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Care.com Hit with Large Settlement Over False Background Check Claims

By Michael Klazema on 7/30/2020

Where do you turn when you need help finding a regular babysitter, or someone to watch over your pets while you're away on vacation? For many thousands of web users, the answer was the website Care.com, a service which allows users to hire individuals for a wide variety of tasks. With fewer community resources available and a market that desires on-demand services, such business models have become customary across industries. Safety, though, is a critical concern in any sector. 

How can a Care.com user trust that the person they hire to care for an elderly relative or to clean the house won't abuse the opportunity or cause harm? The service itself does not provide any vetting or verification of credentials when someone signs up to provide help through the site. Instead, they offer users the opportunity to purchase background checks for an additional fee as they consider whether to hire someone or not. It was this aspect of their service that led to a $1 million settlement agreement in July of 2020. 

In a lawsuit filed by San Francisco Bay-Area district attorneys, it was alleged that Care.com misrepresented the background checks they provided. Specifically, they claim to provide a search of the National Sex Offender Registry for a higher price. Naturally, this is an essential service, especially for those searching for childcare. The problem: the national registry is only available to law enforcement. Agreeing to settle the suit, Care.com representatives said that the site had already introduced a different product with more explicit terms to address the issue and admitted no wrongdoing. 

Although the service did serve users with results from some sex offender registries, the DAs alleged that it misled consumers to believe that they were receiving a comprehensive look into an individual's criminal past. Though every state maintains its own offender registry, there is no publicly-facing way to search a record maintained at the national level. Instead, public users have a separate website that lets them search each state's registry individually. Not every crime may be included in these registries. 

Vetting is a crucial part of hiring any part-time help, but especially those who will have access to your home or vulnerable individuals. Checking a prospective caregiver's background, both for criminal charges and sex offender status is not a step anyone should skip. Manually searching every registry is a tedious and time-consuming task, however, made simpler by more streamlined and cost-competitive products such as the US Offender OneSEARCH by backgroundchecks.com. Such an instant and detailed look into the individual state registries saves time and provides essential insights for hiring decisions. 

When relying on third-party contracting services, such as those at Care.com, users should carefully inspect the terms and conditions to which they agree. Investigating the scope and reliability of the service's background vetting is advisable, too. Making the right choice and hiring a trustworthy caregiver is always worth the extra time and effort.


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