|This is an excerpt from a front page article n the December 13th, 2010 edition of the Philadelphia Daily News:|
"A job sought at Walmart About the same time, ****
had an interview for an overnight-manager position at a suburban
Walmart. After being out of steady work for more than a year, he had
planned to work both jobs.
He gave the company permission to do a
complete background check and disclosed in writing his misdemeanor
convictions, he said.
A week later, Walmart sent him a denial
letter and a copy of his background check conducted by General
Information Services, a background-screening company based in South
That background check said **** had been convicted
in 1996 of felony cocaine possession in Gloucester County, Va., and
sentenced to 10 years in prison.
"I have never even been to
Gloucester County, Va.," **** said. "Back then, I was still in
After receiving the report, **** said, he
called GIS to dispute the information.
More than two weeks later,
the company cleared his criminal-background check of the false
felony-cocaine charge, according to GIS records he received.
On his own, **** had his fingerprints taken at the Pennsylvania
State Police's Belmont Barracks and sent them to the Virginia State
Police to demonstrate that he was not the man on their records, he said.
"GIS said they dealt with it, but I didn't want to leave any stone
unturned," he said.
It was too late for employment at Walmart,
where **** had been red-flagged not only for the false cocaine
charge but also for his legitimate misdemeanors, he said.
GameStop, where **** said the bosses knew about his misdemeanors
when they hired him, refused to hire him back after the felony-cocaine
charge was cleared.
"They told me I had to reapply to see if I could get another position
with the company," he said. "Why should I have to reapply when you let
me go off of false pretenses? You didn't even give me a chance to
The Daily News was unable to confirm that GIS was
the company that also conducted ****'s criminal-background check
for GameStop. A GIS spokesman said he could not disclose clients' names,
and a GameStop corporate spokesman said in an e-mail that the company
"does not provide public comment on employment matters."
however, said a GIS representative told him by phone that the company
also had conducted his GameStop background check. **** added that
GameStop's human-resources department confirmed that they had used GIS.
in jeopardy Meanwhile, GameStop also is trying to appeal**** 's unemployment benefits.
In a Dec. 3 letter to Pennsylvania
unemployment-compensation authorities, a cost-management agency
contracted by GameStop wrote that **** had been "discharged for
falsification of his application. He did not list on his application a
felony for drug possession and distributing."
Now, ****, who
has not had steady work since April 2009, wonders how many other jobs
for which he applied turned him down because of the inaccurate
"I've applied for many different positions," he
said. "God only knows how many positions I applied to and they saw this
mistake and it got read over and over and over."
Lillie Coney, associate director of the Electronic Privacy Information
Center in Washington, D.C., ****'s is a familiar story.
checks are pretty routine now, even for positions that don't require
trust that they manage money or things of value," she
"For every one person
you hear this happens to, there may be thousands of people who don't
know this happens," she said.
"This the worst-case scenario
because you're not going to be brought to trial to argue your innocence
because you've already been found guilty and you don't even know it."
who said he was prohibited from speaking about specific cases, said
GIS' background checks are not guaranteed accurate.
not," he said. "You know when you see in the movies there's some kind of
instantaneous universal background check performed? There is nothing
like that. This is a process performed by humans. . . . Whenever there
is a human element, there could be inaccuracies."
Lemens said the
company has run into situations in which court records are inaccurate or
"even made up."
"We, of course, can't make sure the public
records are accurate," he said.
That's part of the problem with
data brokers, Coney said. "They know the documents they are getting have
errors, but it does not stop them from using [them]," she said.
core foundation of their business is telling their customers how many
bad people they know about. They are not into telling someone what a
wonderful person this is, because they don't want to be held accountable
if something goes wrong."
Coney said the only way to manage the
unregulated data-broker industry is to make it transparent and allow
people to view their backgrounds regularly, as they can with their
"Individuals are the only ones who are going to
know if the information is accurate," she said.
No one is held
accountable when a bad background report is produced and sent to an
employer, Coney said.
"The problem is they are not getting
penalized for doing this, so they keep using bad data practices," she
said. "They are vilifying the names of the people who have no idea their
names are even out there."
For Kevin ****, the problems
"I don't want to be out of work," he said yesterday. "I
wanted to work, I wanted to collect a paycheck, I wanted to work two
jobs at one time. . . .
"Overall, it really has put my back
against a wall, and the worst thing about it is it wasn't of my doing. I
actually wish that some people in higher places could hear my story and
see that some people actually do want to work."