FAQ

These Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) are designed to provide a better understanding of the professional screening services we offer, the screening process, and terminology. They provide basic information, sometimes about fairly complex topics. These FAQs will often link to more detailed information. Please note that several of our services have been packaged for your convenience. See our Screening Services page for more information on our packages.

If you have any questions about Professional Screening Services that are not covered here or elsewhere on our website, please email mail@professionalscreening.com.

  1. What is a standard background check?
  2. How long does a background check take to complete?
  3. Why do some reports take longer than others or longer than I expect?
  4. What information is required for an accurate background check?
  5. What does a background check cost?
  6. Are there any other additional costs?
  7. Do you charge a Membership fee or Monthly Fee?
  8. Do I have to have the applicant’s permission to run a background check?
  9. How long have you been in business?
  10. Can I order, retrieve, or check my order status online?
  11. How will I receive the results of my request?
  12. Can I have more than one user on my account and can I restrict their access to the results?
  13. How do I get a username and password?
  14. How do I order?
  15. How do I set up an Account?
  16. Can I order without setting up an account?
  17. How can I be sure my applicant’s personal information will be protected?
  18. What is the FCRA?
  19. What is Pre-Adverse and Adverse Action?
  20. What do I do if the applicant states the information in the background check is inaccurate?
  21. Can I share the results of a background check with anyone?
  22. How can I get a copy of a background check that was run on me?
  23. I know the candidate has a criminal record, why didn’t it show up on the results?
  24. Do I need to search maiden or alias names separately? Is there an extra charge to do so?
  25. What is the difference between Federal and National?
  26. What does “Name Match Only” mean?
  27. How do I know where someone has lived or if they are telling me the truth about where they have lived?
  28. What if I spelled the applicant’s name wrong or provided an incorrect social or date of birth?
  29. What does “disposition” mean?
  30. What does ‘Nolle Prosequi’ or ‘Nolle Pros’ mean?
  31. What does ‘Nolo Contendere’ mean?
  32. What does ‘Adjudication Withheld’ or ‘Withheld Adjudication’ mean?
  33. Where can I get more information on reading a report or what things mean in a report mean?
  34. Is there a difference in an Employment Credit Report and a Consumer Credit Report?
  35. What is Driver Monitoring?


What is a standard background check?

There is no single or standard background check. A background check can mean a lot of different things. Most often, people think of a criminal background check but a background check can consist of a person’s employment records, credit report, driving history, education background, or even drug test results. It is not a matter of which report to order, but more about which combination of reports to order to give you the most accurate picture of your applicant. Professional Screening Services, Inc offers packages for both Employment Screening and Tenant Screening, which combine some of the most important aspects of a background check into one report.

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How long does a background check take to complete?

Turnaround time can vary from as little as 10 seconds to three or four days depending on the depth and type of search you have requested. The process varies because some courts, employers, schools, and/or references are hard to contact or slow to respond. Professional Screening Services, Inc recognizes the importance of having your applicant’s background information so you can make a decision and we do our best to get the results to you as quickly as possible. Many searches, including credit reports, driving records, and social security verifications, have virtually instant results.

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Why do some reports take longer than others or longer than I expect?

In some cases, some counties or state agencies will hold a record to verify the accuracy before releasing it. This verification process can take hours, days, or even weeks in some cases. The delay in a report does not necessarily mean the person has a record, but it could be one reason for the delay. Another reason for a delay in the return of a result could be the lack of provided information from the applicant causing our researcher to spend more time finding phone numbers and researching contact information.

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What information is required for an accurate background check?

A correctly spelled First and Last Name as well as full Date of Birth are absolutely required for an accurate background check. A Social Security number is not always required but considered to be very helpful in most circumstances. The required information for a particular search will vary depending on the request. If you would like to know what information is required for a particular search, feel free to contact us anytime.

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What does a background check cost?

Just as with turnaround time, the cost of a background check varies according to the depth and quality of the requested services. Basic background checks can cost as little as $10.00 and go up from there. A typical request will range from $25.00 to $75.00. More comprehensive packages may be more expensive.

