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Don’t let national criminal record checks fool you! They aren’t compliant or accurate on their own!

Not many employment background check companies are willing to tell you this, but there is a litany of issues screening employees with only a national criminal record check. Companies all over the internet offer low prices on what they call, “national criminal record checks” which sounds a lot like the FBI’s National Criminal Information Center (NCIS) and imply complete national coverage. Unfortunately, these reports are not the NCIS, are not comprehensive, and can lead to some serious compliance issues.

FBI National Criminal Information Center

Many companies try to confuse potential clients with the idea that a national criminal background check is the same one that law enforcement uses. According to the FBI these databases are only for law enforcement use. This means that private companies (including background screening companies) can’t access that database for employment screening. Positions that require homeland security reviews to obtain a security clearance may search those criminal record databases, but those background checks are conducted through the Defense Security Service, a federal security agency.


Nationwide criminal record databases available for private companies collect information from multiple state sources, but don’t have access to everything. While all 50 states contribute some information, a few county court records, incarceration records and sex offender records, no states contribute all the information they have available.

As an example, California criminal records are held in every one of California’s 58 counties but only 17 of those counties have information on a national database. States like New York don’t report any information to these databases!

This is a huge problem for employers, who are counting on those reports returning accurate information on their potential hire. If their candidate committed a crime in any of the 41 California counties not covered by a national database, or in the entire state of New York, then that search won’t find it.

Even when a county does report some information, it comes from incomplete county court records, incarceration and sex offender records. So even within a reporting county, you could be missing things like misdemeanors, or more heinous felonies.


You may have met a few people that share your full name before, try googling your name now to see what famous, or infamous people share your name! See many people that aren’t you? If any of them committed crimes those may show up on a national criminal search for your name! That’s why when screening employees the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires specific identifiers be used to confirm that a criminal record belongs to them.

When screening companies find a criminal record match there are legal requirements to allow the applicant to challenge the findings. That process can take up to 30 days during which time the company must hold the position open. That’s a lot of time without an employee working for you that could be avoided by using more accurate identifiers like a Social Security number, date of birth, or home addresses.

Background searches like county court record searches that use these identifiers are much more accurate than a national background check can be. Not to mention county court information takes time to get to the national level even when its reporting, meaning the most recent, and accurate information can only be found with a county level search. Since the FCRA also requires the most recent information be used for employee screening, a national background check can be by its very nature non-compliant.

Finally, using a national record search alone is unethical. How would you feel if you were denied employment just because you shared a name with someone you found online? That’s what can happen when using only national record checks to screen for employment.

All these are reasons why HireSafe uses ethical, compliant techniques to retrieve the most accurate criminal information available when screening your candidates.

We try to be honest about national reports and call them what they are, multi-state criminal database reports. If you use this report, we recommend you combine it with county court record searches, to confirm possibly erroneous information from the database, and to be sure there aren’t any criminal records in a county that may not provide information to these “national” databases.  In fact all of our most popular packages include a multi-state database report in concert with more comprehensive, and compliant searches.

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