The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) issued an “advisory opinion” on November 4, 2021, reminding background screening companies that name-only matching procedures are illegal under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).
The majority of landlords and employers in the United States utilize the services of background screening companies to help evaluate potential tenants and job applicants. When a background check company uses only an applicant’s first and last name to determine whether a particular piece of data belongs to a particular applicant, there is significant potential for information to be falsely assigned to the wrong person.
The CFPB opinion identifies this careless practice as a violation of the FCRA, which requires that screeners use “reasonable procedures to ensure maximum possible accuracy.” Reasonable procedures may include expanding the scope of analysis to include an applicant’s address, date of birth, or Social Security Number, for example.
While the CFPB and federal courts have consistently held this interpretation, employing reasonable procedures is as important as ever due to the many families currently seeking affordable rental housing or new employment as they recover from the economic effects of the pandemic. Name-only matching procedures are particularly damaging to Black, Hispanic, and Asian applicants because there is less surname diversity in those populations.
If you believe you have been negatively impacted by a mistake in a background check, such as a wrong item being attributed to you, please contact our office for a free case evaluation.