UNUSUAL BACKGROUND CHECKS From Temecula to Timbuktu
Ive been doing background checks for a living since 1994 and shortly thereafter started doing international checks. Over the years I have had many unusual requests for information about people and companies as well as many unusual results of our searches. Some of the requests were unusual and some of the results are tragic. I write this to give you an insight to the interesting, unusual and sometimes humorous work that I do.
Here are a few of my favorite stories.
The Oxford PhD.
A longtime client asked us to check an existing young employee who was being promoted and transferred within the company. This employee was required to update her vital info on an application form. On the form she indicated that she had a PhD in international human resources from Oxford University THE Oxford in the UK. The employer thought that it was odd that she didnt mention that when she applied for a $7 hr. ad sales job two years earlier. The client asked us to check it out.
They faxed over the info and I took a look at the application and within a few seconds I knew that the applicant was lying. I called the client and told them that I would save them the price of an international check, I know shes lying. I said. How can you tell? they asked. Because she said that she attended Lady Margaret Hall (college) at Oxford and she spelled Margaret wrong. Anyone with a PhD from Oxford wouldnt spell the name of the college wrong. Of course we went through the motions and called Oxford and we found that LMH doesnt offer human resource degrees. She should have picked another college at Oxford to lie about. Think about this one. She already had the promotion, and she still lied.
The Nanny From Uganda
This one happened just recently. A woman from New York called and asked if we could do a criminal check on a man from Uganda that she was planning to hire as a nanny for her infant child. I asked her, Why? She asked me what I meant by why? I told her, Why on earth would you hire someone from a place where there is no rule of law, where any criminal check I could obtain is not worth the paper it is written on and where this person is from a region of the world that is the home of AIDS. What are you thinking? I asked. I was being polite. I really thought she was out of her mind. Now, I know that what I said was not politically correct, but it is the truth. She said, Maybe youre right. I got the feeling that I was the first sensible, practical person that she had spoken to on the subject. I should have charged her for the avuncular advice instead of the criminal check, but hey, Im a nice guy.
The Pool Digger
A fellow from a local pool company ordered a check on an employee that he had already hired and put to work digging pools with a backhoe. At the time, our office was in Temecula, California and the new employee was digging pools in Palm Springs which is about two hours away. It took a couple of days to get the hand searched records from Utah where the worker had previously lived and to our astonishment the employee was wanted for escaping from jail in a rural county in Utah. He was also a registered sex offender in Utah. It is important to note that this happened in 1995 before we were using the internet. Everything was done by phone and fax and was much slower.
I called the client right away with the big news. Now normally, we provide the information and it is the clients responsibility to act on it. I offered to figure out what the client should do with this dangerous employee. I asked an assistant of mine if her husband, who was a Riverside County Deputy Sheriff, could drive to Palm Springs and arrest him. We found out that it doesnt work that way. They have to serve a warrant from the jurisdiction in Utah and that could take days. I thought the deputy could get an extra credit or something for arresting a wanted bad guy. I guess I watch too much TV.
I then called the District Attorneys office in rural Utah, but there was no answer to my call. I then called the Sheriffs office in that Utah County and talked to the Sheriff. (Think Andy of Mayberry here.) I told him that I called the DAs office, but there was no answer. He told me that they were all out fishing. I asked him if he knew the pool digger and he said that he did. I said, Well come and get him. Hes in Palm Springs. Ill get the address for you. To which he replied, We dont want him. If hes in Palm Springs he ain’t bothering anybody here. You cant do that, I said. The hell I cant, he said. He then proceeded to tell me that they were a small county and that the extradition would take a mountain of paperwork, (which he was not inclined to do) then they would have to send someone to California to pick-up the prisoner, haul his sorry a** back to Utah then the county would have to pay to keep him in jail for the next few years. In fact, he was doing the county a big favor and saving them a bundle of money by not getting him.
Meanwhile my client, the pool company, is in a panic. Remember that this is before we were on the internet. I got directory assistance and found the Utah Countys only bail bondsman. I called and asked if they were looking for this pool digger. They were. The bail bondsman in Utah asked for the address where the pool digger was working and said, Well have some guys pick him up in about 2 hours.
I cant tell you how many times that the story above has been instructional to me. It is the epitome of government vs. private sector. Government moves glacially slow at great expense with mountains of paperwork, while the private sector gets the job done better, faster, cheaper.
