Fraud in Hard Times

Friday, December 26, 2008

The US Department of Commerce conducted a study on fraud. As many as a third of all business failures can be attributed to internal fraud, totalling almost $40 billion in losses every year nationwide.

The Commerce Department indicated that employee theft is on the rise due in part to recession. "In my experience, what we're seeing is an increase, partly because some employers are more aware," said Daniel Perez, head of Subrosa Investigations. "But it's also true that when some people feel in need, they will take what they believe they can." Hard times can have an impact on the frustration level of employees and it can stir up feelings of entitlement. Employees will "take what they can" and feel that "it's not really stealing."

"It's need plus opportunity plus rationalization," agreed Don Hesselbrock, president of Corporate Security Systems Inc. "People say, 'I worked hard and the company was bought out or merged; I got laid off anyway.' It gives some people a kind of cynicism and a 'get-what-you-can' attitude."

Owners who rely on gut feelings are particularly vulnerable to becoming victims of fraud. The failure to adequately check references or the criminal background of applicants can mean the difference between thousands. And in this day and age, that could mean the difference between being in business this month, and not being in business next.

Checking criminal history is often not enough, look into civil litigation patterns as well because those check for suits for fraud or collections. A lot of employers fall into a trap and don't check out the applicant's references. It is important to call each and every one of those. A surprising amount of people report false dates of employment or job titles. Crucial employment history may be missing and its important to understand that gaps in employment may mean there is something to hide.

Unfortunately, it looks like we're in for a good stretch of hard times. It's hard not to get desperate but as an employer, using tools that are readily available and good sense instead of instinct may prove beneficial.


Drunk Drivers Reveal Poor Judgement

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

State Representative of Madison, WI - Jeff Wood could face his third drunk driving charge since 1990. He has two prior convictions for driving under the influence of alcohol from 1990 and 1991 both in Eau Claire County. If found guilty of this latest arrest he could face up to $2,000 in fines and a year in prison. He may also face criminal charges of marijuana possession since a state trooper found 4.9 grams in his vehicle at the time of his arrest.

Many employers consider drunk driving to be an offense that bars an applicant from being hired. A DUI on a record can reveal a lapse in judgement, more than one offense seriously raises eyebrows about an applicant's good judgement.

Governor Jim Doyle of Wisconsin proposed upgrading the offense level of a third drunk driving offense to a felony. The bill didn't pass, lucky for Wood, who won't be facing such charges.


Don't Rely on State Databases for Criminal Records

Monday, December 22, 2008

There are dangerous shortcomings in Texas' DPS Computerized Criminal History database. In a study done by Imperative in October of 2008, found that the DPS was missing 36% of known criminal records- records ranging from simple theft to capital murder.

This means there is a one in three chance of missing criminal records using these databases. Cases that ended in dismissals were also excluded.

Employer often uses this database and other state databases such as Texas' to make important hiring decisions. They are inadequately maintained, and organizations that are concerned about providing a safe (and profitable) work environment should be wary when using them.

Utilizing a County Criminal search is the fail safe way to find records. Using the county level courts and searching every county a potential employee lived in is the only way to ensure you are getting the most thorough background check.


E-Verify Deters Illegal Immigrant Applicants

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Bill Ekler is the CEO of Overland Products in Fremont, NE, one of the many states that have adopted statewide EVerify laws. Soon after the ordinance came into effect, Ekler posted a notifications that Overland would be participating in the program and would determine whether prospective employees had valid Social Security numbers. The number of job applicants quickly dropped.

“It became clear that you’d better have those documents to work here,” Ekler said. “…I didn’t want undocumented workers to make my life miserable.”

That misery he is referring to is the penalties and fines employers face for hiring illegal workers. Even in those states that do not require E-Verify, the penalties apply. There are serious legal fees ranging from $250 - $11,000 per violation including possible jail time.

The penalties don't just apply to those who knowingly hire illegals, if an employer cannot prove it took the proper steps to verify their employment status and continued to employ them.

There is currently a push in Washington to implement the program on a national scale that would require all states to participate. Currently, all federal contractors must use the E-Verify program to verify the identity of their workers.


Ponzi Schemer Swindles $65 Million

Monday, December 15, 2008

With the recent allegations against Bernard Madoff who reputedly swindled investors out of $50 billion a smaller Ponzi artist, William "Boots" Del Biaggio has remained out of national media scrutiny. Del Biaggio duped investors out of about $65 million. The difference between these two high dollar scam artists is Del Biaggio had a background that should have alerted his venture debt firm, Sand Hill Capital, of his potential to commit fraud.

Ken Springer, former FBI agent who now runs Corporate Resolutions, investigated. "It's like history repeating itself. He had charges of fraudulent activity going back to 2003. You have to look at the track record, background and reputation.

