Does a Background Check Show Name Changes?

Background checks for employment use candidate names as the primary means of matching records with an individual. What if your candidate has gone by another name in the past? Learn how to uncover aliases and whether a criminal background check can reveal information about name changes.

Can a Background Check Show if Someone Changed Their Name?

What's in a name? When we ask that question about the background check process, the answer is "more than you might think." A job candidate's name is the key to looking into their background and searching for records associated with them. Combined with other personal information, such as the individual's date of birth, businesses and the background screening companies they use can more accurately and reliably seek out the data necessary for informed hiring. However, not everyone uses the same name their whole life.

People might change their names for many reasons, most of which don't involve any nefarious intent. However, name changes can complicate finding the appropriate criminal records. As an employer, you should understand the reasons for name changes and a plan to determine whether you may need to conduct a broader search.

First, let's answer a question many employers have.

Does a regular criminal background check show name changes?

Perusing criminal records is a standard part of the hiring process in most organizations. You might wonder if such a background check will include any other names a candidate might have used. In general, the answer to this question is "no." The average basic criminal background check won't usually include alias information. In part, this is due to records being primarily name-based, to begin with: you're looking for exact matches, not fuzzy ones.

Does that mean you will need to order a separate background check every time you want to check on a candidate's known aliases? How can you even uncover those other names in the first place? Don't worry—it's less complicated than you might think. With one simple tool, you can streamline this process, cover more ground, and enhance your confidence level in your employment background screening process.

Using an alias background check to learn more about candidates

Finding other names someone has used when ordering an alias search from a trusted provider, such as and our US AliasSEARCH product, is simple. Based on your candidate's Social Security number, we undertake a multi-step process that helps uncover someone's previously used names and any records potentially associated with those names.

Using a name and SSN, we can conduct a thorough address and name search to compile aliases your candidate may have used. After this portion of the search, we also poll the official records database maintained by the Social Security Administration. This step is vital because it involves checking the Death Master Index maintained by the SSA, which can alert you to potential identity theft by candidates.

Once we've compiled a list of aliases, you don't need to worry about plugging them into a regular background check and paying for each search. Instead, we provide the same in-depth assessment of our database of 650 million records using the aliases. We then share all the results in one comprehensive and readable report so you can investigate further and make fully informed hiring decisions. This reporting product is ideal for when you know that a candidate has used another name in the past and when you require a higher level of detail in the results.

Accuracy matters: why you need the right name

Why go to the effort of searching specifically to identify a candidate's aliases? Names are the primary way to identify and match criminal records to individuals. Going further and using birthdays and other information helps create confidence that you aren't taking a risk and making decisions based on the wrong records. Many people share names and nicknames—doing what you can to confirm a match is integral to due diligence.

There are no Social Security numbers on criminal records that could provide you with a concrete match immediately. Therefore, names, dates of birth, and similar data are the best resources at your disposal. Taking the time to ensure that you don't miss a candidate's records because of a naming error is essential. With name changes occurring consistently and for many reasons, there's a significant chance you'll encounter someone with records associated with an alias.

Why might a candidate change their name?

People change their names frequently and for many reasons. Escaping a criminal record by changing one's name is not as straightforward as it might sound. Indeed, doing so is hardly adequate—many states won't let felons obtain legal name changes until a period elapses, often about 10 years. Such a change would still leave records associated with the candidate. In general, you want to search for alias information as a matter of thoroughness and accuracy because name changes are otherwise so common.

Typical reasons for name changes might include:

  • After marriage by hyphenating or taking a spouse's name
  • After a divorce
  • Matters of personal expression
  • Changes in gender identity
  • Stage name adoption

These are only a few of the most common reasons. In other cases, people may not have a legal name change on file but may use a middle name or a nickname unofficially instead. Records may also contain clerical errors such as typos. An alias check ensures you can uncover all this information more easily.

Respecting a candidate's rights during hiring

Before conducting any kind of alias check or criminal background screening, consider and deal with candidates respectfully. Chief among your responsibilities here is issuing the FCRA-mandated standalone disclosure form. Likewise, you must obtain an applicant's consent before using any kind of background check, including an alias search.

Be consistent in the application of your policies. Use the same checks for all candidates rather than singling out specific individuals for more intensive or in-depth screening. Doing so could create concerns about discrimination and unfairness. Instead, prioritize putting everyone through the same process.

Gathering alias information before background checks

You may discover a candidate's aliases through a background check, but that might not always be true. You may also ask a candidate for this information during the application process, but take care not to focus on narrow cases such as married names. Instead, ask candidates if there are any other names or nicknames they've used in an official capacity before. This information may prove helpful later when you need to ensure you have records for the correct individual, and it can serve as a basis for beginning your screening.

Equip your business with the right tools for screening today

Investigating potential aliases is critical when you demand thoroughness and the best confidence in a candidate's background screening results. Otherwise, you could miss valuable information in records created and logged under those other names. Understanding the value of having the correct name is vital to creating a vetting workflow that lets you make informed hiring decisions. Take a closer look at your background check procedures today and evaluate whether you're considering all the necessary information.

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Michael Klazema

About Michael Klazema The author

Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments

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