said, 'If there was, would you be surprised?' " **** recalled. "I
told him I'd be shocked, and a few minutes later, they fired me for
nondisclosure of information."
Through no fault of his own, **** had fallen victim to what some experts say is a disturbing
consequence of background checks - erroneous information gathered by
careless or unscrupulous data brokers.
**** said he
repeatedly asked whether he was being fired for the 2002 charges. He
said his manager emphatically told him, "No," but refused to tell him
why he was being fired. **** said he never received a copy of his
background check or a termination letter from GameStop.
job sought at Walmart
About the same time, **** had an
interview for an overnight-manager position at a suburban Walmart. After
being out of steady work for more than a year, he had planned to work
He gave the company permission to do a complete background
check and disclosed in writing his misdemeanor convictions, he said.
week later, Walmart sent him a denial letter and a copy of his
background check conducted by General Information Services, a
background-screening company based in South Carolina.
background check said **** had been convicted in 1996 of felony
cocaine possession in Gloucester County, Va., and sentenced to 10 years
"I have never even been to Gloucester County, Va.," **** said. "Back then, I was still in high school."
receiving the report, **** said, he called GIS to dispute the
More than two weeks later, the company cleared his
criminal-background check of the false felony-cocaine charge, according
to GIS records he received.
On his own, **** had his fingerprints taken at the Pennsylvania State Police's
Belmont Barracks and sent them to the Virginia State Police to
demonstrate that he was not the man on their records, he said.
said they dealt with it, but I didn't want to leave any stone
unturned," he said.
It was too late for employment at Walmart,
where Hutchinson had been red-flagged not only for the false cocaine
charge but also for his legitimate misdemeanors, he said.
GameStop, where **** said the bosses knew about his misdemeanors
when they hired him, refused to hire him back after the felony-cocaine
charge was cleared.
told me I had to reapply to see if I could get another position with
the company," he said. "Why should I have to reapply when you let me go
off of false pretenses? You didn't even give me a chance to explain."
Daily News was unable to confirm that GIS was the company that
also conducted ****'s criminal-background check for GameStop. A
GIS spokesman said he could not disclose clients' names, and a GameStop
corporate spokesman said in an e-mail that the company "does not provide
public comment on employment matters."
****, however, said a
GIS representative told him by phone that the company also had
conducted his GameStop background check. **** added that
GameStop's human-resources department confirmed that they had used GIS.
Meanwhile, GameStop also is trying to appeal ****'s unemployment benefits.
In a Dec. 3 letter to Pennsylvania
unemployment-compensation authorities, a cost-management agency
contracted by GameStop wrote that **** had been "discharged for
falsification of his application. He did not list on his application a
felony for drug possession and distributing."
Now, ****, who
has not had steady work since April 2009, wonders how many other jobs
for which he applied turned him down because of the inaccurate
"I've applied for many different positions," he
said. "God only knows how many positions I applied to and they saw this
mistake and it got read over and over and over."
Lillie Coney, associate director of the Electronic Privacy Information
Center in Washington, D.C., ****'s is a familiar story.
checks are pretty routine now, even for positions that don't require
trust that they manage money or things of value," she said. "There's no
way to know that the error rates are not off the charts."
general counsel for GIS, said the company has "fewer than two errors in
10,000" cases. He declined to say how many cases GIS completes in a day
or a month.
And the "two errors," he said, are cases in which
people received copies of their criminal-background checks from
prospective employers and disputed them themselves.
may be thousands'
Coney said many people may never know
about an inaccurate background check, especially if an employer never
gave them a copy. If a person never got a job, he or she simply may have
assumed that someone else was more qualified, she said.
every one person you hear this happens to, there may be thousands of
people who don't know this happens," she said.
worst-case scenario because you're not going to be brought to trial to
argue your innocence because you've already been found guilty and you
don't even know it."
Lemens, who said he was prohibited from
speaking about specific cases, said GIS' background checks are not
"Of course not," he said. "You know when you
see in the movies there's some kind of instantaneous universal
background check performed? There is nothing like that. This is a
process performed by humans. . . . Whenever there is a human element,
there could be inaccuracies."
Lemens said the company has run into
situations in which court records are inaccurate or "even made up."
of course, can't make sure the public records are accurate," he said.
part of the problem with data brokers, Coney said. "They know the
documents they are getting have errors, but it does not stop them from
using [them]," she said.
"The core foundation of their business is
telling their customers how many bad people they know about. They are
not into telling someone what a wonderful person this is, because they
don't want to be held accountable if something goes wrong."
said the only way to manage the unregulated data-broker industry is to
make it transparent and allow people to view their backgrounds
regularly, as they can with their credit scores.
the only ones who are going to know if the information is accurate," she
No one is held accountable when a bad background report is
produced and sent to an employer, Coney said.
"The problem is they
are not getting penalized for doing this, so they keep using bad data
practices," she said. "They are vilifying the names of the people who
have no idea their names are even out there."
For Kevin ****, the problems persist.
"I don't want to be out of
work," he said yesterday. "I wanted to work, I wanted to collect a
paycheck, I wanted to work two jobs at one time. . . .
it really has put my back against a wall, and the worst thing about it
is it wasn't of my doing. I actually wish that some people in higher
places could hear my story and see that some people actually do want to