What Shows Up On a Background Check?

What Shows Up On a Background Check?

What shows up on a background check depends on what type of background screening is performed, and for what purposes. Below are the most common types of background checks and what they include.

Criminal Records

The following will show up on a criminal background check report if applicable:

  • Arrests
  • Convictions of felonies and misdemeanors
  • Court records (e.g. dockets, orders, decrees, judgement, etc.)
  • Warrants
  • Sex offenses
  • Incarceration records

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)*, criminal background checks cannot contain records of civil suits or arrests after seven years. Criminal convictions stay on a person's record indefinitely, but California doesn't allow employers to see convictions more than seven years old for most jobs.

SSN Validation

Social security number validation is used by employers to confirm a person's eligibility to work in the US. This type of screening report will show the name and address history associated with a given social security number.

Sex Offender Registry

All US states are required to maintain a sex offender registry, which is public information. There is also a national sex offender registry, which includes all state, tribal, and territory registries. Sex offenses will show up in criminal background checks, as well as on the sex offender registry.

Credit Report

An employer can only check your credit report If you give them explicit, written permission. Employers can't see your credit score, but they can see the following information:

  • Bankruptcy
  • Accounts placed for collection
  • Loan information

Under FCRA, employers cannot see bankruptcies after 10 years and accounts placed for collection after seven years.

Driving Records

Each state has its own rules and regulation about driving records — some allow employers, schools, volunteer organizations, etc. to check records as far back as 10 years, others only allow three years.

Additional Records

Additionally, employers, volunteer organizations, universities, etc. can check on military records, workers' compensation, character references, drug test records, or educational records, but each state has its own laws about how much information a third party can see.

So, What Does a Background Check Show?

What shows up on a background check depends on who is doing the checking and why. Some employers, for example, might check every record available to them, but some might only run a criminal background check. To see what specific types of background checks show, review this page about background check types.

*Note: Some reporting restrictions under FCRA (such as bankruptcies after 10 years and arrests after seven years), don't apply to job candidates who will make more than $75,000 per year. The FCRA restrictions only apply when an employer (or another institution) is using a consumer reporting agency to find background information. If the employer has the HR department conduct the background search, then FCRA restrictions do not apply.

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