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This is Part Four in my series on how to request free copies of your specialty consumer reports. You can read the entire series starting here.

If you’ve applied for a job lately, you may have been asked to fill out a form authorizing your prospective employer to conduct a background check on you. Here is an excerpt from an employment screening authorization form:

The report may contain information bearing on your character, general reputation, personal characteristics, mode of living and/or credit standing. The information that will be included in your report include: credit reports, social security number trace, criminal records checks, public court records checks, driving records checks, educational records checks, verification of employment positions held, personal and professional references checks, and licensing and certification checks.

Typically, employers contract with background screening firms that, in turn, get credit reports from one or more of the three major credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian or TransUnion. (Employers do not get credit scores. These reports also do not include your date of birth, to help protect against age discrimination.) Employers who want to review your credit reports as part of a background check must get your written permission first.

Just because you sign one of these forms doesn’t necessarily mean the employer will check your credit. Only 13% of employers surveyed by the Society of Human Resources Management said they conduct credit checks on all employees. Four states (HI, IL, OR and WA) also have laws that place restrictions on how/when credit reports can be used for employment, and other states are considering similar legislation.

If your employer, or a prospective employer takes any adverse action against you (for example, does not hire you) due to information in your credit reports, you must be notified of that fact and given the opportunity to request a free disclosure of your file.

In addition to credit checks, however, employers may conduct background checks to verify your prior employment history, research criminal records, etc.

There are two nationwide specialty reporting agencies that provide free annual disclosures to consumers under the FACT Act:

The Work Number
According to the work number, their “most popular feature is its employment and income verification service. It is used by… pre-employment screeners, and others who need to verify someone’s employment status and sometimes, his or her income as well.”

First Advantage Background Checks

According to the First Advantage website, this service can verify the identities, immigration status and professional and educational backgrounds of those applying for jobs; search for criminal records, sex offenses, professional and legal sanctions; verify professional credentials and more. It says it conducts more than 18 million background screenings per year.

Warning: Do not fill out a background check or credit check authorization form online unless you have verified the company and the job opportunity are legitimate. It may be an identity theft scam.

To request your free reports:

  • The Work Number: Call 1-866-604-6570 or visit TheWorkNumber.com.
  • First Advantage Background Check: Call  888.215.3727 or visit FADV.com.

Next week: I’ll share how to get free disclosures of medical reports.

To read the full series on Specialty Consumer Reports, you can find them all right here at Credit.com:

  1. Free Consumer Reports: Nationwide Specialty Agencies
  2. Specialty Consumer Reports: Employment Reports
  3. How to Request Your Free Medical Report Disclosures
  4. Specialty Consumer Reporting Agencies: Tenant History Reports

Editor’s note: Updated October 10, 2013 to provide current information First Advantage background screening.

Image by capturingJenna, via Flickr.

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