Many business owners and landlords are unsure whether they should run fingerprint or name-based FBI criminal history background checks on candidates. Both have unique benefits, but it is important to understand their differences.

Crime TV shows make it seem like running someone’s fingerprints is the most accurate and comprehensive way to navigate criminal records. However, this isn’t always the case.

They Are Accurate

Fingerprint-based background check can reveal an applicant’s criminal record, allowing businesses to make informed hiring decisions. They can also help ensure that a person is who they say they are by cross-referencing fingerprints against government databases that store personal identifier information such as name, date of birth, and social security number.

The FBI’s Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) is the go-to database for searching criminal records with a person’s fingerprints. However, this method of background screening isn’t foolproof. For example, due to incomplete reporting from states, fingerprints don’t always match the records in IAFIS.

Additionally, the IAFIS doesn’t include information about arrests that don’t lead to conviction. These limitations can be problematic when making adverse employment, licensing, and certification decisions. They can also lead to unintentional disparate impact discrimination against minority groups. It may expose your business to legal action from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Nonetheless, fingerprint checks are still effective for employers and professional organizations. Moreover, they’re a great way to reduce the risk of fraud and other criminal activities within your workplace.

They Are Fast

A fingerprint-based criminal background check can be conducted quickly, providing more accurate results than name-based checks. This is because fingerprints are linked to specific records which cannot be changed. At the same time, information like dates of birth, names, and addresses can be altered through forged documents or even social security numbers.

As a result, a fingerprint-based check is the best way to get an accurate picture of someone’s criminal history. It also provides more comprehensive information than a record from the IAFIS, which often does not include arrest or disposition information. It is important to note that incomplete or inaccurate screening reports can disparate impact groups protected by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

While it is not legal to require all job candidates to pass a fingerprint background check, many employers will be more likely to hire applicants free of certain types of criminal activities. It enhances workplace safety and builds trust between employees and employers. It also ensures that an applicant is a good fit for the position.

They Are Affordable

Fingerprint background checks provide a fast and thorough criminal record search. They also allow employers to assess an applicant’s criminal history, providing more comprehensive information than other screening methods.

A fingerprint-based check compares an applicant’s prints to a federal database called the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS). This database contains 70 million records, and most people arrested and convicted of a crime will be listed in it.

However, this database is only sometimes accurate. The IAFIS is reliant on state and local law enforcement agencies. Since many states reserve the right to keep a good portion of arrest data private, the information found in IAFIS may be inaccurate.

It can lead to misinformation and even legal risk for the employer. For example, if an employer finds that an applicant has a criminal record for financial crimes and subsequently passes them over, this could be seen as discrimination against groups protected by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. As a result, employers must understand the limitations of this screening method and seek out alternative options to get more accurate and comprehensive data.

They Are Convenient

Fingerprints are one of the only ways to identify an individual positively. That makes fingerprint background checks a valuable tool for businesses to ensure they hire individuals with clean criminal records and can perform their job duties properly. Additionally, fingerprint background checks help employers meet industry safety standards for sensitive business positions.

However, one of the biggest drawbacks of fingerprint background checks is that it takes longer than traditional name-based searches to complete the vetting process. It can take weeks to receive results in the mail, which may delay hiring new employees and ensure a safe workplace environment. In addition, there is a risk of missing important information when using fingerprinting to screen candidates, including information about education and military history. Using a screening partner that thoroughly vets candidates across multiple national and state registries will reduce this problem and provide an accurate and comprehensive result.

They Are Legal

Because fingerprint background checks are based on physical characteristics, they can validate an applicant’s identity and provide more thorough results than other screening methods. A fingerprint-based statement can search for records of arrests, convictions, and even a sex offender registry that may not be available through a name-based search.

Unfortunately, fingerprint-based background checks don’t always fully portray an applicant’s criminal history. For example, a federal match will come with the person’s complete “rap sheet” but won’t include information reported by state and local law enforcement.

Fingerprint-based background checks can also be incomplete if the state does not transmit final dispositions of criminal cases to the FBI’s Integrated Automated Fingerprint System (IAFIS). It means that the background check could miss important information about an arrest that did not result in a conviction.

Whether an employer, business, or landlord feels obligated or wants to protect their reputation and customers, fingerprint background checks can effectively get the most accurate and comprehensive results possible for your screening needs.