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Background Checks: Still the Most Reliable Route to Online Safety

Two years ago, following the reports that some of its teenage users were abducted by sex predators, the online networking site MySpace commissioned Sentinel Safe Tech Holdings Corp., a background verification firm, to create a national database of sex offenders. Prior to the existence of the national database, information on convicted sex offenders was available only locally, mostly manually. Nowadays, although elusive internet users can reach far and wide, with no territorial limit, it's also a lot easier to obtain accurate data due to the transparency the national database now affords us. Over the last two years MySpace has identified and barred some 90,000 registered sex offenders from using the site, and has made the data available to law enforcement agencies. The question remains, where are those 90,000 sex offenders going to resurface?

It naturally followed that the newer Facebook might also host substantial numbers of convicted sex offenders. Facebook previously claimed their site has yet to handle a case of a registered sex offender meeting a minor, because they enforce a real-name culture which creates a safer, more trusted environment. Yet, how can anyone be sure that members are actually using real names? Or that a person going by a certain name is not a sex offender? Facebook is still ripe with possibilities. New evidence suggests that a large portion of sex offenders from MySpace are now on Facebook. Sentinel reports that of the 90,000 removed from MySpace, they effortlessly found over 8,000 offenders on Facebook. They believe the real number is 15 to 20 times that. Facebook agreed to identify and remove the profiles of all registered sex offenders, and once they received the list of matches, disabled all the known accounts.

That's all well and good, but not nearly enough. To date, not all known sex offenders - not to mention the unknown ones - were found and removed from Facebook, or even MySpace. It's also safe to assume that the national database of registered sex offenders can't possibly contain every single dangerous individual out there. Registered sex offenders have been found guilty of sex crimes and ordered to register with law enforcement officials. That does not mean that ALL sex offenders were identified, registered and will subsequently be banned from the internet altogether. Potential first-time or unidentified sex offenders are still out there, finding ways to infiltrate new social networking sites, dating sites, and various chat rooms. To us regular consumers, this means we can't let our guard down. The burden is still on us to protect ourselves and our children, and we can't rely on someone else to do it for us. That means running background checks on every stranger we come across online, who has the potential to have a negative impact on our lives.

Avoiding false positives on background checks

Let's face it: having to go through a background check is stressful enough. Getting a false positive result can unnecessarily magnify that stress for both the subject and the entity performing the check. Needless to say, conducting a background check is a sensitive matter, and every precaution should be taken to avoid false positives. Usually, such blunders can be caused by inaccurate data, identity theft, or coincidence.

Background investigation is not an exact science, so be prepared to occasionally overlook a record or report a false positive. The best way to avoid inaccurate results is to start on a small scale, close to home, gradually widening the scope of your search. Knowing where the person has lived, worked, or attended college during the last 10 years is vital information for an accurate background check. When looking for a criminal record, the most reliable and current sources are county courthouse files for the subject's home and surrounding counties.

Narrowing your range also eliminates many same-name records - the smaller the area, the fewer duplicates on your report. Make sure to obtain the middle name to distinguish from other subjects with same first and last names. The key to successfully retrieving the correct criminal record is matching the name and date of birth. To ensure you have the right birth date, compare your data to driving records, social security annals and credit reports.

Information procured from state-wide databases is very useful in supplementing county searches. These sources aid in discovering crimes that may have been committed outside the subject's county or state of residence. When a database returns a positive record, its accuracy should be verified with a court search before being included on the report.

Short of obtaining fingerprints, these methods are practically guaranteed to produce accurate results. These basic steps should drastically minimize, if not completely eliminate false positive results on background checks.

Background Check Report Demystified

Background check reports provide detailed information on the subject in several vital categories, compiled from various reliable public record sources. The components of a sample background check report are described below:

Personal Public Records Data includes the person's name, any and all aliases ever used, date of birth and age.

Address History provides addresses for all known places of residence and phone numbers for each address.

Property History Summary lists the address, name of the owner, current real estate taxes, names and addresses of surrounding neighbors, and a list of relatives. There is also a subsection providing information about the general area: local averages - population, house price, household income - and the number of sex offenders.

