Ensuring Safety With Comprehensive Misconduct Research

Ensuring safety should never be taken for granted. No matter where you are, it pays to know who to trust, especially in this day and age where people are becoming smarter. In this episode, Jonathan Kraut and Bill Stierle discuss what comprehensive misconduct research is, and why we need it to make a safer workplace, home, or organization. Not all misconduct is recorded in our criminal databases or is considered criminal by our law. Doing background checks on people can be needed to avoid risks and fear within the group or community we are in. Listen to Jonathan and Bill talk more about comprehensive misconduct research, what it is, and how it can improve safety.

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Ensuring Safety With Comprehensive Misconduct Research

Understanding The Value Of A Comprehensive Background Check And How It Can Help Reduce Risk And From Making Fatal Choices Regarding Who To Trust

This is episode six about protecting yourself with a comprehensive misconduct report. Jonathan, you are a big man regarding distinctions and clarifications about different ways that investigations go. California PI license 21529, and we’re looking forward to learning a little bit more about a comprehensive misconduct report. Tell us a little bit about it.

There are different kinds of background checks. The simplest background check is called an instant search. When you go online and you look for a criminal record, which may or may not be there, it may not check every jurisdiction, but it might get something. The next kind of typical search is a skip trace. We are trying to identify someone’s name, Social, date of birth and addresses and maybe locate other names, Social, date of birth and addresses. That’s usually what in the industry you would consider a background check.

That gives us this introduction to a typical background check. Tell us the difference how this criminal record search using identifiers? How does that thing work?

An identifier is a name. Date of birth, a Social Security number in some states. Usually, it’s a date of birth. If somebody lies about their date of birth and you run their criminal record using a database, you will not find it. For example, it’s common for people with issues, we’ll put it that way, to lie about their date of birth by one day or one year. Unless you skip trace them and verify, you won’t catch that. You’ll be running the wrong date of birth and therefore there’s no record. Date of birth is the main identifier. Some states use Social Security numbers, not many but some do. Sometimes you can verify the date of birth with a Social, like the last four too because there could be somebody with the same name and the same date of birth. There could be 2 or 3 people. It could be somebody the same as you in a different place with the same identifier.

You’ve got to be able to search the appropriateness and have a little more thoroughness. It sounds like some investigative organizations don’t do that level of detail.

The licensed agencies usually do. Go online yourself and run an instant search. You’re going to take for granted that the person who gave you information is accurate and you’re going to take for granted that the database contains relevant information. Remember, 80% of the current and relevant criminal information case records are not in instant databases. Unless you’re in every court in the United States, you cannot possibly know instantly if there’s a case.

Why misconduct search? What does that give us that can help us out a little bit?

Even if somebody searches a comprehensive criminal search, meaning every criminal record in every appropriate county and state and FBI and federal databases, for example, sex offenders and all those things., you’re going to miss a lot of information that you think would be criminal. Misconduct search includes behavior that is not classified as criminal and my audience will be surprised to find out what that is.

How about domestic issues and domestic violence, how do those play into it? 

Often, domestic issues and domestic violence and domestic abuse, even though you would think it would be criminal is sometimes classified and filed as civil or family. I don’t know why that is. The belief is if you harm a loved one, it’s not a crime. Especially in our work in California, we’ll find a lot of it is the order of protection and violations of harassment orders and so forth in the civil record, not the criminal record.

That also goes to follow through with elder abuse and child abuse and certain restraining orders and protection. Those are all in this misconduct search piece.

Elder abuse and child abuse, if you were only relying on criminal records, we’ll be missing a lot of the cases are complaints filed. For example, if there’s a restraining order against somebody or an order of protection against somebody, it’s not going to show up in the criminal case record. Commonly, it will be showing up in a civil case or a domestic case. There are different classifications that the courts use, criminal and civil, family law, probate and sometimes other cases are separated from each other. The point is misconduct, which you would consider criminal typically will be found in a criminal record search. Some regarding family members, the elderly and children are not.

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The system needs a little bit of work to pull the database and get some clean lines of distinction from state-to-state, from county-to-county. There are still some struggles there.

