July 28th, 2016 | Sterling

Identity Verification – A Critical Building Block For Reliable Results

When an applicant is asked to undergo a criminal record check in Canada, there are two processes that can be used to obtain the results. Not surprisingly, since the content of a criminal record is based on the submission of fingerprints for every conviction added to that record, a certified criminal record product requested from the RCMP requires a fingerprint submission. This process occurs approximately 400,000 times a year.

The other process is a name-based search of the Criminal Name Index via the CPIC system. While this method does not constitute a certified criminal record product, where background screening is concerned, it accounts for over ten times the number of checks as the certified product. The name-based search process allows for one of three federally-approved responses. Paraphrased, they are:

  • A record appears to exist
  • There does not appear to be a record
  • There appears to be a record that is consistent with the convictions that the applicant has declared

Name-based processes are overwhelmingly preferred due to convenience, rapid turnaround times and reasonable cost – all at negligible risk of inaccuracy when identity verification has been properly conducted.

As further evidence of its efficacy, police also use the name-based method to expediently obtain criminal record information from CPIC so that they can function effectively in the real-time operational environment. Search warrants are obtained, arrest warrants are executed, investigative leads pursued and tactical decisions made – all supported using name-based criminal record queries that occur more than eighty million times per year. When one considers the risks that police are managing when they use the name-based process, it speaks to the validity of that process when also used by organizations to screen employees and volunteers.

There is one frailty associated with name-based criminal record searches but it is not with the process itself. Rather, unreliability only occurs in the absence of proper applicant identity verification processes or when aspects of those processes are circumvented. Federal policy provides for two approved methods of identity verification:

  • Electronic Identity Verification
  • Physical Identity Verification

Electronic Identity Verification is a process whereby the applicant is challenged to answer questions derived from his or her credit history file. Similar processes are used widely in the banking and financial sector and have proven to be a reliable means to establish one’s identity. If EIV is not available, or for applicants who are unable to successfully complete EIV, then Physical Identity Verification is the only approved alternative.

There are three elements that must be satisfied in order to have a compliant Physical Identity Verification process:

  • The applicant must physically present themselves
  • The applicant’s identification must be physically inspected
  • The process must be conducted, in person, either by the hiring manager or by a trusted agent

Note that, as the name implies, a “trusted agent” is not just anyone. A recent RCMP communiqué to police services working with background screeners defined examples of trusted agents as being the police services themselves or the companies those police services have accredited. While employees of accredited background screening companies may be regarded as trusted agents, the physical component of Physical ID verification is the prominent feature of the process and must occur.

This is not a “nice to have” feature of this important process, nor is it optional. Any verification process that relies on biographical information as the search key has, at its foundation, a critical requirement that proper steps are taken to verify the person’s identity. In fact, it is not only a requirement for a criminal record check, but any organization, as you should validate an applicant’s identity before hire. It follows that a key used to perform a search needs to be the right key – and, your organization should take the proper steps to be certain.

Did you know that of the nearly four million criminal records in the National Repository, only 0.1 percent of individuals share a common surname, first name and date of birth? In those rarest of incidents, fingerprints may be required in order to establish who belongs to what record. For all others, a name-based check that uses identity verification processes (conforming with federal policy) provides a high degree of confidence – not only for the criminal record check but also for myriad other verification processes.

When determining whether your background screening provider is offering you a compliant (and therefore reliable) name-based process, ask yourself this: If you (as the hiring manager) are not the one conducting the physical identity verification step when it is required, how then is it being accomplished?

A physical identity verification process that is compliant has these features:

  • Applicant ID documents are scanned and uploaded by the trusted agent – not by the applicant
  • A trusted agent has physically examined the applicant’s ID and has attested that it is valid
  • The applicant has physically presented themselves to the trusted agent

Identity verification is the foundation of any information or record verification process included in a background screen. It just makes sense that proper care and diligence must be applied to this crucial step in the screening process. Doing anything less introduces the possibility that you will be hiring or placing someone who is not who they say they are – and if they don’t want you to know who they really are, what risk has your organization just assumed?

Sterling Talent Solutions provides organizations with the broadest range of police information, criminal record and other verification services – all built upon compliant and reliable identity verification processes. Unlike some others, when physical identity verification must be completed because electronic identity verification is not possible, Sterling’s convenient option allows applicants to meet with a trusted agent so that the process is completed in compliance with federal policy. Contact us to learn more about how our physical identity verification process ensures compliant, reliable results.

Next month’s Topic: Are you repeating Vulnerable Sector Verifications on incumbent employees and volunteers? Here’s why you’re wasting time and expense.

This publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out this information. We encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.