When trying to learn information about an individual, many companies turn to online background checks to uncover or confirm information. However, doing so could prove a mistake if this is the primary step taken to understand an individual’s background, as relied upon information may not be fully verified.
Hiring a licensed investigator can not only help ensure high-quality information is obtained, it can also facilitate the analysis of this information to provide a complete picture of an individual, says Theresa Mack, CPA, CFF, CAMS, CFCI, PI, a senior manager with Cendrowski Corporate Advisors.
“A simple background check may provide an incomplete picture of an individual and overlook critical information,” says Mack. “By hiring a licensed investigator to conduct background due diligence, you can ensure that no stone is left unturned.”
Smart Business spoke with Mack about how a licensed investigator can help your business uncover the information you need and put it in an appropriate context.
Why should a company hire a licensed investigator to conduct background due diligence activities rather than perform an online background check?
Most online or database-driven background checks are actually ‘record checks.’ In other words, data from records is compiled and the quality of source information is not thoroughly verified.
For some purposes, this cursory check of public records may be sufficient. However, depending on the information found, the nature of the background check, the check’s intended use and the access to confidential/proprietary information that a potential employee may have, a complete background due diligence investigation may be warranted.
A background due diligence investigation, as performed by licensed investigators, is far from a cursory background check. No single record or method of search is generally employed; instead, an investigator uses multiple resources to verify data accuracy and corroborate information. Thus, background due diligence investigations help reduce the risk of client reliance on false information.
What process is employed by investigators to perform background due diligence activities?
An investigator generally works on a six-step methodology: prepare, inquire, analyze, query, document and report. This methodology is highly applicable to background investigations.
An accurate and comprehensive investigation is based upon existing, determined and verified information. Leaving no rock unturned and making every conceivable effort to locate all possible information is generally the objective of an investigator.
Investigators will tailor their activities to suit the needs of their clients, which typically include attorneys, businesses and individuals. Client needs will define both the records checked by the investigator and the type of documents that can be released to the investigator and the client.
Where will an investigator begin his or her research?
An investigator often begins the research process by examining open source information. In this instance, open source refers to sources that are overt and publicly available, as opposed to covert or classified sources; it is not related to open-source software or public intelligence.
Open source information includes public documents that are created over a person’s lifetime, allowing the investigator to follow a paper trail leading to a complete history of the individuals being searched. These may include court filings, property tax documents, vehicle registrations and social media sources, among others.
Open source intelligence is a form of intelligence collection management that involves finding, selecting and acquiring information from publicly available sources and analyzing it to produce actionable intelligence.
How does an investigator evaluate source information?
Any record that is kept or provided is only as good as the chain of events involved in its creation. While doing online record checks simply provides information on an individual, investigators are often tasked with evaluating the veracity of the source data.
Record maintenance, storage and dissemination procedures can often impact the accuracy of information. Typos, misprints and mistakes introduced by human error can also affect the accuracy of records. These latter items are often seen on personal credit reports, criminal convictions and even civil litigation histories, which, although they are official records can nonetheless contain errors.
Processes for updating records can also have an impact on the accuracy of information, as records are only as accurate as their frequency of update. Some records are never updated and may provide stale data if a user is unaware of this underlying issue.
Finally, the method data that warehouses employ for acquiring information critically impacts information integrity. For instance, the provider may have purchased information from a secondary source. In such an instance, it is essential that the provider have accurate retrieval processes and is knowledgeable about handling special data items.
Each of these issues is evaluated by an investigator over the course of conducting background due diligence activities.
Theresa Mack,CPA, CFF, CAMS, CFCI, PI, is a senior manager with Cendrowski Corporate Advisors. Reach her at (866) 717-1607 or firstname.lastname@example.org.