Not only struggles, California for example, but the counties also do not share information. You cannot go to one place in California and find out all the criminal records, civil records, harassment and family cases in California in one place. Not only that, you can’t find them in one county. You’ve got to look in different directories in that same county. To do a thorough search, you’ve got to check each of those relevant types of records in every county and in every state and at the federal level. There are other sex offenders by state, sex offenders nationally, Bureau of Prison records. It gets pretty hairy.

Jonathan, it sounds like we talk a lot about infrastructure. This is very much a part of the infrastructure update that needs to take place in the criminal justice system. Am I guessing that right? 

You are but it won’t happen in our lifetime. They’ve been working on this for many years. I’ve assisted some counties like Los Angeles, Mira Copa and others in trying to organize these things. It’s horrendous. Getting through budgetary considerations, people don’t understand it’s a tough process. We’re not going to see it.

The political piece and the financial piece are going to keep PIs an essential item to find the data that’s necessary.

It’s difficult to navigate this if you’re unskilled and have no background in it. I can’t imagine. We work with hundreds of counties every day. We know these counties and even then, we have trouble and we have to double-check. The court, you checked every data. It’s a lot of work.

It’s a lot of hands-on stuff. It sounds like incidents of civil harassment and stalking also can fall through the cracks as well as drug rehab and diversion or probation stuff slipped through. 

With stalking, most agencies tend not to want to prosecute anyone for stalking. They tend to blame the victim, “You’re too pretty. You’re too smart, it’s your fault. Why don’t you tell them to go away?” Without understanding that a stalker is interested in rejection, they’re not interested in affection. They’re trying to get revenge on somebody by being rejected and they’re working for revenge. The individual has to file a suit against them or that record may not be in a criminal system. It may be in a civil system. You’ve got to check that system for any misconduct relating to stalking or annoying or making phone calls, stuff like that.

That’s a tough go. I’m thinking from a mental health perspective. That’s a part of my thing that it is important to get this misconduct piece and capture people or to identify people that are struggling in a mental health way. See if we can guide them and keep them away from people in that vulnerable place.

A lot of these records, because they’re divided by type in local courts, if you do a criminal search, you’re missing significant information that probably could change the outcome of hiring someone or not hiring them. Being related or having some relationship with them or even having a neighbor with issues and you don’t find anything criminal and you think, “It must be me. They don’t have an issue.” They may have it, but it may not reside in the criminal system an issue or a record that you could identify.

That’s a big difference. What if a person, an employee or somebody, fails to undertake a comprehensive misconduct search? What are some of the elements here? We have a few of them here that we can carry over.

Let’s say that you are a landowner and you own an apartment building, and in that apartment building you have children. I would recommend doing a misconduct search, not only to find out if the person is a sex offender and abuses children. They don’t want them to move in next door to the kids. If they were ordered by the court to stay away, if they have civil harassment issues, if they’ve harassed people, if they’ve been ordered to attend some classes, that may not show up in the criminal system. You don’t want as an employer to have an unsafe workplace. Let’s say that there are civil harassment charges by a company or by an individual against someone for the misconduct at the workplace. That’s not going to show up in the criminal system. The person who brings someone into a setting, like if you’re dating someone and you bring them into your family, if you’re renting an apartment, if you’re hiring someone to work with others, you need to look at all the things relevant to their character and their conduct.

Comprehensive Misconduct Research: 80% of the current and relevant criminal information case records are not in the instant databases.

There’s a lot of protection that’s necessary. A lot of times we scare people and people get scared about this thing. It’s the value regarding safety and if we do some gentle safety pieces would have to be as scared. We’re verifying what is happening with the different individuals in our world.

Let’s say for example, you leave a loaded gun in daycare on a table. That’s the same to me as hiring a caregiver or a babysitter or a daycare person that has been convicted of and being sued for child endangerment and sexual abuse. It’s the same thing. It’s not hard to call up someone like us and say, “Can you do a comprehensive misconduct search?” It costs a little bit more. What it does is removes the liability from the person who brought that other person into their setting, removes their liability by doing a thorough search. How would you like to do an unthorough search and something goes wrong? Something that the court and the public and a common sense person would say should be done and you don’t do it. There’s no reason to be scared more be satisfied. You pay a little more and get something that gives you certainty and gives the workplace or your family or building safety.

