Faces Criticism for Background Checks Once Again

By Michael Klazema on 4/6/2016, the website that helps families find babysitters and nannies for their children, is facing criticism for a background check blunder in Boston. According to a report from Boston's FOX 25 WFXT news station, the website failed to flag a woman with numerous felony convictions for fraud and identity theft.

This incident doesn't mark the first time that has come under fire for lousy background checks. On several previous occasions, parents have taken the website to task for failing to flag caretakers with serious criminal histories. So far, though, the company has yet to make any significant changes in their background check policies.

The Boston incident involves a couple who hired a highly rated babysitter to watch their children. The parents didn't realize anything was wrong until they spotted a few suspicious charges on their credit card accounts. That discovery led to the arrest of the caretaker—evidently not the first time that the woman has had trouble with the law. On the contrary, the WFXT report noted that the caretaker, who hails from Georgia, has "been in and out of metro Atlanta jails for years."

The report did not say what crimes the Atlanta woman had served time for in the past. For the most recent incident in Boston, she was charged with six counts of felony fraud and pleaded guilty to all six counts. She will face a sentence of 25 years in prison and will be required by the court to pay restitution to her victims.

In other words, this particular case is closed. The larger issue, though—with the background checks—is still very much alive. works by letting parents choose from different tiers of background checks with which to screen their prospective babysitters. These tiers include the "Preliminary Background Check," the "Criminal Records Check," an option for a Motor Vehicle Records Check, an option that pairs the Motor Vehicle Check and the Criminal Records Check, and an "Investigative Criminal Plus Check."

The WFXT report didn't note which background check the parents used in the Boston case. However, the article did say that the caregiver provided inaccurate names to the families who hired her. As a result, the article said, "the background checks the families paid for were useless." In certain cases, such a statement would be accurate. For name-based background check processes, an applicant can sometimes make it difficult for his or her employers to dig up criminal history information by providing a false name.

However, according to the website, every single background check tier includes a "Social Security Number Trace." This type of check, per the description on the website, is used "to determine what name(s) and addresses are associated with the use of a particular Social Security number." The description continues, stating that the SSN check "is used to help researchers determine the jurisdictions under which criminal records should be searched," and concludes by noting that "if a Social Security number comes back unverified, it raises concerns as to whether the remainder of the check is being run with accurate information."

Since the Social Security Number Trace is supposedly performed as a part of even's most basic background check, the company's researchers should have been able to determine that the caregiver in this particular case was lying about her name. Barring the unlikely scenario where the woman had Social Security Numbers to go along with her false names, her lies should have collapsed under the scrutiny of a background check. The fact that they didn't begs the question of whether or not ran a background check at all.


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