The Wanted Murderer
We did a criminal check for a client that hired dozens of people per month. The client operated a call center and we quickly learned that for some reason telemarketers have a disproportionate amount of criminal records compared to the general population. Imagine that.
The record came back for an applicant that we were checking and low and behold, the person was wanted in Los Angeles County for murder. I called the client right away to inform her. She said that it was odd that I called at that moment because he, the applicant, was waiting in the outer office to see her. She was truly afraid.
I called the police in her town and explained the situation and they told me to tell the client that it would take a while to process the warrant; that she should stall him and let him go home, thinking that he would start work in a couple of days and that they would arrest him at home over the weekend so as not to put anyone in danger at the clients office. By the way; the police had to ask me for the mans address so they could go and arrest him.
The Ballistic Nurse
This happened on the day of the bloody glove in the OJ Simpson trial, June 15, 1995, a day I will always remember.
We were background checking a nurse for a hospital in Southern California. The LA County Superior Court sent us wrong criminal information on the criminal search. They did a name search, but did not cross check date of birth or Social Security number and reported that the subject of our criminal check was a drug dealing prostitute who had several arrests and convictions. We subsequently reported this wrong information to our client. (FYI: this is the only documented case of my company making a mistake in a criminal history report.) When the nurse applicant had her offer of employment rescinded she went ballistic. The client later told me that he was screaming, ranting, raving, cursing and threatening lawsuits on everyone.
We immediately reinvestigated the records and quickly found the error. Still, even though we were wrong, the client did not want to hire the nurse. She had shown her true colors by ranting and raving and screaming. She had been escorted out by security and in no uncertain terms, they didnt want her in the hospital ever again. The client asked us if there wasnt something else we could find to give them legal terms to rescind her offer of employment. We dug a little deeper and found that she had in fact stretched her record of employment to cover a 90 day employment at another hospital where she was fired. Because she lied by omission on her application the offer was rescinded.
Let me say first off that I have always wanted to do a background check in Timbuktu just so that I could truthfully say that we have checked out people everywhere from Temecula to Timbuktu. This happened just a couple of weeks ago and prompted the writing of this article. A gentleman emailed and asked if we could check out a person and his company in Timbuktu, Mali in West Africa.
If you are not familiar with Timbuktu, it is a real place on the south west edge of the Sahara Desert and surely one of the most remote places on earth. Think French Foreign Legion desert outpost with camel caravans passing through. I read somewhere that it recently boasted of 400 telephones and 2 internet lines. Wow!
I told the client that since we have never done anything in Mali that I would have to check and see what is available and how long it would take, etc. I am one of the few experts in the USA on international background checks. People contact me all the time asking how to get records from far away places. When, even I cant figure out how to get records from somewhere I call the local US embassy in that country. We can usually figure things out from there.
I cant say anything more specific about this case, but I can say that we were surprisingly able to get quality information quickly and uncovered another West African internet scam involving gold dust and probably saved the client tens of thousands of dollars.
The Good Looker
One client ordered a criminal and a credit check on each new employee. We did a check on a new employee and about a month later that employee called me and said that she was the new Human Resources Director. She was going over the policies and procedures and wanted to ask me about background checks. She asked me if doing a credit report was worth the cost and What can you really tell from a credit report?
I said, Let me tell you about you. I was doing this purely by memory from her report a month earlier. I said, You are single, approximately 31 years old, you are a college graduate, you are from New England originally, you live in a rented condo, you drive a modestly priced Toyota or Nissan and you are good looking. She said, Now wait a minute how can you tell all that? I explained that most of it was educated guessing on my part, but I saw no spouse listed, I saw student loans, a SS# that started with 1, auto loans and the numbers on her address told me that she lived in a condo. What about the good looking part? she asked, Theres no way you can tell that from a credit report. I said that I noticed that she had a credit card with a $1000 line of credit at Victorias Secret and I know that, as a rule, ugly women dont shop there; therefore you must be good looking.
Kit Fremin is the owner and founder of Background Check International. Since 1994 BCI has served clients as varied as: the LA Times, Department of Defense, Mars, Inc., the UN, the NTSB and Calvary Chapels nationwide. His website is: www.bcint.com and he can be e-mailed at email@example.com.
UNUSUAL BACKGROUND CHECKS From Temecula to Timbuktu}