Running a background check without permission

Can I ever run a background check without permission?

The reasons to run a background check—and contexts in which you could need a background report are numerous: You may need a report ASAP. You may be running a check outside a formal hiring process. You may need a large number of reports completed at once.

Under a time constraint and without the strict rules of a hiring process, you might wonder whether it’s necessary to get the subject’s permission to run a screening. Technically, if you have someone’s full name, you could run a background check on them without their knowledge. However, that doesn’t mean you should. Ethically—and often legally—you should always obtain permission before screening anyone.

So the short answer is no, you can’t run a background check without permission. Screening ethics aren’t quite that simple though. Background checks in personal and professional settings have different expectations. Let’s dive into the rules, expectations and potential consequences of running background checks in different contexts so you can decide what makes the most sense for you.

Background checks in larger organizations.

If you are a landlord or an employer that hires frequently, you likely run background checks on your applicants to help you decide who to hire or rent to. In organizations with a full HR department, things are a bit different. You have employment policies and all the disclosure and authorization forms you need to properly run a pre-employment background check. But there are legal obligations for organizations that perform a lot of screenings that require consistent care, and you shouldn’t go it alone.

The information you gather from consumer reports has a direct impact on someone’s future, so you must abide by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). The FCRA protects applicants with specific rights through the entire background check process. The law requires you to get their approval to run a consumer report—and they have the right to dispute that information.

No organization or landlord should ever disregard the FCRA. Those who do can end up in serious legal trouble like image-damaging class action lawsuits. A screening partner like One Source can help guide you through the FCRA with ease and make screening a simple and clear process. Often, credit reporting agencies (CRA) will provide you with an FCRA disclosure and authorization form as well as a sample policies and procedures to help you start. You don’t want to start off on the wrong foot by running a background check without permission. 

Background checks on a smaller scale.

Not everyone who runs a background check hires frequently or has an HR department. Smaller organizations that handle professional hiring may only need to run one or two background checks. Or you may be an individual wanting to run a report on just yourself. 

Even if you don’t hire frequently, that does not mean you shouldn’t inform those that you intend to screen. You should still have an employment policy in place and treat each new hire for similar positions equally. If you decide to utilize a CRA for this type of background check, then you will need to follow the FCRA requirements.

One Source can help with screenings on a smaller scale with our specializations in screenings for contractors and contingent works. If you want someone to do work on your office or rental home, you can screen them under the permissible purpose of site access. While you could look up the contractor online for reviews of their work, you can get a professional report on their background by utilizing a CRA. In order to do that, you must inform them of your intent to screen. Once again, you must not run a background check without permission.

At One Source, we help you see how the FCRA and screening ethics fit into your background check needs. Contact our Client Relations team today to see what screening options are best for you.