After two civil suits in 2003 for fraud and breech of contract, a simple investigation into Del Biaggio's background would have revealed the man to be a bad risk. Springer said investors just didn't take the time, "People didn't do their homework. The bigger your balance sheet is, the less homework they do on these things."

Del Biaggio's attorney said in a statement that he will likely plead guilty, and face jail time, to charges against him. Del Biaggo has been fully cooperative with agents. The minimum sentence against security fraud is 25 years.

With the economy going like it is, it is important to remember there are perfectly good and legal ways to ensure you are entrusting your money with upstanding individuals. Most criminals are repeat offenders and leave a trail of evidence behind them. It's up to you to follow it and do your homework.



Felons Behind the Scenes

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Teamsters have long been involved with organized crime. The truck drivers for major Hollywood films have been working toward cleaning up their tarnished image, but they don't seem to be making much headway.

Teamsters Local 25 in Boston was found to allow career felons in their ranks, including murderers, bank robbers, drunken drivers, an armoured car thief, and an accused rapist to work on the set of a recent Bruce Willis movie filmed in Boston. Local 25 president, Sean O'Brian said there have been "no incidents" since he became president in 2006.

He goes on to say that to remove a felon from the movie set would be considered an unfair labor practice. The local does not run background checks.

The Massachusetts Film Office executive director, Nick Paleologos said that he has received "no complaints" and that he doesn't know what O'Brian is doing over there, "but whatever he's doing, it's working."

Not exactly the most stringent safety procedure. Companies run criminal background checks to protect themselves and their clients from future fall out. Many criminals are repeat offenders. To so blatantly allow criminals to work indicates a disregard for safety, however, it is known that Connecticut believes in allowing criminals to pay their debt to society and provide them with the right to work. Perhaps Boston will be following in their footsteps.


Anesthesiologists To Undergo Random Drug Testing

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Two hospitals: Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and The Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Ohio have recently implemented a random drug testing program that focuses on their anesthesiologists. The Cleveland Clinic ran a survey in 2005 and discovered that 80% of those in the profession were found to be abusing drugs. Even more frightening, 19% of those were reported dead from drug related causes.

Dr. Michael G. Fitzsimons, administrator for the substance abuse program of the department of anesthesia and critical care at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston explains, "The problem is that we are exposed to, and we have the use of, very highly addictive and potent medications."

Drug testing doctors is problematic. Doctors are well aware of the signs and symptoms of drug abuse and know how to mask those signs. Not only that, but they are fully aware of the best, most effective ways, of beating a drug test. This would mean observed tests, an invasion of privacy for those who don't abuse the drugs, but little else could be done to insure nobody was cheating.

Dr. Raymond Roy of Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C. tells a story of a young resident in his anesthesiology program who would arrive at work early to get just high enough to avoid going into withdrawal and return home each night to use heavily. The young man died of an overdose soon after completing a drug rehabilitation program. The unfortunate death of his young resident led Dr. Roy to ask his other doctors if they had noticed any signs of abuse. 100% of them reported that had suspected nothing.

The doctors find the incidents rates to be the same, but are hoping for multi-institutional studies that will help understand if the program is effective in staving off drug users.

The hospitals offer treatment programs and often allow the abusers to return to the program once they are clean. But the death rate for treated residents that return to the program is 1 in 9, as a result, hospitals are looking to find other ways to keep addiction at bay, including reining in the already tight regulations on narcotics and their availability in hospitals.

The institutions participating in these programs should be commended for taking action against a problem that has existed for years. The rehabilitation programs are impressive and the ability to return to the program is respectable. Doctors understand addiction is a disease and as they are called to do, they are fighting that disease with all the tools they have available to them.


E-Verify: A Public Debate

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Recently, President Bush issued an executive order requiring all Federal Government Contractors to participate in the E Verify program. The mandate goes into effect on January 15, 2009. Contractors have 30 days from the award of the contract to enroll in an E Verify program and once enrolled they must use the program to verify the employment eligibility of any new hires within in 90 days of employment. All existing workers who are assigned to the contract must also be verified.

In a recent article, Jim Harper of the Cato Institute criticized the government's E Verify program. "The wave of fear that followed the 9/11 attacks built up the walls - both figurative and literal. President Bush continued to seek comprehensive immigration law reform throughout his tenure, but without success." Harper goes on to say that the Bush administration gave the reform job over to congress and shortly thereafter DHS announced steps to tighten employment eligibility verification.

Harper sees the program as a form of "internal enforcement," a non-entity that requires employers to act as immigration officials on behalf of the US Government. With strict fines incurred against any employer who fails to meet the requirements of E Verify and 7 states with mandated E Verify programs, employers have every reason to be informed.

Harper also sees the program as an anti-immigration program, obviously alienating illegal immigrants. But he also claims that the "Tentative Non-Confirmation" or "No Match" that employers receive when their workers' names and Social Security Numbers do not correspond to the SSA database increase an employers liability.

