National Databases for Background Screeners: Media’s Misconception

National Database

Background checks must be so easy. You type a person’s name into a super high-tech computer program that sorts through an entire nation’s population to pull exactly who you’re looking for. Well, not exactly. According to the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS), contrary to what television shows like CSI and Law and Order might lead you to believe, there is no such thing as a National Database where law enforcement officials upload court information. Background screeners need to follow many steps and make sure they have the correct information to complete an accurate background check. This may come as a shock to some, as search engines are flooded with sites that claim to be a national database as soon as you type in “how to run a background check.” Here is a little bit of information to clarify some of those misleading search results.

What exactly are the sites that claim to be a national database?

NAPBS describes these sites as a “multi-jurisdictional database” where a third party is purchasing copies of court records from various sources such as county or state court databases. These sites may seem all-encompassing; however their accuracy is completely reliant on the person entering the information.

How could information be misleading?

Because these sites are maintained by people looking up and entering information, they run the risk of how up-to-date each record is. Some issues that could arise are the following: a felony could have been reduced to a misdemeanor, a case could have been dismissed, or a judge could have ruled against an incarceration. These are all changes that can happen at any time during a court case and if these records are not kept current at all times you could be viewing inaccurate information.

What happens if this information is reported to a consumer?

According to Justifacts, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires that all reported information is up to date and accurate at the time of the report.  If the information reported is not accurate or current FindLaw states the employer and the Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA) are subject to civil or even criminal liability.

How do employers stay compliant?

To avoid reporting misleading or inaccurate information, ask your CRA to run a county or statewide check from the appropriate court system’s database, one of the safer alternatives to ensure accuracy. Ask your CRA what databases they pull the report from and if they are county and state specific. Research the databases on your own and read the fine print to make sure the database and your background check is accurate and compliant.


Background checks may not be as glamorous as they appear on TV, but they are an important key to ensure an organization’s success and safety. If you are considering running what appears to be a nationwide search, make sure you do you do your research and understand the risks.