percentage of new marriages that result from meeting online. About 45% of couples met on dating sites; the rest met on online social networks, chat rooms, instant messaging or other online forums.

We have seen the impact of social technology in our field as more and more single people looking for partners have retained our services in conducting background searches.  In traditional partnering, people have relied on meeting family and friends of their date to vouch for them.  That safety barrier has been turned on its head now as meeting family and friends is now usually one of the very last steps in online dating.

If you are considering or already involved in online dating, before you arrive at the stage where having a background check performed on your potential serious dating partner is prudent, we suggest that you up (rather than relax) your guard as, really, you are meeting pure strangers.   To that end:

  1. Meet in public places that are in your date’s area of residence and that s/he frequents often.  This may allow you to potentially meet people who know your date and provide an insight to your date’s character.
  2. Maintain the contact with “normal” hours of communication.  Because we can now communicate at all hours doesn’t mean we should.   When we are tired or distracted (work, child care, etc.), we miss many cues from others that may be helpful in identifying your online friend’s true personality.   And certainly don’t get into the habit of talking at midnight.  In real life, would you be chatting it up with people at that time?  Probably not unless it’s an emergency. Keep it real.
  3. Arrive to your date destination in separate cars – and leave that way, even if you are going to a mutually agreed upon after-date venue.  Remember,  you do not know the person sitting across from you at the dining table.  You should always have the option to leave of your own volition.
  4. Have a friend of family member on stand-by, regularly checking in with you.  You know why. Usually, we advise otherwise for privacy reasons but when dating people from online, TURN ON YOUR CELL PHONE’S LOCATION FUNCTION!
  5. Trust your instincts.  If your date is making you nervous or uncomfortable – for any reason – leave.  Remember, that is your choice.  You are with a stranger.  Remaining safe trumps being polite.

All in all, online dating is here to stay and will increase to the point of being the majority method for meeting potential spouses.  Social online interactions also already influence the divorce rate, so it will be interesting to monitor the nascent dating revolution.  We’ll keep you posted in future articles upon researching the newly developing data.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

Are You Letting Criminals Into Your Home? Vetting Your Service Person Before He Comes Through Your Front Door.

repairman

Think of all of the repair people who have entered your home.  Did you know them personally?  I doubt it.

Over the course of the past decade, legislation has been introduced – and often passed – to limit an employer’s ability to request a job applicant’s criminal history.  Admittedly, every speeding ticket you’ve received is in some database somewhere and can be found, but how do we as a society balance minor infractions with the right to privacy?  I’m not sure where the balance of publicly available data lies but I do know that every time we let a stranger into our home, we have exposed ourselves to potential danger.  That’s a practical assessment, not fear-mongering, but caution should be second nature to us all.  Unfortunately, life bears out the need for proactive security measures as we sadly witness from the below tragedy:

From the local ABC station:

An exterminator has been found guilty in the murder of a young pediatrician and researcher at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

35-year-old Dr. Melissa Ketunuti had graduated from Stanford University medical school, worked in Botswana and spent about five years at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia as a physician and researcher.

37-year-old Jason Smith was found guilty of murder and related offenses Wednesday. Police say he was the last person known to have visited her home.

It happened in a row house on the 1700 block of Naudain Street in January of 2013. Police say Smith from Levittown, Pa. ended up strangling Ketunuti and setting her body on fire in the basement.Shortly after he was arrested, Smith gave police a lengthy confession.

He told them Ketunuti confronted him in the basement and started questioning his work. He said he eventually became enraged and started choking her.

One such tragic incident is horrible enough but we all know from news accounts of the many instances of homicides, rapes, theft, etc. that have stemmed from letting strangers into our homes.   Giving strangers access to our homes can hardly be avoided as everyone, sooner or later, will have the need for a repair, delivery or pest removal.  We hope and trust that the stranger has been vetted but why would leave such critical background information gathering in anyone else’s hands or go on faith that the repairman is a good guy – or woman. Also, as more concierge services such as Magic emerge to help us in our busy lives, we’re removed another step from clearly being able to identify service or delivery people coming into our homes.  (Magic operates via text.  Customers text 83489 with a request – for anything from pizza delivery to an electrician service call – and Magic agents coordinate delivery/service via partnered companies.  The service calls are still in beta mode.)