Understanding that this issue is much larger than simple employment verification, Liberty offers the service to our clients through our partner, Form I9. Though the legalese and the looming threat of fines are both complex and overwhelming, our partner offers a superior program with step by step instructions on how to resolve those "No Match" results, giving detailed information on where the rights of the employer begin and end, detailing the rights of the employee. The electronic archive also ensures our clients have the proper documentation should they be audited for compliance. And, at Liberty, we make every effort to understand the changing laws and inform our clients.

In this moment, E Verify is a hotly contested program that seeks to eliminate illegal workers and empower those immigrants who have been granted the right to work. But is the program successful? Only time will tell, and it hasn't been implemented long enough to determine the results of the program.


Dallas School District Issues Fake Social Security Numbers

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Dallas Independent School district has been providing fake social security number to foreign citizens in an attempt to get them on the payroll quickly. Some of the numbers used were already assigned to citizens living elsewhere. In some cases, the certification office used the numbers to run criminal background checks on the new hires.

In an internal report issued in September, the district’s investigative office said that the Texas Education Agency learned of the bogus practice in 2004 and informed DISD that the practice “was illegal.” How long DISD has been issuing the fake numbers is unclear, and it is unknown how many have been issued. The report indicates, however, that the practice went on for many years and was discontinued only last summer.

The fake numbers were issued as a stopgap to expedite the hiring process when hiring positions particularly for bilingual education. The individuals receiving the bogus SSN’s were supposed to tell the officials when they receive their real numbers so they fake ones could be replaced. The investigation found no indication that the fake numbers were provided to the Teacher Retirement System, the IRS, or the SSA.

In July, the district confirmed that 26 of the false numbers were in use after accessing the Social Security Administration database. Liberty accesses a similar system through our partner, Form I9, which verifies the eligibility of a name and social security number electronically. It is unknown at this time whether anybody holding those numbers has been negatively affected.

Though the school district was told to stop issuing the numbers in 2004, the Texas Education Agency’s director, Doug Phillips said his office believed the practice had been stopped at that time. He said Thursday that he was unaware of a law that forbid issuing fake Social Security numbers, “We knew it looked bad and smelled bad. That was the first time we ever heard of that one.”

It is unknown at this time what, if any, action DISD will face for these charges.


Senators Demand Review of Government Terrorist Watch List

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Three US Senators believe that the Maryland State Police Department entered the names of 53 peaceful protesters into the federal databases that watches terrorist activity, and they are demanding a list of those databases.

Benjamin L. Cardin (MD-D), Barbara A. Mikulski (MD-D), and Russell Feingold (WI-D) are the senators involved. "We want to make sure the individuals that are impacted are cleared," said Cardin. "We're not sure what has been done with the federal data bank and we're not sure what procedures are in place to make sure that this doesn't happen again."

Maryland police say they intend to purge their internal files as well as the files from the drug-trafficking database, and are adamant that the names did not reach the no-fly list or the other databases, "at no time was any individual placed on a terrorism watch list," said Maryland State Police spokesman, Greg Shipley.

Though citizens may be aware that list such as these exist, they may not realize the far-reaching impact of them. Liberty's Quick Check search actually utilizes many federal terrorist database lists in an effort to reduce workplace violence and crime.

Washington Post article


Random Drug Tests Result in 15 Resignations

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The City of Mission, Texas has one of the strictest drug testing policies among the Rio Grande Valley cities. They drug test every employee working in “safety-sensitive” positions at least once a year. They show zero tolerance if they uncover illicit drug use.

“The testing is to make sure you have a clean slate of employees that are working at 100%,” Julio Cerda, City Manager said, “I need to make sure we have zero tolerance of any drug whatsoever, including alcohol.”

As many as 15 city employees, all from the same department of about 150 have resigned after failing a mandatory drug screen. Mary Norberto Salinas confirmed the number, which is about 10% of the workforce.

The importance of a good drug testing program is obvious to Mission. Those whose jobs require the use of heavy or dangerous equipment or who drive on duty are a risk if impaired. Not only to themselves, but to any person around them.

Some employees have voiced concern over the testing for alcohol saying that if someone the substance might be lingering in their system but they may not be impaired. Cerda adamantly backs up the program. A person would have to be drinking all night or while at work for alcohol to show up positive in a drug test, and that compromises public safety.


The New Era of Obama: White House Background Checks Get Deeper

Monday, November 17, 2008

A recently released application to become a member of Obama's cabinet and administration reveals a new concept for the background check procedure at the White House. In the rapidly changing world of the Internet, many businesses (as many as 74%) do a standard Internet search on new candidates, especially those who will be filling an executive position.

