A 6-part blog on why background checks miss records: Part 4

We are four weeks into our six-part series. So far we have identified searching for the wrong person, only doing database searches, and not doing county searches. Next on the list is sex offender searches. As with those searches we’ve outlined previously, there is a right way and a wrong way to do the search. Most background check companies utilize a sex offender database search. The databases are created by downloading a file from the sex offender registries, typically the 50 states and DC, and then compiling them into a single resource. It makes it fast and cheap to search the names. On the surface this seems like a great idea, right?

Databases & Updates

Once again, it’s still a database and the information is only as good as the source and the last time it was updated. Part of the challenge is that state registries themselves restrict how often files can be downloaded. It varies anywhere from once per week to once every six months. As if that were not troubling enough, there are several states that are 12-18 months behind updating their file. That means that if you are searching a sex offender database, the information could be anywhere from a week to a year and a half out of date.

Sex offenders are required by law to register themselves in their new state of residence if they move. In the above example, they could follow the law, register with their new state, and apply for a job. The new employer does a sex offender search and sees nothing and so they hire the individual. It could be months or years later when it comes to light either because the offender was recognized or a rescreen was conducted. So what is the solution?

For Best Results go to the Source  

The best way to conduct a sex offender search, like other criminal searches, is to go to the source. The Department of Justice’s National Sex Offender Public Website is a real-time source that all of the participating registries interface with. Anyone can access this resource free of charge, however, there are some challenges. A search for an individual with a popular name can yield hundreds of results. Additionally, it’s not uncommon to do a search and see an error message stating that one or more states were not communicating at that time. Searching the NSOPW, and all participating registries individually are the best way to make sure nothing is overlooked. That means all 50 states, DC, US Territories, and Tribal registries should be included in your search.



One Source’s TotalCheck and TotalCheck Plus packages include a real-time, nationwide sex offender search that includes: 

  • 50 states
  • DC
  • US Territories
  • All Tribal registries.



About Author

Greg Simmons
Greg Simmons

Greg oversees the nonprofit business development at One Source. He helps clients around the country and across a full range of industries hire the right people by providing the most comprehensive pre-employment screening products and services.

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