How Far Back Do Background Checks Go?

By Danielle Smyth - Updated April 18, 2018
Person Hand Filling Background Check Form

Background investigations for employment, firearm purchase or lease applications search a variety of sources. These include employment records, education records, DMV information, criminal records and certain government watch lists. Agencies certified to conduct background checks via a Credit Reporting Agency are experienced in abiding by relevant legislation, such as the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The FCRA dictates how far back certain records can be made available. It is possible to conduct background checks for free via public records and the internet.

Tip

Background checks can go back indefinitely for certain items in an individual's past. However, certain history, like civil suits and arrest records, is protected under the regulations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act and may appear for only seven years.

How Far Back Do Background Checks Go

Unless you have a record expunged, it can stay on your background check report indefinitely. However, certain types of records are limited under the FCRA. This legislation contains a so-called “seven-year rule,” which requires that civil suits, civil judgments, arrest records and paid tax liens be removed from a consumer report after seven years. This applies to every state in the U.S. Some states actually go even farther with their regulations and do not permit reporting of these records at all.

Can You Do a Background Check On Yourself?

It is possible to conduct a background check on yourself. Many online services permit you to conduct checks of your driving record, court records or credit reports. If you are hoping to conduct a credit check, be aware that you are permitted one free report each from Experian®, Equifax and TransUnion® per year by the federal government. As with any internet searches, take care to verify the validity of a site before you enter personal information or payment details.

Can You Get Background Check Records Expunged?

Criminal records that turn up in background investigations can be expunged in some instances. Most misdemeanors and some felonies can be expunged after a given waiting period has passed, which differs by state. In many cases, that period is as long as five years. Then, you are able to request of the court that your records be sealed. You will then need to submit proof of this expungement to a variety of databases and archives that wouldn’t necessarily be updated because a court has sealed a record. At that point, your criminal records should no longer appear on your background check.

Per the regulations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, legislation to protect consumers and ensure privacy and justice when it comes to reporting, you have the right to dispute anything appearing in your background investigation with which you disagree. You are entitled to see a copy of any and all information that has disqualified you from a lease, job or other application. If you find it to be inaccurate, or if records that should have been expunged still appear, the FCRA gives you the right to request a revision.

Who Does Background Checks?

Credit Reporting Agencies are authorized to conduct background investigations by the federal government because they are bound to follow certain secure storage and dispute resolution requirements. Third-party agencies offer background investigative services through CRAs using local, state and federal database searches. Look for members of the National Association of Professional Background Screeners or agencies well-versed in the regulations of the FCRA. The rights of applicants are carefully protected under this legislation, and failure to uphold their rights can lead to legal action against your company.

About the Author

Danielle Smyth is a content writer and social media marketer from upstate New York. Her company, Wordsmyth Creative Content Marketing, services clients in a variety of industries.

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