Obama's application is 63 pages long. The New York Times has posted a copy at their website. It consists mostly of traditional background information, but there in addition, there are questions that have never been asked before:

"Writings: Please list, and if readily available, provide a copy of each book, article, column or publication (including but not limited to any posts or comments on blogs or other websites) you have authorized individually or with others. Please list all aliases or 'handles' you have used to communicate on the Internet."

The scope of the check is far reaching. Obama is looking specifically for information that might "suggest a conflict of interest or be a possible source of embarrassment to your family or the President Elect if it were made public..."

It is well known that people in the public eye receive an intense amount of scrutiny and any dirty laundry the media or the competition can find on them will be aired eventually. The Internet poses a specific breed of vulnerability. Every body leaves a trail on the Internet, but the anonymity is often what lures people to be more open and fresh. Obama is attempting the deepest level of character checking by looking at what people do when they feel nobody can see them.


Air Marshals Lack Proper Background Checks, Endager Lives

Thursday, November 13, 2008

In a recent survey conducted on the Air Marshals of the US, many discrepancies in the background of the marshals were found. After 9/11, the US Air Marshal force was increased by thousands (though the exact number of marshals is classified) in an attempt to protect and reassure passengers on commercial flights.

The Federal Air Marshal Service is an elite group of agents, charged with making split-second decisions; they hold the lives of innocent passengers in their hands. It is proper that they should be investigated thoroughly, and it is true that they are required to undergo many stages of vetting before being allowed to serve. The marshals can't serve if convicted of a federal crime, leaving room for misdemeanors, such as DUI though TSA policies state that employees who drive drunk "demonstrate a disregard of TSA's mission." 84% of American citizens interviewed felt that a drunk driving conviction should bar the marshal from service.

Crimes committed by marshals while in service are on the rise. Only a fraction have been charged, but the seriousness of the crimes are astonishing. Air Marshals have:

  • Taken bribes
  • Been found sleeping on planes
  • Pulled a gun during a parking dispute
  • Left a gun in the airplane lavatory, to have it found by a teenager
  • Hired a hit-man to kill his wife
  • Smuggled drugs using high security clearance
  • Committed bank fraud
  • Hired a female escort and held her hostage using his handcuffs and gun
  • Smuggled weapons from Afghanistan

The federal agency had better step up their hiring procedure, lives are state, security is at stake. But the agency has actually loosened it's hiring standards in recent years:

  • Recruits no longer have to pass the confined space firearms test that determines accuracy in a space the size of an airplane
  • They no longer have to pass the written psychological exam, or the oral interview with a psychologist
  • Recruits no longer have to have law enforcement experience. The agency began hiring TSA screeners in 2005

The marshals themselves are getting fed up with the lack of standards and the potential smear on the agencies reputation. The female escort who was held hostage summed it up best by saying, the outcome was "horrific" and that the public should be scared, "He's the only one on an airplane with a freakin' weapon, and he's supposed to have it to be protecting us."

USA Today Article


Job Scams on the Rise

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

As the unemployment rate rises, job seekers are facing tougher and tougher competition. More than 1 million jobs alone have been cut this year. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) began receiving calls about a Texas company scamming job applicants.

Antonio Sillano (AKA: Allasondra Sillanogarry) allegedly made thousands of dollars by duping job applicants into paying for their own background investigation after being promised jobs that didn't exist. Hundreds of applicants were conned into paying the upfront fee of $80-$150.

After the fee was ponied up, the applicants never received word from the company's HR department, and the jobs never materialized.

Sillano first came under investigation in February 2007. The BBB had complaints on their reliability report since that time that they were unable to resolve. Sillano was arrested by Memphis police after advertising jobs there. Sillano is accused of identity theft and the Memphis police believe Sillano has operated under various aliases for some time.

The Better Business Bureau urges job seeks to keep a watchful eye out for scams. With the demand for jobs out there, it is safe to say we will see more of this type of behavior. Applicants shouldn't have to pay for their background investigations, the employers typically takes care of that. If you feel you are a victim of a scam, contact the credit bureaus and your own credit card company for further investigation.


Holes in Screening Methods Lead to Vulnerability

Monday, November 10, 2008

Most companies and institutions that practice applicant background checks and doing so because they believe in creating a safe and comfortable work environment. Once a worker is hired, however, background checks for criminal activity are not routinely conducted.

Mount Anthony Union High School regularly screens employees before hiring them. Shawn R. Pratt was screened prior to his employment as a paraprofessional. Charges against Pratt for aggravated sexual assault on a child under 10 and lewd and lascivious behavior with a child are still pending. During Pratt's six year employment at Mount Anthony he racked up several misdemeanor charges including assault and marijuana posseson. His criminal history accrued while he was employed and without the school's knowledge.
The school is not required to run background checks on currently employed individuals, in fact, they are regulated against doing so by the state of Vermont. Health care institution in Vermont have that right, but there is no generally accepted procedure in place.

