Background checks have become an essential part of today's society, and it can be difficult to imagine living in a world without them. In the past, it was relatively easy to get away with criminal activity or dishonest behavior, but now, with the prevalence of background checks, it has become much more difficult for individuals to conceal their past. These screenings are important not only for the prevention of fraud but also for protecting public safety.
What are background checks?
A background check is a process of validating the identity and history of an individual. It involves collecting and analyzing pieces of information, such as criminal records, employment history, credit reports, and even social media activity. Background checks are often carried out by employers, landlords, lenders, and law enforcement agencies, although they can be used by anyone who wants to feel secure in their interactions with another person.
Why are background checks important?
The primary purpose of background checks is to identify any potential red flags in a person's history that could indicate fraudulent or dangerous behavior. Employers use them to ensure that their employees are trustworthy and qualified, landlords use them to filter out potentially problematic tenants, and law enforcement agencies use them to identify potential suspects.
Background checks are also important for protecting public safety. For example, if an individual has a history of violent crime, it's essential to know this information so that appropriate measures can be taken to prevent harm to others. In some cases, background checks can even prevent tragedies from occurring, such as in the case of the 2015 shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The shooter, Dylann Roof, had a prior drug arrest that would have shown up in a background check, but the gun dealer did not perform the check due to an administrative error.
How do background checks help prevent fraud?
Background checks can also help prevent fraud by verifying an individual's identity and ensuring that they have a clean history. For example, employers can use background checks to verify that an applicant's education and employment history match what's stated on their resume. This can help prevent job applicants from lying on their resumes and misrepresenting their qualifications.
Background checks can also help detect financial fraud. Credit reports, for example, can reveal whether an individual has a history of unpaid debts or delinquent accounts. This information can be used by lenders to determine whether an individual is likely to default on a loan.
Real-life examples of how background checks have been useful
One example of how background checks have been useful is in the case of Uber, the ride-sharing service. In 2014, an Uber driver in San Francisco was convicted of assault, but the company did not perform a background check on him. As a result, Uber changed its policy and now requires all drivers to undergo a background check before being approved to drive for the company.
Another example involves the hiring of teachers. In 2018, a teacher in Georgia was found to have a prior conviction for sexual battery. The teacher had lied on her job application by omitting this information, but a background check performed by the school district revealed her criminal history. The teacher was subsequently fired.
What are the potential downsides of background checks?
While background checks have many benefits, there are also potential downsides. For example, they can be costly and time-consuming. Employers and landlords must invest in the necessary tools and resources to perform a thorough background check, which can be a significant expense. And for individuals who have a clean record, the process can be an invasion of privacy.
In some cases, background checks can also be inaccurate. Mistaken identity or inaccurate records can lead to false positives, which can have serious consequences. In 2013, for example, a background check incorrectly linked a woman to a felony conviction, which led to her being denied a job.
In conclusion, background checks are an essential tool for preventing fraud and protecting public safety. While they may have downsides, the benefits outweigh the costs. By conducting thorough background checks, employers, landlords, and law enforcement agencies can ensure that they are interacting with trustworthy and qualified individuals. The importance of background checks in our society will only continue to grow as more and more information becomes available and as technology continues to advance.