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Are there any other additional costs?

Yes. At times, we are required to use an automated 3rd party verification system for employment verifications and/or college degree verifications. The fees will vary (from $2.00 to $25.00) and we will always request your permission before processing the request and charging you the additional fee. In addition, some county court systems charge a fee for obtaining criminal or civil case information. These fees will be communicated to you prior to completing the request.

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Do you charge a Membership fee or Monthly Fee?

No. There are no set-up charges or monthly maintenance fees. You are only charged for the services you order. We do not require a monthly minimum. You can order once a year or once a minute. We love our customers, big or small!

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Do I have to have the applicant’s permission to run a background check?

Yes. Professional Screening Services, Inc does not provide a background check for any reason without the prior consent of the applicant.

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How long have you been in business?

Professional Screening Services, Inc was established in 1991. Many of our employees have been with the company for 8 years or more.

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Can I order, retrieve, or check my order status online?

Yes, if you wish to use our website, we can set you up with a username and password. The online ordering system allows you to order, retrieve, or check your order status anytime, day or night.

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How will I receive the results of my request?

Results can be emailed, faxed, mailed, or posted to our online ordering system. The method of the return of results will be obtained from you during the ordering or account set up process.

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Can I have more than one user on my account and can I restrict their access to the results?

Yes, there is no limit to the number of users you can authorize to use your account. There is no charge for additional users. Each user will be set up with his or her own username and password. Each user can also be given levels of access in the system. For instance, you might want a user to be able to only place orders but not see the actual results.

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How do I get a username and password?

Obtaining a username and password requires the establishment of an account. Please see our Membership page for the required paperwork to set up an account. During the paperwork process, we will ask you if you would like an online account. If you do not wish to establish an account, you can order using our credit card form.

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How do I order?

Once an account is established, you will be able to place an order via our online ordering system, by email, or by fax. The establishment of an account will eliminate the need for prepayment and allow you to process requests as needed with an invoice at the end of the month. If you do not wish to establish an account, pre-payment is required. This can be done via fax or email with our credit card form. Please see the Contact us or Membership page for more information.

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How do I set up an Account?

The paperwork required to establish an account is located on our Membership page. The package to fill out will vary depending on the types of reports you wish to order. If you prefer, you can contact our office and one of our dedicated customer service representatives will walk you through the set-up process. The process to set up an account to order credit reports requires a credentialing process.

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Can I order without setting up an account?

In many cases, the answer is yes. An account is required for those wanting to obtain credit information on an applicant. Otherwise, an account isn’t necessary. Prepayment is required for those who do not wish to establish an account. A release of information from the applicant is also required. Both the release form and credit card authorization form can be obtained from the Contact Us page of our website.

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How can I be sure my applicant’s personal information will be protected?

Our applicant processing system servers are housed inside of a state-of-the-art secure facility that is monitored by guards and cameras 24 hours a day. Entrance into the building is highly restricted. All information is transmitted to and from the server facility using an encryption certificate.

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What is the FCRA?

The Fair Credit Reporting Act, also known as the FCRA, is a United States federal law that regulates consumer credit information. The FCRA is enforced by the US Federal Trade Commission and controls the collection, dissemination, and use of consumer information, including credit information. The full FCRA can be found at http://www.ftc.gov/os/statutes/031224fcra.pdf.

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What is Pre-Adverse and Adverse Action?

Pre-Adverse and Adverse Action are the actions that should occur after an employer has utilized the results of a background check to make an unfavorable decision regarding an applicant or employee’s employment status with the company. In other words, if you have obtained a copy of a background check on an applicant and you make a decision not to hire that applicant, under the laws of the FCRA (see above), you are required to begin the Pre-Adverse and Adverse Action process. This process consists of notifying the applicant that a preliminary decision has been made and allows them an opportunity to dispute any errors in the report. If a dispute is not made during the allotted timeframe, a second letter is provided to the applicant stating that the preliminary decision is now final. If the applicant does dispute the information, further action is required to verify the accuracy of the report before the final decision can be made. The Pre-Adverse Action and Adverse Action process is a service that Professional Screening Services offers. If you would like more information about this service, please contact us.