Joel Cook, the executive director of the Vermont chapter o the National Education Association said, "The purpose of the law is to provide school information about people they are considering hiring and keep bad actors out of the system and away from children. If you have someone in your employ and they get in trouble ... I think we believed that in small town Vermont - and all of Vermont is small towns - more than likely, you'll know about it."
Not a very efficient process for insuring the safety of the children attending Vermont schools.

It is unknown how many state's have laws such as Vermont's on the books. It might be time to reconsider the background checking process after employment.


Sex Offender Caught at Local Carnival

Friday, November 7, 2008

The offender in the video below used a fake social security number to dupe his employers and their background screen:

Liberty's Identification Verification Trace (or SSN trace, address trace report) could have caught the fact that the SSN and the name did not match. When hiring somebody to work around children, or hiring a person for any position of trust, it is important to understand the types of background checks available and what they uncover. A single background check will not uncover everything, it is best practice to use them in combination for the most accurate results.

Fortunately, this man was removed from his position before he caused any harm to the company or its patrons.


The Economy and the Job Market: What You Should Know

Thursday, November 6, 2008

It seems like everyday I read about more and more companies laying off hundreds, if not thousands, of employees. I find myself looking a little harder at the men and women on the corner asking for change and wonder, will there soon be more?

It is safe to say that with these trying times come many hardships. Even those heavily qualified in their fields may find landing a job to be difficult. The competition is at hand, how will you stack up?

Since companies are hurting, too, corporations are looking far beyond job applications to insure they get the right person for the job. The wrong hiring decision can cost a company thousands of dollars and that is just the start. The loss of productivity in these trying times would pack an especially hard punch.

So, in addition to traditional background screening that includes a criminal background check, address trace, credit report or driving record, they are looking to surveys that convey an applicant's honesty and morality level, and even asking applicants to participate in medical exams to avoid increasing health care costs.

All the tactics to get the right person listed above are legal, but there are some employers taking too many steps and if they are not careful, could end up in hot water. Below are list of things employers should never ask as part of the job applicant screening process:

  • Are you planning to have children?
  • Is your child-care provider dependable?
  • What prescription drugs are you currently using?
  • Ever been treated for mental health problems?

Asking questions like these leaves companies open to discrimination lawsuits. When money is at stake, we all get a little more nervous, but make sure to make good, and lawful, hiring decisions and your bottom line might just weather the storm.


Hawaii Teacher Drug Testing Program In Jeapordy Due to Economy

Friday, October 31, 2008

Hawaii recently mandated that all teachers would have to submit to a drug test to remain working in Hawaii public schools. Early contract talks are stalling out because the teacher's union is so opposed to the mandate.

Governor Linda Lingle is all too aware of the problem, and is facing economic turmoil as well. The Hawaii Council on Revenues predicts a state tax decrease of $75 million. Revenue growth productions are also expected to decline.

Lingle said that the downturn would force adjustments to the state budget and special funds. "I'm anxious for the election to get over and for the Legislature to elect their leadership so we can sit down (and) begin the discussion between us and the community," she said. Executive branch agencies have already been ordered to draft budget cuts of 10 to 20 percent.

Lingle originally pushed for the random drug testing program for the teachers, and hasn't been able to implement it. She did release state funds for a last round of teacher pay raises despite the unresolved drug testing issue.

The Hawaii Labor Relations Board is reviewing the current contract to see if it requires drug testing to begin. Teachers are fighting it, arguing that the drug test should be limited to cause for suspicion.

Where the funds will come from to support the random drug testing program is unannounced.


ALL Government Officials Should Be Checked, Even Those Who Aren't Being Paid

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Phelicia Williams, 26, was interned at the mayor's office in Oakland, CA for 10 months and was blatantly not screened prior to starting.

The mayor's office did not check Williams' criminal record prior to bringing her on as an unpaid intern. Mayor of Oakland, Ron Dellums' spokesperson said in an official statement that the mayor has no plans to change its policy of not running background checks on intern applicants and volunteers.

The citizens of Oakland should be outraged. A simple screen could of alerted Dellums' office of Williams multiple counts of identity fraud before she stole some 100 personal checks from last year's Mayor's Holiday Toy Drive.

Williams was arrested on October 12 for suspicion of charging over $10,000 on the company card of a former employer. She was on probation for forgery at the time of her arrest.

On her job application for the Mayor, Williams claimed to have no prior convictions. The Mayor's office defended their stance, stating the interns go through a vetting process similar to what the candidate's themselves go through.

Hopefully, the elected officials are better behaved than Ms. Phelicia Williams.


