• Todd Eiseman

Middle Names in Background Screening

It’s far from uncommon that two or more people have the same first and last names. We all likely know a handful of Bob or John Smiths, probably within the same state or city. These shared names can complicate even the simplest tasks, like calling or emailing the right person you want to talk to.

The challenge becomes exponentially more problematic, however, in the case of background checks. It’s common sense that maximum accuracy is non-negotiable in employee background screening reports. It’s something that has the potential to change an applicant’s career because the nature of the results frequently influences an employer’s hiring and promotion decisions. But if a background screening firm doesn’t ask for or verify the candidate’s middle name, errors may occur and inaccuracies go unnoticed.

This is exactly what happened recently with two large background check providers that apparently did not have a consistent procedure for running background checks on applicants with common names.

As a result of this oversight, the companies provided inaccurate reports on candidates, ascribing criminal records where they did not actually exist. These companies have been penalized millions of dollars for this error by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).  In the enforcement decisions issued by the CFPB, it provided specific guidance regarding steps to be taken to ensure that information was accurately reported regarding candidates.

One of the very specific points of guidance was to require that middle names (or an affirmative statement regarding the lack of a middle name) be used in completing background screening.  Likewise, when suffixes (e.g., Jr., III, Sr., etc.) are available, they should be included in the screening searches to ensure maximum accuracy.

Interestingly, this guidance occurs at a time when we are observing that Human Resources (HR) Departments are increasingly asking for middle names to be included in screening reports.  For middle names to be included, however, they must be part of the original screening; middle names cannot be added to completed reports because they were not actually part of the searches performed.  In some instances, to address HR requirements, new screenings have had to be completed that include the middle names at additional cost.

For these reasons, the standard of practice should be to include middle names and suffixes at the time that background screening orders are placed, and we recommend that you amend your practices to include this requirement.

At easyBackgrounds, we know how foundational employee background screening is for ensuring the safety and competency of your staff. Let us know your needs, and we’ll get you covered with guaranteed accuracy and unparalleled turnaround time.

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