When you apply for a job or to rent a home, you may be subject to a background check. Employers and landlords have the right to conduct background checks on applicants and consider their credit and criminal histories when deciding whom to hire and whom to lease a home to.
Determine the Problem and Its Source
Knowing your rights and the legal obligations of all involved parties helps you get inaccurate information removed from your background report. By law, if an employer considers not hiring you because of information in your background report, they must notify you about the information before making a hiring decision. This is true for criminal checks and credit checks, since both types of background checks are governed by the Fair Credit and Reporting Act.
To remove an entry from your background report, read the report closely to see the exact problem and its source. You have the right to explain the issue to a prospective employer or landlord and to dispute any information contained in the background check.
Another important part of exercising your rights is knowing when you have faced discrimination. Although an employer has the right to screen job applicants with background checks, they must screen and discern employability for all applicants equally, regardless of race, sex, religion or national origin, according to the same criteria. In other words, if an employer considered an arrest on your record a reason not to hire you, but hired another employee of a different race who has the same type of arrest on his record, you might have grounds for a discrimination claim.
Correcting a Credit Report
When you notice an inaccuracy on your credit report, report it to the credit bureau that reported the inaccuracy, as well as to the organization that provided the information to the credit bureau. A variety of issues can cause an inaccurate credit report, including:
- Former spouses’ debts appearing on the report.
- Identity theft leading to charges and debts.
- Clerical errors.
- Old debts appearing after they have been paid off or discharged.
- Past events, like bankruptcies, appearing despite enough time passing that they should no longer appear on the credit report.
When you report an inaccuracy to the credit reporting bureau, it has 30 days to investigate and correct the report. To support your claim, provide copies of all relevant documents, such as a “paid in full” letter to show that a debt has been paid off.
Correcting an Inaccurate Criminal Report
The process to remove something from a criminal background check is fairly similar to the process of removing inaccuracies from a credit report. Errors that can lead to inaccuracies on criminal background checks include:
- Mix-ups with other people with the same or similar names.
- Misclassification of past charges.
- A lack of information about incidents, like a record of an arrest without noting that no charge was filed.
- Outdated records showing arrests or convictions that have been sealed or expunged.
To get something off a background check, first contact the company that conducted the background check and notify them of the inaccuracy. The company has 30 days to investigate and correct the error. To support a claim, provide documents that demonstrate that the report was made in error, such as documentation of expungement or proof of your actual, legal name.
Read More: How to Get an Absolutely Free Criminal Background Report
Expunging or Sealing a Criminal Record
Many people who search the internet for “how to get something off your background check” are not facing inaccurate background checks, but inaccurate information about past arrests and convictions. When this is the case, it is possible to remove something from a background check, but it requires the individual to complete one of two legal processes: expungement or record sealing.
The criteria and processes for expunging and sealing criminal records vary somewhat from state to state. Individuals interested in pursuing one of these courses of action can discuss the situation with a criminal defense lawyer to determine whether she qualifies for an expungement or a record sealing and if so, how to complete the process. Once an arrest or conviction is expunged or a record is sealed, it does not appear on most background checks.
- A list of "Privacy Basics and Opt Out Strategies" is available at the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse website. The list includes tips for safeguarding financial information and medical information, and provides information on opting out of certain informational databases.
Lindsay Kramer is a freelance writer and editor who has been working in the legal niche since 2012. Her primary focus areas within this niche are family law and personal injury law. Lindsay works closely with a few legal marketing agencies, providing blog posts, website content and marketing materials to law firms across the United States.