Missing out on a hire means more than just dealing with a bad fit and exhausting time and resources to conduct a search again. And while background checks help hiring managers select the best candidate possible, sometimes these searches leave things out, putting organizations at risk.

We’ve all seen the results of flawed background checks. The restaurant manager whose secret, violent past comes to light after an incident with her supervisor. The nanny who “unexpectedly” drowns two children in a bathtub. The seemingly model employee who unleashes a brutal tirade when confronted about potential theft.

In the moments following these headlines, the question that comes to everyone’s mind is, “Why didn’t someone see this coming?” Sadly, the answer is just as predictable: “He didn’t look like a mass murderer.”

In today’s social media-driven society, it’s easy for people to make themselves look good on paper, in person, or online. The most effective way to see behind the mask is a comprehensive background check (what we call a “Trust and Safety Check”) that goes far deeper than the basic, cheap options you might find online.

Whether you’re a diligent business owner or a proud parent, a run-of-the-mill background check is no longer enough to protect what’s important to you. This is because the logic behind these background checks revolves entirely around the hope that patchy criminal records databases are complete, and the belief that if someone hasn’t been convicted of a crime or arrested, they are trustworthy.

New Call-to-actionUnfortunately, these basic checks fail to account for the reality that no national database of criminal records exists in the United States. There is no single place you can reliably search by name and find a person’s criminal records. Most databases are county level, which means you’ve got to decide what counties to include in the search, meaning you risk missing records from beyond your search area. The results of these searches often need to be verified by hand, and if they aren’t they can result in false positives—and potentially lawsuits if things don’t go so well.

At Trustify, we have seen just how important it is to screen the right way. Here are some examples of cases we’ve handled where a basic background check wouldn’t cut it:

Charities Fight Against Scams

Recently, we helped a large charity-based crowdfunding site with a fraud issue. Unfortunately, crowdfunding sites can be a great vehicle for money laundering. Obviously, this represents a huge liability for these sites – a liability that can be limited by a decent background check of the fundraisers that are raising money using the service. That’s where we came in.

  • In one case, the, the concern was simple fraud. Some of the people using our client’s website appeared to have lied about being a veteran, or having cancer. They would partner with a buddy and split their proceeds from generosity of others. We detected several examples of this sort of scam.

  • In another case, a user was raising money abnormally fast. The company asked us to step in with a deeper background check because a surface-level check came up completely clean. We found out that the user was sharing an address with four family members – all of them felons with fraud convictions. It appeared that he was the clean front man for crew who were potentially laundering money using the site. Our client could have never known this by simply running a background check on the user. They could have continued for years without ever being caught.

Trust and Safety Check Reveals Alarming Behavior By Potential Caregivers

In another example, a major website that connects nannies with families asked us to do some preliminary screening of caregivers. Of course, this company ran traditional background checks on all of their nannies – that was one of their selling points. However, when we ran our own, much more thorough checks on just ten of their nannies, we found some fairly egregious problems.

  • One woman had a perfect profile. In her image, you could see a woman sitting in a field of flowers (probably a stock photo), and her profile said she had a degree in early childhood development. She was the perfect nanny – until we found her Twitter handle. Her account was replete with problematic, sexually explicit content and racist rants – your worst nightmare. But she had no criminal record, so she looked great, according to a background check.
  • Another woman was sharing personal details about the kid she was watching on social media and all over the internet. She probably meant well, but her activity came as a rude awakening for the parents. Again, a background check was not going to get close to equaling a proper screening for the job.

When we told this company about what we had found, they said, “Please tell us you checked one hundred profiles to find these.” We had to break it to them: “Nope – we checked ten.”

How Do We Help? It’s All About Trust and Safety

At Trustify, our goal is to protect you, your family, your business, your employees, and your customers from people with a history of questionable or unethical behavior. Our virtual marketplace is the first of its kind, connecting clients with private investigators nationwide. This direct connection provides real-time communication, and cases are solved quickly, efficiently and affordably.

To help you avoid bad hiring decisions, investigators can perform Trust and Safety Checks to vet caretakers for children and the elderly, employees, contractors, executives, and even customers. Unlike a basic background check, Trust and Safety Checks dive significantly deeper into a subject’s life to assess character and trustworthiness: we look at business dealings, associates, criminal history, previous residences, social media profiles and more.

Why do we go so deep into the backgrounds of our subjects? Because even though that babysitter’s resume looks fantastic, she could have a social media profile that would give you goosebumps. And that trophy hire with glowing letters of recommendation could be associating with a dangerous felon. If you’re running a business, your customers and employees have high expectations when it comes to your corporate conduct. You are expected to do your due diligence on every person and organization you associate with, or to pay the price in the form of bad press, boycotts — or even more significant monetary or personnel losses.

Trustify’s flexible, highly vetted network of private investigators is capable of responding to the trust and safety needs of any individual, and of any company large or small, without the large investments required for traditional consultants or in-house trust and safety departments.

Some businesses are functioning under a false assumption that a background check for $30 is some kind of silver bullet. It never will be. This is an extremely dangerous assumption to have. We work with major law firms, accounting firms, and celebrities — people with very high net worths — and their jaws drop when we tell them he risks they are taking with cheap, unreliable background checks.

In most cases, these clients will try to reach for any feeling of safety. They’ll say, “But we also do Social Security number checks.” That’s when we have to break it to them: all you can do with a Social Security number is verify that the person’s name is attached to the number. At best, you’ll be able to verify their date of birth. You won’t find criminal records.

Not only are inexpensive, basic checks limited in what they accomplish, but they can also cause issues. False positives are common. If you Google “background check false positives,” you will find an endless list of examples occuring in supposedly well-run background check programs. It happens all the time.

The U.S. Department of Labor estimates the average cost for a bad hire (i.e. one that isn’t a fit for your company’s culture or is just a bad candidate) can reach 30% of that individual’s annual salary.

You can blindly trust someone with the things that are most important to you, your family, and your business, or you can quickly, efficiently, and affordably learn if they deserve your trust with a Trust and Safety Check. If they do, you’ll feel confident in moving forward together. If they don’t, you’ll have time to change direction while you can still avoid the pain, damages, and costs associated with trusting the wrong person. In business as in life, better safe than sorry.


About Danny Boice:

Danny Boice is the co-founder and CEO of Trustify, the first technology platform linking people to experienced investigators on-demand. Proud father of 5 (plus a dog!) he started Trustify with his wife Jen in 2015 after personally dealing with the difficulties of finding a good investigator in a hurry. Danny’s journey as an entrepreneur and journalist includes founding Speek, a conference call service, as well as serving as an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and being featured in the Washington Post, Fast Company, and The Wall Street Journal (to name a few). Danny and Jen believe in the positive power of private investigators and are actively engaged in partnerships with a variety of nonprofits including Becky’s Fund, an organization devoted to helping the victims of domestic violence.

Catch up with Danny Boice's latest writings on Medium.

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