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What do I do if the applicant states the information in the background check is inaccurate?

The first step is to contact us immediately. Typically, the applicant should be instructed to provide a written statement as to the areas they believe to be incorrect. The process after that point will vary depending on the type of information that is being disputed and the agency that provided the information. We will instruct the applicant as to the process after receiving the written statement.

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Can I share the results of a background check with anyone?

With the exception of the credit portion of the report, you can communicate the results with the applicant or other involved parties. We suggest you use discretion when doing so as they contain private information regarding the applicant and should be treated with care. That being said, criminal and court records are typically considered a matter of public record.

The credit report portion of a background check cannot be shared with anyone for any reason, ever. Credit reports contain very sensitive information and are being sold to you only after an approval process that proves you are eligible to receive them. Sharing the results violates the credit bureaus rules and voids your contract with our service and your rights to order credit reports. Should the applicant want a copy of their credit file, they can contact a credit bureau, such as Trans Union, directly. In many cases, they may be eligible for a free copy of the credit report each year.

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How can I get a copy of a background check that was run on me?

If the report was run through our office, you can request a copy of the report by submitting a letter containing your name, full address, date of birth, and the name of the company where you applied. We will forward a copy of the report to the address you provide. Copies of the credit portion of your background check, if one was ordered, must be obtained directly from the credit bureau. Our office obtains credit reports from Trans Union.

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I know the candidate has a criminal record, why didn’t it show up on the results?

Some states have tight restrictions on the information that can be reported in a background check. California, for example, has very strict rules regarding non-conviction information and information older than 7 years. The rules in a particular state could be the one reason why a record didn’t show up. Another reason, and probably the most common, would be the information provided to us is incorrect. A correctly spelled name as well as a full and accurate date of birth is critical to the outcome of a search. If either of these pieces of information are provided incorrectly, the outcome of the search could be effected.

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Do I need to search maiden or alias names separately? Is there an extra charge to do so?

Names are critical to getting accurate information. Typically, court information is filed using name and date of birth. Maiden and Alias names are not always linked together in the court system, therefore, searching under one name will not necessarily bring up the records of the same person using a different name. To ensure accuracy, we recommend you run any maiden or alias names in addition to the applicant’s current name. In some cases, we can do this at no charge but most courts and database systems charge a per name fee.

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What is the difference between Federal and National?

Federal and National criminal reports are very different. Don’t get them confused! Neither type of report is comprehensive nor perfect. A Federal Criminal Court Search is performed via the PACER (Public Access to Federal Court Records) system and only searches Federal Courts. This search will not provide any information regarding crimes committed on the county or state level and only includes federal crimes, including crimes involving more than one state, terrorist threats, and white-collar crimes. Federal crimes are much more rare than regular crimes. National Criminal records are obtained from a privately maintained database of records gathered from court systems, Administrator of Court systems, and Department of Corrections systems for varies counties, states, and agencies. National Reports are national in the sense that they are a compilations of records obtained from systems all over the country but are in no way inclusive of all counties and systems in the country. National Criminal Reports are a good report for those applicants that have lived in many different places.

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What does “Name Match Only” mean?

“Name Match Only” means the case file contains the same name as your applicant, however, there are no additional identifiers, such as name, date of birth, address, or social security number, to help determine if the case file belongs to your applicant. Some systems, including the Federal Court Records Search and most County Civil / Eviction searches, do not contain identifiable information and will return a result of “Name Match Only”. When someone has a very common name, the search could result in dozens or even hundreds of name matches.

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How do I know where someone has lived or if they are telling me the truth about where they have lived?

A Social Security Number Search, also known as a Social Trace, is the easiest and fastest way to determine the list of addresses associated with an applicant. This report will also verify the social provided is a valid social and where and when it was issued. The Social Security Number Search also provides alias and maiden name information.

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What if I spelled the applicant’s name wrong or provided an incorrect social or date of birth?

In most cases, providing us with incorrect information will cause the results of your request to be incorrect. If you discover the information provided to us is incorrect, or if the information was entered incorrectly, you should contact us right away. You should not rely on the results of a request where any of the provided information is not correct.