Even Top Government Executives Should Be Screened

Monday, October 27, 2008

One of the many roles of the Chief of Staff is to act as the COO of an organization. After it was discovered that his chief of staff did not have a background check, New York Governor David Patterson ordered background checks on all his executive chamber employees.
Chief of Staff David O'Byrne was found to owe $300,000 in taxes. The debt has been repaid with interest and penalties, however the discovery was cause for alarm in Patterson’s eyes.
Patterson said he just learned that “over 60% of executive chamber employees never had completed background checks.”
Background checks are not required by law for these officials, but a policy of checks had been created by Patterson’s predecessor, Eliot Spitzer.
Taking a person’s resume at face value and trusting your instincts when hiring top executives just isn’t feasible in our changing world. It is best to make sure the person you hire has no conflicts of interest for such a high level job, and a thorough background investigation can help ease your mind that you truly are making the best decision possible.


EVerify - Employment Eligibility and Your Obligations

Friday, October 24, 2008

Many states have passed recent laws mandating that employers process all new employees through the EVerify system, which is government mandated and maintained by the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration.

The beurocratic red tape surrounding the new mandates are overwhelming at first glance, however, are quite simply created to protect not only the employer from hiring illegal workers, but for employees themselves to be granted the right to prove they are legal and free to work in the US.

However, many employers are finding it difficult to comply with the rules. A person may be run through the EVerify system after they are hired, but must be terminated immediately if they are found to be in violation. If the employer knowingly retains the employee, legal action and penalties against them can be harsh.

That is not the most confusing part. The "Tentative Non-Confirmation" is where it gets sticky. Some employers are rashly terminating the employee and breaking from protocol by doing so. The non-confirmation is just that, unconfirmed status. Perhaps the applicant used a different spelling of their name than what is on file with the SSA and that is what returned.

Employers obligations in these cases are the continue employing the individual until the matter is resolved. Only at the time the employee receives a "Final Non-Confirmation" is it appropriate to terminate.

Employees have rights and EVerify works to help protect both sides of the coin. Used properly, it is the most effective tool available to verify the eligibility of your employees.

Liberty Screening is partnered with Form I9 to provide the service to our customers.


Drug Testing: Adulterated Specimens on the Rise

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A provider of drug testing supplies recently tested 1500 employees from select industries regarding the top drug test cheating methods.

A single Google search of "how to pass a drug test" will pull millions of pages from companies to message boards giving advice, products, and tips on how to successfully pass a drug test.

The findings are becoming more and more prevalent as technology struggles to keep up. Drug testing companies are constantly researching new techniques to catch adulterated substances.

The three most popular cheating methods are:

1. Specimen Dilution: whereby candidates saturate the body with fluids or substances that dilute the metabolites that are tested.

2. Chemical Screen: using chemicals to mask the appearance of drugs in urine.

3. Urine Substitution: using a urine sample which does not belong to the donor.

Of the individuals polled, 55% responded that they attempted to cheat on the drug test. 45% of those attempted to dilute the substance, 23% used a chemical screen, 13% admitted to using other methods, such as urine substitution to try to cheat.

With statistics like this, employers do have cause to worry. But using a random testing program can significantly increase the likelihood of positives, as wells using hair follicle testing which is air-tight against all the methods listed above.


Screening Delays Citizenship

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The bureaucratic immigration system has been bogged down since tightening its scrutiny levels after 9/11. With a surge of petitions for citizenship since that time, and the increased depth at which the applicants are screened, it takes years for a petition to make it through the process.

Long time legal, permanent residents of the United States may see some relief soon. A class action lawsuit filed by Muslim immigrants against immigration authorities claims discrimination based on ethnicity and religion. Authorities responded by saying they are doubling efforts to clear out the backlog and should be completed by November of this year. Once the backlog is cleared, new applications for citizenship should be processed in a more timely manner.

In May, 2008, there were over 82,000 petitions for citizenship. That number has been reduced to 10,000 as of October.

The US Department of Homeland Security edicts that the FBI check backgrounds and names of all immigrant petitions, including green card applications. After September 11, the number of checks jumped from about 2.7 million to over 4 million a year. The understaffed department used a paper system that was out of date and impeded the process.

"The background checks and severe scrutiny is on every single application since 9/11," said the USCIS' Cabrera. "We do not choose one religion, nationality over another. I understand that it can be frustrating at times because there aren't always answers."

However, many class action lawsuits across the nation are being brought by Muslim and Arab citizens. They claim they are facing fiercer scrutiny because of their race. The lawsuits have spurred organization and the FBI is now pushing the applications through in a more timely manner.


The Patient Safety and Abuse Prevention Act

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Patient Safety and Abuse Prevention Act (S. 1577), passed by a unanimous senate vote last month, creates a comprehensive, nationwide system of background checks. The bill prevents those with criminal backgrounds from working with the sick and elderly in long-term care.

The bill was introduced by Senators Herb Kohl (D-WI) and Pete Domenici (R-NM), "We are one step closer to passing a bill to give vulnerable seniors and their families the protection and peace of mind they deserve," said Kohl.

The bill describes a statewide coordinated system of abuse and neglect registries. It also requires that candidates undergo statewide criminal checks as well as FBI criminal records check.