Referring back to the homicide of Dr. Melissa Ketunuti,  in the below video, our friend and renowned security expert/analyst, retired law enforcement and black-belted martial artist, Steve Kardian of Defend University – a women’s self-defense institute in NY, outlines several basics of home security when admitting a service person past the front door:

1. Hire from a reputable and known company.

2. Request the full name and, as is now possible, a text photo of the operative coming to your home.  Check this info against a government photo i.d. – not the company i.d.  Of course, s/he has a government I.D. – didn’t s/he drive to your home?

3. Have someone else in the home with you during the repair appointment.

4. If you can’t have another adult with you during the service call, video and audio record the repair person, transmitting in real time to a remote pc or trusted person. (Many service people may object but remember, this complete stranger now has access to you, your family and your home. Tough.)

5. Run your own criminal background check on the repair person.  (Steve suggests various services such as Intelius that perform criminal history searches.)

In any and all cases, as Steve emphasizes, listen to your instinct.  You should be uncomfortable with a total stranger in your home.  Protect yourself as best possible – that is your only true obligation.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

Federal and State Employer Use of Arrest And Conviction Records.

job application

(From Nolo.)  Given that nearly 65,000,000 Americans have an arrest history, now more than ever we are seeing new laws to address the legal rights of a potential new hire when it comes to his/her criminal history.

There are two current federal protections in place to shield job applicants from discrimination based solely on an arrest and or conviction history. I.e. :

Federal Protections for Applicants With a Criminal Record

– Title VII: Discrimination Based on Criminal Records

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination in every aspect of employment, including screening practices and hiring. Because arrest and incarceration rates are higher for African Americans and Latinos, an employer that adopts a blanket policy of excluding all applicants with a criminal record might be guilty of race discrimination.

– The Fair Credit Reporting Act: Inaccurate Records

The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) addresses the issue of inaccurate criminal records. Criminal background checks may include errors, such as information on convictions that have been expunged, multiple listings of the same offense, incomplete information (for example, failing to report that the person was exonerated of a crime or that charges were dropped), misclassification of crimes, and even records that belong to someone else entirely.

The FCRA imposes obligations on employers who request criminal background checks and on the firms that provide them. Employers must:

  • Get the applicants written consent ahead of time.
  • Notify the applicant if the employer intends to disqualify him or her based on the contents of the report. The employer must also give the applicant a copy of the report.
  • Give the applicant notice after the employer makes a final decision not to hire him or her based on the information in the report.

Each state also has employment laws on the book in regard to hiring those with a criminal past.

New York Law on Use of Criminal Records

New York gives applicants a number of protections when it comes to employer use of criminal records in making hiring decisions. Employers may not ask about or consider arrests or charges that did not result in conviction, unless they are currently pending, when making hiring decisions. They also may not ask about or consider records that have been sealed or youthful offender adjudications.

Employer with at least ten employees may not refuse to hire an applicant based on a criminal conviction unless hiring the applicant would pose an unreasonable risk to property or to public or individual safety, or the conviction bears a direct relationship to the job. The law defines a “direct relationship” strictly to mean that the nature of the criminal conduct underlying the conviction has a direct bearing on the applicant’s fitness or ability to perform one or more of the duties or responsibilities that are necessary related to the job.

An employer that considers an applicant’s prior conviction must look at these eight factors:

  • the state’s public policy to encourage the hiring of those who have been convicted of crimes
  • the duties and responsibilities that are necessarily related to the job
  • whether the conviction has a bearing on the applicant’s ability to perform those duties and responsibilities
  • how much time has passed since the conviction(s)
  • how old the applicant was at the time of the offense
  • the seriousness of the offense
  • any information the applicant provides about his or her rehabilitation, and
  • the employer’s legitimate interest in protecting property and the safety and welfare of individuals and the public.

An employer who decides not to hire someone based on a criminal conviction must, upon the applicant’s request, provide a written statement of the reasons for the decision. This statement must be provided within 30 days of the request.

