How Far Back Does A Background Check Go?

Housing, employment and financial organizations are all requiring more background checks as protection against potential liability. A background check contains a lot of information, including items you might have forgotten about. How far back does a background check go? When filling out an application, your answers must match the information discovered. Here is the answer to this important question.

Your Permanent Record

When you were young, your school principal might have warned you of the dangers of breaking rules and being mischievous – these mistakes would be recorded on your permanent record. In many ways, a background check enables organizations to read your permanent record. Federal and state governments have extensive files based on your birth certificate, housing records and tax filings. Credit agencies accumulate financial information from your banks.

Federal Consumer Rights

Rather than establishing clear rules regarding a “background check,” the federal government has set guidelines protecting “consumer rights.” The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) allows consumers to dispute any potential errors in their credit report. The Federal Bankruptcy Act also offers protections for individuals during background checks. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) maintains nationwide criminal records.

Certain career fields – education, financial and health care – may require a background check under federal law. Over time, the background check is becoming standard practice for many industries. Organizations feel safer and believe they have done their “due diligence” after a background check is run.

Background Check Rules Vary By State<

Many local counties have control of many of the personal records for individuals. Each state has passed laws delineating clear background check guidelines for confidentiality, penalties and specific job categories covered (like education). The states determine the proper procedures for applying to the FBI and credit agencies for background checks.

Most state regulations involve the internal bureaucratic hiring process for employees in “sensitive” areas. These might include working with children, financial, health or law enforcement.

The general time parameter for a background check is about 7 years. Other states might allow records that go back 10 years. It depends upon the application for the background check. Job applications might hearken back to a high school or college record.

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