Norwich, CT Gives Convicts a Chance

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

City Council members of Norwich, Connecticut are hearing from advocates wanting change in the application process for city employees. The group: Think Outside the Box, advocates delaying a criminal background check until the applicants qualifications have been determined. They want ex-criminals to have a fair judgement of their skills before having to check the box that states they have been convicted of a crime.

Employment is one of the the biggest limitations facing convicted criminals after they are released from prison. The advocates stress that it is not about trying to put sex offenders where they don't belong, but about trying to help people get back on their feet after being released from their punishment. Cities in New England are considering the change, and Boston has begun implementation of the new policy.

Once the applicant passes through the job qualification procedure, they will have to admit to their crimes, and are expected to speak frankly on the matter. It will be up to the hiring manager to make the final decision and they are granted full prudence on the decision-making process.

The procedure change is good, in a way, because criminals who have served their time are considered to be "rehabilitated." However, most people arrested for criminal offenses have prior arrest records and records in more than one state. (Federal Bureau of Investigation). Taking a chance on criminals by providing them a job might give them enough reason to stay off the streets and out of the life of crime. The fall-out from this program could be impressive, or it could work. I know I'll be waiting to see how it pans out.


Want to Own a Dog? You'll Need to be Screened.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Would-be dog owners in Summer, WA may face criminal background checks in order to be licensed to own a pet. The ordinance is directed specifically at those who wish to own “dangerous dogs.” City Councilman Matt Richardson presented the ordinance and urged “no loopholes” in allowing dangerous dogs to enter the city.

The background check would cost about $10 and there is some fear that the cost would discourage people from obtaining the license. There were other concerns as well, regarding the size and threat of the pet being licensed and whether or not a check should be done prior to licensing or only after a complaint had been lodged. The background checks would likely be triggered by the breed of dog, with some known breeds considered more dangerous than others, such as pit bulls.

If a person has a history of owning or breeding aggressive animals that bite humans or other animals, is it appropriate to dig up that history to limit the number of licenses that person might obtain? Football player Michael Vick is brought to mind and it seems if there is a way to deter the abuse of animals and limit the danger they represent to humans, it is for a good cause. However, it certainly should be recognized that a license should be legally required, because if it isn’t, then why would a criminal submit to background investigation they knew they would fail?


Background Screens Only Protect You at the Front Door

Monday, October 6, 2008

Pre-employment background screening is an excellent way to determine of the applicant in front of you is the right fit for the position you are offering. You can determine all sorts of facts of their life down to what their credit report looks like and rest assured that you have made a good hiring decision. But really, background screening is only the first line of defense against criminal behavior in the work place. Background screening only detects known criminals, it cannot reveal the intentions of a criminal mind that has yet to reveal itself.

It is imperative for any size company to keep a watchful eye on their employees and on their bottom lines, especially with today's financial woes, one can not be too careful. Running random drug testing programs is an excellent way to ensure the new hires are taking their jobs seriously and aren't trying to dupe the system, as are post- employment criminal background searches that can check up on your what your new employees have been up to - and if they've gotten into any trouble - since you put them on payroll.

But a company can go further, and keep itself ahead of the technology curve by creating tough company policies about legal, ethical, security, and productivity uses of the technology available to their employees. Companies are encouraged to develop policies regarding privacy, appropriate use, intellectual property protection, and they are encouraged to issue statements detailing the practices behind said technologies. The policies and statements should be reviewed once a year, at minimum, to keep up with the every changing plane of technology.

Today, it's almost a given that there needs to be policy regarding email and instant messaging. Less well thought-out arenas for policy include blogs and social networking sites. Both are wildly popular and useful knowledge sharing platforms, however, there are hundreds of blogs about companies with employees, workers and former employees hashing it out in a community centered environment that is prone to leaking confidential information that the company would not want released. As well with information, however inadvertently it may be, that is posted on

Employers need to realize that with the great leaps forward we have taken, the holes of vulnerability have gotten larger and harder to maintain. One may not be able to stop someone from posting private information, but it would be nice to feel comfortable taking action against that person.


Bogus Diplomas, Fake Institutions

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Diploma mills have popped up all over the internet and their prevalence is becoming more widely known. But just like loopholes in drug testing, diploma mills have become better and better at going undetected to even the most astute eye.

Alan Contreras of the Oregon Office of Degree Authorization estimates there are nearly 700 diploma mill companies or organizations that operate in the US and nearly 3,000 worldwide. "All these degree mills issue thousands of bogus degrees every there are tens of thousands of people out there who are using bogus degrees." (HR Magazine, Sept, 08).

It is important for employers to understand that even the most polished looking credentials can be fraudulent, and that there are tools available to detect them. Liberty uses clues to help spot questionable credentials on resume or application, including spotting out-of-sequence degrees, degrees earned in a short period of time, and the sneaky trick of institutions that sound like the real deal using a similar name the well-known variety.