Single State Criminal Check discovers any existing criminal history, both felonies and misdemeanors, via a thorough public record search within County Courts, State Courts, Administrative Office of the Courts, Department of Corrections and Sex Offender Registries.

Note: a nationwide criminal check is available in a separate report for a nominal additional fee.

Single State Civil Judgments searches for records of bankruptcies, tax lien filings, small claims, civil actions, and other civil judgment-related records, if any.

Current/Historical People Search reveals the name, date of birth and age of the subject, names of all known relatives, address history, previous cities of residence, average income and house value, and can provide insight into marriage/divorce history.

Modern Renaissance Man

Jose Badillo is an educated man with many varied interests. His education involved computers, and he enjoys selling over the Internet. He also once had a deejay business, and even took flying lessons. Jose also likes to travel, and has dual U.S./Mexican citizenship.

Badillo landed on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list for allegedly raping and molesting a minor female over several years. Badillo faces federal charges of "transporting a minor in foreign commerce with intent to engage in sexual activity, and tampering with a federal witness/victim," and was further charged with possession of child pornography.

Magnetic International Businessman

Igor Fisherman, originally from Ukraine, has been involved in multi-million dollar deals and stocks, including the industrial magnet market. He has traveled extensively around the world, including the United States, where he is a naturalized citizen, as well as Russia and Canada.

Fisherman was added to the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list after a federal indictment was issued for Fisherman and two of his partners for racketeering, securities fraud, wire fraud, mail fraud and money laundering. Fisherman is alleged to have been involved in a scheme which consisted of a network of companies in over twenty different countries which fooled people into believing theirs was a profitable and respected company. Investors lost over $150 million to the three men.

Spiritual Elderly Gambler

At 72 years old, Robert Bowman is a real character, full of unexpected talents and abilities. His career has included such diverse jobs as sales, fast food management, x-ray technician and gambling. He is very spiritual, and often reads books on spiritual topics. For fun, Bowman likes to read, play card games, and perform magic tricks with cards.

Bowman has also been accused of raping and murdering 14-year-old Eileen Adams, in 1967, by his then-wife. She didn't say anything at the time due to a fear of reprisal, but confessed to what she had seen after 14 years had passed. At the time, police had no physical evidence tying him to the crime, and could do nothing, but modern forensic science made a DNA match to Bowman in 2006. Bowman is considered to be a sadomasochistic sociopath.

Flamboyant Multilingual Businessman

Jason Brown leads an active life, both at work, and at play. Jason puts his Masters Degree in International Business to use as a golf equipment importer. His private life includes golf, snowboarding, skiing, and riding his dirt bike, as well as frequenting nightclubs. Jason has also traveled to Mexico and France.

Brown landed on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list for murder committed during an armed robbery of an armored car in 2004. He is known to have in his possession two handguns, and is considered by the FBI to be armed and extremely dangerous.

Active Outdoorsman Helps People In Need

Your next stay in the hospital may result with your being in the care of Robert W. Fisher, a Surgical Catheter Technician. This avid outdoorsman likes to hunt and fish, and stays fit despite a lower back injury that sometimes causes him to walk with an exaggerated erect posture, with his chest pushed out. Fisher has a career of helping people, having also been a Respiratory Therapist and a Firefighter.

Robert Fisher is also on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitive list for allegedly killing his wife and two young children. He then allegedly blew up the family home in Scottsdale, Arizona in 2001. Fisher is considered armed and extremely dangerous according to the FBI.

Elderly History Buff Enjoys Traveling

James Bulger, a 69-year-old history buff, is "known to frequent libraries and historic sites," according to one web site. Despite being on medication for a heart condition, he takes walks on beaches and in parks with Catherine, his female companion. He and Catherine also love animals, and James has a fondness for wearing disguises, and for traveling throughout the Unites States, Canada, Mexico and Europe.

James Bulger is also on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list. The list of reasons mentioned by the FBI make him sound like a character on the Sopranos: "Racketeering influenced and corrupt organizations (RICO) - murder (19 counts), conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to commit extortion, narcotics distribution, conspiracy to commit money laundering; extortion; money laundering ... He has a violent temper and is known to carry a knife at all times."

Related: Background Check News by State
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