Fixing Errors in Your Background Check
In California, if you want to challenge information found in your background check, these are the steps you will need to take:
CHALLENGE the background check company’s incorrect information.
You must notify the background check company that ran your background check that there was a mistake in the information included in your background check report.
- Send the background check company a letter to notify them in writing that you are disputing (challenging) the information in your background check. (A sample challenge letter is included in APPENDIX I, on PG. 1016.)
- You should explain why the information is incorrect, and include any proof (documents, facts, and other evidence) to support your claim. Make copies of important documents and include them with your letter.
- You can find the name and address of the background check company in 2 places:
- BEFORE someone runs a background check on you (such as an employer, private landlord, or creditor), they are supposed to tell you and get your PERMISSION. They must also give you the name, address, phone number, and website of the background check company that they are going to use.
- If someone takes any negative action against you (such as refusing to hire you, rent an apartment to you, or give you benefits) based on information in your background check, they must give you an “ADVERSE ACTION LETTER” that also includes the name, address, and phone number of the background check company that did the background check.
The background check company INVESTIGATES your claim.
You have the right to know what internal procedures the background company uses to investigate your claim. You can ask the company for this information and they MUST provide it to you.
Once the company receives your letter, it MUST investigate your claim free of charge.
- During the investigation, the company MUST review ALL the evidence you sent in and consider any relevant information.
- The company must notify whoever provided the information that you are challenging it.
- Based on its investigation, the company MUST update, confirm, or remove the challenged within 30 days (see Step 3 for more information).
AFTER the background check company finishes its investigation…
The background check company will make a decision about the information you challenged, and must respond to you within 30 days. If you give the company more information that affects the investigation during the 30-day period, the agency can extend the investigation for an extra 15 days. Based on its investigation, the company MUST:
- Correct or remove any information that is inaccurate, incomplete, or can’t be confirmed as true;
- Notify the person or agency that provided the information that it has been corrected or removed from your background check;
- Keep in any information that the company confirms is complete and accurate;
- End the investigation (without making any changes) if the company finds that your claim is “frivolous” or “irrelevant.” This usually means that you have not provided enough information for the company to investigate your claim.
- If the company ends the investigation, it must notify you, explain the reasons for its decision, AND tell you what information it needs in order to continue the investigation.
- Notify you when the investigation is complete, tell you the results of the investigation, AND send you a new copy of your background check.
FOLLOW UP after the background check company’s decision!
- If the background check company DOESN’T remove the information, or if there is still information in your background check that you think is incorrect or incomplete, you can add a STATEMENT OF DISPUTE saying that you disagree with the information in your file. Mail this statement to the background check company, and tell them to include it in your file. (See APPENDIX J, on PG. 1017 for a sample statement of dispute.)
- The company MUST include your statement of dispute in any future background checks it runs AND clearly state that the information is “in dispute” (being challenged as incorrect).
NOTIFY anyone who has received a copy of your background check.
If an employer, private landlord, government agency, or anyone else ran a background check on you within the past 2 years that contained information that you believe was wrong or incomplete, be sure sure to have the background check company notify them that the information is wrong or is in dispute.
If the agency corrects or removes any information in your background check, or if you add a statement of dispute to your file, you should ask the background check company to send a notice of the change to ANYONE who received your background check in the last 2 years.
If the background check company later puts information BACK into your background check that it previously removed…
If a background check company REMOVES challenged information from your background check, it can REINSERT (put back) the information if the company later finds that the information is true.
- If this happens, the background check company MUST:
- Notify you the information has been put back in your file;
- Give you the name, address, and phone number of anyone the company talked to when deciding to put the information back in; AND
- Give you the phone number of the person or agency that provided the information that the company put back in.
- You also have the right to challenge any information the company puts back into your background check.
- You have can ask the background check company to re-investigate any information that it has put back in your background check. The company must conduct another investigation of the information, tell you the results, make any corrections, and give you a new copy of your background check report (just like in STEPS 2-3).
Why would a background check company PUT BACK information that it previously removed?Sometimes a background check company will REMOVE information from your background check—for example, because it could not confirm that the information was true—but later, the company will find out that the information was true and PUT IT BACK on your background check report to make the report complete.
Cal. Civ. Code § 1786.24; Fair Credit Reporting Act § 611, 15 U.S.C. § 1681i. ↑
Cal. Civ. Code § 1786.16. ↑
Cal. Civ. Code § 1786.40. ↑
Cal. Civ. Code § 1786.24(a). ↑
Cal. Civ. Code § 1786.24, Fair Credit Reporting Act, § 611(a)(1)(A), 15 U.S.C. § 1681i. Within 5 days of receiving your notice, the agency must notify the person or government entity that provided the information that you claim is incorrect. ↑
Cal. Civ. Code § 1786.24, Fair Credit Reporting Act, § 611(a)(1)(A), 15 U.S.C. § 1681i. Before 30 days is up, if you give more information that affects the investigation, the agency can extend the investigation for 15 extra days. ↑
Cal. Civ. Code § 1786.24; Fair Credit Reporting Act, § 611(a)(1)(A), 15 U.S.C. § 1681i. ↑
Cal. Civ. Code § 1786.24(g). ↑
Cal. Civ. Code § 1786.24. ↑
Cal. Civ. Code § 1786.24(j). ↑
Cal. Civ. Code § 1786.24(k). ↑
Cal. Civ. Code § 1786.24(f). ↑