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Background Checks: What’s in a name change?

Name change is more common than we realize. Marriage. Divorce. Don’t like the name your parents gave you.

How does this affect a background check?

When it comes to background checks, a lot. Most background checks are name-based searches.

Now, what?

An Address History Search, or Social Security Number Trace, is a report you can use to discover more names that your candidate may have used.

This search is the key to a successful criminal background check. It provides you with a road map of where your candidate lives, has lived, and may have used an alternative or alias name.

How can you use this?

Apply what we discussed in the previous article on criminal reports.

Here’s a brief overview of the typical products provided in a base package:

Address History Search, SSN Search or Social Security Number Trace
• You can find more areas you might want to search for.
• You can find other names that you might want to search for.
• This search does not verify your candidate’s Social Security Number with the Social Security Administration.

Multi-State Criminal Record Search, National Criminal Report or Multi-Jurisdictional Criminal Search
• Pointer data only, not to be used as a final report (need to verify at the source). Most are limited to only the name given in the search.
• Add an Alias search to run more developed names through the database at the same time.

County Criminal Records Search
• Are you only searching for your candidate’s current place of residence? What if they went to school, worked, or lived elsewhere?
• Which candidate names are you searching for? Only the given name? What about the developed names (names found on other reports)?

As name changes are more common than we would have thought, make sure you are using all available names and locations.

What should you do?

As with anything else, you need to understand your and your company’s risk appetite when it comes to issues like the name change. Every company will be comfortable with a different risk level. It is essential to understand what information you are receiving and how that factors into your risk appetite. You may be leaving your risk-reward calculations out of whack if you make decisions based on misinformation or misunderstanding.

Once you are comfortable with the types of reports, work with your screening provider to create a custom screening solution. There will be variations on what you find acceptable in a screening package based on industry, position, and geography. Differences are fine, as long as you are making an informed decision.

Gain HR confidence in background checks by having a conversation with your screening provider. Share pertinent information with them so they can help you out. Which states do you work in? What positions do you hire? What does your recruiting process look like? This information helps a screening provider deliver a preferred application and background check method.

This information is provided as a courtesy, may change, and is not intended as legal guidance. 


1 – Other factors are used to determine potential matches; this does not fall under the purview of this article.

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