Hiring the wrong person with the wrong credentials for a job can be very costly and time consuming so it's important not to gloss over the steps needed to take a candidate seriously, and that includes verifying their education claims with a tooth-comb and ensuring the institution is legitimate.


Liberty Screening Braces for Hurricane Ike

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Hurricane Ike, measuring nearly 500 miles across the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico is predicted to make landfall directly on the island of Galveston, only 40 miles south of Houston, TX, the headquarters for Liberty Screening Services.

There is a palpable buzz in the city of Houston right now. Citizens are gearing up for what could possibly be the largest storm the city has seen since 1900 when the entire island of Galveston was left devastated and 8,000 people lost their lives. Mandatory evacuations of low-lying and coastal regions across the gulf coast are in effect, with residents on higher ground being encouraged to shelter where they are.

Liberty Screening Services is located in the heart of the projected path of the storm. The map image below shows the path as projected by the National Hurricane Advisory, putting it across the highway from Liberty Screening with projected wind speeds of 100+ miles per hour:

So, what is Liberty doing to prepare for the storm? Business as usual! Our service depends on electricity, and right now, the high winds pose the biggest threat to our servers. Liberty is gearing up for a switch to our emergency servers located far out the reach of Hurricane Ike so that in the very likely event that the Houston office loses power, our customers won't. Preparations are being made for key employees to gather and post records, our biggest effort is to keep our customers hiring in the timely manner they've come to expect from Liberty.

The energy generated by Hurricane Ike in the citizens of the Gulf regions of Texas is incredible. Living and working in a city of 5 million people making preparations for a major storm is unreal as gas stations and grocery stores slowly run out of products. However, after the disasters of hurricane's Katrina and the non-threat (to Houston) that was Rita, the city is much more prepared to handle the storm, just as Liberty is.


Insider Posts Personally Identifiable Information and Threatens Lives

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Hired in August of 2001, Mr. Steven William Sutcliffe refused to provide the HR Department of Global Crossing Development Company with his Social Security Number. A criminal background search later revealed he failed to disclose his criminal records as well. Mr. Sutcliffe was terminated immediately.

Upon termination, Mr. Sutcliffe began picketing Global Crossing carrying a sign bearing the address of a website he launched against the company. “On this website, Defendant displayed Global Crossing employees’ personal information, including payroll information, social security numbers, birth dates, and residential addresses, with some of this information hyperlinked to an article about identity theft.”

On that website, Sutcliffe posted over 1000 of his former co-workers Personally Identifiable Information (PII) including payroll information, home residences, and social security numbers with links to identify theft information sites. When served with a restraining order, Sutcliffe posted threats against the agent who served him, “Our paths are now crossed and we are forever joined . . . to deal with that I am going to make you a one time offer. If I never see or hear from or of you again, I will forget you . . . . However, if I do ever hear your name mentioned against me ever again I will personally add you to my domain list. I think you understand the issues now enough to understand what this means. If I ever see you near my family again, and I know how to stalk too, I will kill you. That’s my offer.”

Sutcliffe was found to be subject to federal subject-matter jurisdiction for the interstate transfer of PII, a serious federal charge. The case is in appeal, but Global Crossing could have avoided the situation all together had they completed proper background examination prior to employment. Further protections, such as information documentation and security to protect employees, effective controls and exit procedures, as well as technology controls to limit accessibility would have gone a long way to prevent Sutcliffe from inflicting the damage he did.


Screening Hurricane Evacuees

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Amid the many oversights that were discovered in faulty evacuation procedures during hurricanes Katrina and Rita was the lack of information regarding the history of those who were being provided with shelter, food, and transport. As this year's hurricane season rages on, authorities are learning their lessons and not leaving anything to chance.

Hurricane Gustav was the first opportunity to implement background checks on evacuees seeking shelter from the storm. Louisiana implemented the procedure to keep sex offenders from seeking shelter with children after the disaster of Katrina, and the long wake of problems that followed in the months after.

"Authorities said "a couple" of men who were convicted sex offenders arrived with their families. Authorities said the men notified them of their past convictions; their families were allowed in the shelters and the men were taken to a separate location where state probation officials are making arrangements for them to be housed elsewhere. "

As Ike approaches the Gulf of Mexico, Texas is now gearing up for it's own background investigations. Any person needing transportation by bus will be screened in an effort to protect the vulnerable evacuees from any potential threat.

"...state officials would be able to segregate evacuees, even in the chaos of an emergency. “We’ll have procedures,” he [ Jack Colley] said, “and we’re not going to advertise what they are.”

With the possibility of the devastation of hurricanes, and the chaotic process of evacuating large cities, it is nice to know the authorities are taking measures to protect their citizens from further harm.


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