Look here for state-by-state hiring regulations and information as they relate to applicants with a criminal history.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

Business & Employee Background Checks – Know Your Partners, Employees & Vendors.

fingerprints

If you run a business, you have lots of worries.  Aside from the normal concerns like competition, pricing, R&D/marketing, location and customer service,  security issues  have become increasingly important.   Instinct can only take a business owner so far in assessing the work relationships in which he becomes involved.   A businessperson can run up against:

  • Employees with compromised criminal/civil litigation histories
  • Prospective partners who are less than truthful about their business (and related personal – divorce, child support, etc.) histories
  • Theft
  • Fraud
  • Embezzlement
  • Scams
  • Unscrupulous suppliers/subcontractors

In looking at the statistics of employee theft alone:

“In a recent [2014] survey of small businesses, a University of Cincinnati criminal justice researcher has found that only 16 percent of those that have experienced theft by employees actually reported that theft to the police.

That’s even though 64 percent of the small businesses surveyed reported experiencing employee theft.”

Increasingly, security tech companies pitch IT monitoring systems and control to business owners as the most effective means of controlling today’s work environment as it relates to corporate crime.  Now let’s look at the reality:

detection

The vast majority of business thefts, embezzlements and frauds are uncovered by tips, audits and by accident. Accepting these statistics as fact borne over time, what does the employer do proactively and reactively with workplace crimes?

Employee Background Checks Provide the Answer

Certainly there are many free online tools of which prospective employers can avail themselves to research their employees backgrounds, but such a search should just be a cursory check, pre-hire. Working with an experienced investigator will yield formerly-hidden information as the professional background checker knows what to look for and where to look for it  – often in databases that are not easily available to the general public and through a process of key data analysis that can only be borne of experience, inclination and talent.

Here are the types of things a business owner can and should be looking into for the protection of his business:

Criminal Background Checks

Any time your business is dealing with someone you don’t know, you should run a quick check to see if they have any history of criminal activity. It’s very simple to find out about criminal records, FBI records, prison records and sex offender status.  There is access to their entire criminal history if there is one. With violence in the workplace such a major issue, a simple criminal check can be a very effective way to avoid problems before they happen.

Background Check for Employment (Pre-Employment Screening)

If you’ve got a small business, you should be pre-screening each person you consider hiring. No matter how professional, or how harmless, they appear.

A small print shop franchise in Florida hired an especially friendly fellow as their bookkeeper after the owner got too busy to handle it himself. The new employee didn’t offer much in the way of references but he sounded like he knew what he was doing and – big plus – he agreed to work cheap. The owner figured he would save money hiring the guy. He figured wrong.

The bookkeeper drained more than a hundred thousand dollars out of the company before they found him out. Turned out he’d previously been charged with embezzlement.  This is something a criminal background check would have quickly turned up. (Tip: Your investigator should know the positions sought by would-be new hires.  If a crime is directly related to the employee’s duties, [e.g., previous theft charges/accounts payable job], that history would certainly be a direct factor in the hiring decision.)

Background Check Existing Employees – Make it a Condition of Employment

You shouldn’t check only new hires. Over time, employees can develop habits and get involved in activities you’d never suspect. So you should regularly check on existing employees. Note: this is something you should get legal advice for – but generally if it’s a condition of employment and you let them know in writing, it’s not invading privacy. You entrust employees with company funds or materials that can be stolen, or negotiating and purchasing power that can be abused. Keeping an eye on existing employees is just being prudent.

Run a Background Check on Each Company or Individual You Do Business With

You should investigate every supplier or contractor who serves your business. If the possibility of harm exists, then you need to know if someone you’re in business with is likely to harm you. You can check credit, check backgrounds of the owners and managers, check the company itself for any past criminal or questionable activity.

Run a Background Check on Each Partner With Which You Intend Do Business.

Here at BNI we’ve worked with numerous matters involving prospective and current business partners.  Our clients come to a realization during our investigations that either the partner is upstanding or s/he is seeking a working relationship that is covertly dishonest due to personal and professional issues, (i.e., expensive divorces, costly child support litigation, past debt, etc.)  Especially those who are very close to your business  – your means of support –  should be thoroughly vetted and, moreso after the partnership is active and red flags begin to appear.  Our intent and focus during partnership investigations are on collecting information that can be used in potential criminal and civil litigation.

I’m not relating anything in this post that you, as the business owner, have not already considered or experienced but I’ll add the important point that with today’s tech tools, conducting this type of business due diligence is cost-effective and results-effective and is easily set up on an as-needed scheduling basis.

Given the increasing transiency and mobility of our work relationships, it is smart to proactively protect your business, rather than the latter, often very expensive clean-up required in the aftermath of personnel failure.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, be safe.