A Wall Street Journal article entitled, “Fight Grows to Stop Expunged Criminal Records Living On in Background Checks,” features a quote by RecordGone.com Founding Attorney Mathew Higbee. The article highlights the often-ignored issue of background check companies and websites that continue to report criminal case information following a court-ordered expungement or record sealing. Many individuals who have a record expunged may not realize how frequently this occurs or how many potential employers and landlords use these private companies.
The Problem: Reporting Records that Legally No Longer Exist
The WSJ article illustrates this problem by telling of the case of Ms. Stokes, a 63-year-old woman who lives in Pennsylvania. She had two arrests back in 2008 and 2010, neither of which resulted in a conviction. Ms. Stokes had both cases expunged last year and subsequently applied for housing at two senior living communities. Her applications were rejected, according to a lawsuit recently filed in federal court, after RealPage Inc. reported her expunged cases to the housing centers on a background check.
Since 2006, when Attorney Mathew Higbee founded RecordGone.com, the firm has helped expunge over 13,000 cases for our clients. Obtaining relief at the courthouse is a very valuable and necessary step. But we have seen first hand and have long recognized that expungement is indeed only the first step to being completely free of the record. To help our clients overcome this added hurdle of private background check companies, we offer additional services, such as the Expedited Record Clearance Update service, which updates these companies following an expungement.
What Causes the Information to Continue to be Reported?
As Mr. Higbee was quoted as stating in the article, it is often just a matter of timing. Background check companies pull updated information from the local court and law enforcement agencies rather infrequently. Therefore, even after the county and state agencies have complied with the expungement order, these private companies will not obtain notification of the expungement and will continue reporting the case until they purchase a new batch of information.
This Was Not an Isolated Case
Background check companies claim to receive a relatively small number of disputes each year, but what happened to Ms. Stokes is not an isolated incident. Likewise, RealPage Inc. is not the only background check company to have cases brought against them for violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), the federal law that requires consumer reporting agencies (background check companies) to provide accurate information.
Since 2009, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has brought eight cases against background screening companies for failing to comply with the FCRA. Also, private citizens, like Ms. Stokes, can and have filed lawsuits to seek damages that result from these violations. Cases have been brought against some of the largest, well-known background check companies in the industry, such as HireRight, LexisNexis Risk Solutions, Intellicorp and Sterling Infosystems. These cases often result in large settlements, but in the end the companies rarely admit to any wrongdoing on their part.
More About Our Services
RecordGone.com currently provides expungement and record sealing services in 17 states. We also provide services nationwide to assist individuals update information with background check companies. Please visit our page on our Expedited Record Clearance Update service to learn how we can assist you update your information with these companies following an expungement. We also provide a service, our Background Check Removal service, which removes your private, personal information from websites that are commonly used to run background checks.
The Wall Street Journal article can be read at http://www.wsj.com/articles/fight-grows-to-stop-expunged-criminal-records-living-on-in-background-checks-1430991002 and will appear in the May 8, 2015 print edition.