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What does “disposition” mean?

The “disposition” of a case is the outcome of the case. It is the final ruling of the court system that determines the guilt or innocence of the charged party. Disposition samples include Guilty / Convicted, Dropped / Abandoned, Nolle Prosequi / Nolle Prossed, Adjudication Withheld, or Acquitted. Please note: Professional Screening Services, Inc is not a law firm and does not give legal advice. Consult your legal counsel for verification and further information.

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What does ‘Nolle Prosequi’ or ‘Nolle Pros’ mean?

This is a Latin term translating to ‘not prosecuted’. In other words, the applicant was not prosecuted by the State. This is also another way of saying the case is dropped, for now. A Nolle Prosequi case leaves an opening for the State to reopen a case should more evidence become available and they discover a reason to do so. Please note: Professional Screening Services, Inc is not a law firm and does not give legal advice. Consult your legal counsel for verification and further information.

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What does ‘Nolo Contendere’ mean?

This is a legal term that comes from the Latin phrase for “I do not wish to contend” or “I do not wish to contest”. This is also referred to as a plea of No Contest. In this case, the defendant neither admits nor disputes the charge against them. A Nolo Contendere plea is not technically a guilty plea, but has the same effect as a guilty plea in the end. This plea usually results in a “plea bargain”. Please note: Professional Screening Services, Inc is not a law firm and does not give legal advice. Consult your legal counsel for verification and further information.

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What does ‘Adjudication Withheld’ or ‘Withheld Adjudication’ mean?

Adjudication Withheld is a disposition (outcome) of a case that typically results from a Nolo Contendere (no contest) or guilty plea. When a charged individual provides a plea of no contest or guilty, they can waive their right to a jury trial and allow the presiding judge to issue a sentence. This eliminates the lengthy trial and need for jury selection. In many cases, the result of this type of case is a lighter sentence than one that would come from a full jury trial case. In the eyes of the court, this (in most cases) is not considered a “conviction” and should not be treated as one. Employers should use care when evaluating Adjudication Withheld cases. Please note: Professional Screening Services, Inc is not a law firm and does not give legal advice. Consult your legal counsel for verification and further information.

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Where can I get more information on reading a report or what things mean in a report mean?

We are always here to help. Our customer service representatives are always happy to walk you through any report you obtain from us. We can take you step by step through the report to explain any terms or definitions. While we don’t give opinions or recommendations, we will give you all the information you need to make an informed decision. If you prefer, we also offer the following links to help with some of the reports we offer:

Criminal Terms and Dispositions: http://www.sa18.state.fl.us/page/legal-terms.html
Legal Latin Terms: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_legal_Latin_terms
Credit Report Training Guide (How to read the credit report): http://www.transunion.com/docs/business/HowToReadCreditReport.pdf

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Is there a difference in an Employment Credit Report and a Consumer Credit Report?

Yes, a credit report for employment purposes is a different report than a traditional credit report. Unlike Consumer Credit Reports, an Employment Credit Report does not contain the applicant’s credit score. It also does not list the applicant’s date of birth and is not considered an inquiry on their credit report. Obtaining a credit report for employment purposes does not affect the applicant’s credit score or rating in any way.

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What is Driver Monitoring?

Driver Monitoring, also known as Fleet Monitoring, is a program designed to help mitigate the risk and reduce administrative costs involved with the tracking and monitoring of company drivers. Some employers spend a considerable amount of time and money on doing background checks on new employees and then tend to lose track of them after they are hired. The Driver Monitoring program allows an employer to enter the new employee’s information into the system so the employee’s driving record can be automatically monitored on either a weekly, monthly, quarterly, semi-annual, or annual basis. The system will then automatically do a check of each employee’s driving record on that schedule and alert you as to any changes to the driver’s history, such as new tickets, suspensions, revocations, and expired licenses. Implementing a Driver Monitoring program can help save an employer time and money, as well as help prevent lawsuits for allowing unlicensed or unqualified drivers behind the wheel while representing your company.

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