I could see that the liability piece is important. If you ignore the signs of unwanted character traits, if you’re going to increase the likelihood of lawsuits that are coming in your direction, the increased likelihood of internal theft embezzlement by doing a comprehensive misconduct search can make a big difference because there’s a protection element.

There’s also a preventive element. I don’t know how many DAs have told me they only embezzled $50,000. Take it to a civil court. It’s an internal matter. We’ve supported clients with gathering information for the police because $50,000 or $100,000 isn’t enough to go after them. However, if you steal a bicycle on the front porch, they’ll go after you but if you embezzle and write checks to yourself or use credit cards or collect cash in a non-authorized way, law enforcement tends not to care. You want to prevent that from even happening. Most losses by employers are not from shoplifting, but are from internal and employee theft.

This is that whole idea. If you steal a candy bar, it’s possibly a third strike. Whereas if you are an internal employee and you lift $10,000, it’s a white-collar crime and who really cares?

The law enforcement says it’s not a crime. It’s a civil matter. You hired them, you brought them into your environment, go after them. It’s not our problem. You don’t get any cooperation from them lately. Maybe in some places you do here and there. We were even told by the FBI that if it wasn’t $1 million, we’re not looking at it. It’s not enough to worry about, not to encourage people. If you get a PI agency, they can dig this out. They can put the case together for the feds to take it because often they’ll want you to do the work and then they’ll take it. The best way to go about it is to keep these people away from hurting you and the people around you.

It’s a big difference. What should be included in a comprehensive misconduct search? There’s a couple of different things.

The first step is to do a broad skip trace, which isn’t simply verifying their name, date of birth and Social. It’s all the names, dates of birth, Socials they’ve used anywhere that they’ve lived that you can track. That gives you a broader scope. When we do a search, we look for every date of birth that we can find. If they lie about one name, one date or one day or one year, we can find it.

The second one sounds like a live search by an agent, not a computer printout.

A computer is not going to be able to discern whether someone changed their names or their date of birth slightly. A computer’s not going to be able to verify with the court that a case belongs to them. It’s only going to do a printout and you cannot bring the computer to court. You can’t have them testify on your behalf. While it’s a good starting point, it’s by no means thorough and doesn’t put together the little pieces that are missing.

It seems like there’s a level of thoroughness that’s needed that you almost have to search every local court, county, state a state of relevance.

You’ve got to check everywhere that you know they’ve been and if you don’t look everywhere they’ve been, how would you know what’s there? Sometimes people move county-to-county or state-to-state because they know that people usually order a search of the current state that they’re in. If they’re from out of state, most agencies that do the hiring or rent to new tenants or have caregivers only checked the county or state that they’re in.

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It’s like you need to look under. There are these different rocks you need to look under. If you look under each one of them, you’ll see if there’s anything underneath there. If there’s nothing underneath there, you’re good, but it’s almost like you know where the rocks are that you need to turn.

Let’s say there are twenty rocks. If you do an instant data search, you’ve turned over one. What about the other nineteen? Since we do that all day, we have a staff that does thorough criminal background checks and thorough comprehensive misconduct searches all day. We know where to look. We know what codes are, what penal sections are, what civil sections are. We know what that means. We’re looking for criminal records, warrants, new cases that may not show up in a database. Most new cases aren’t in databases and civil records, lawsuits, pending lawsuits, things on the horizon that may be a normal person wouldn’t know what to look for or where to look for it. We’re looking in family and domestic records, not criminal. We have criminal records, civil records, family records, domestic records and all those searches are part of a comprehensive misconduct search.

It’s the money that’s well spent as what rocks to look under and how do you know you’re done looking at that rock.

You can look at a database as well. We use lots of databases. Sometimes we find things that make it easier. If we have a case number, a date file, we can pull the case more quickly. In an instant database search itself is an issue because it gives the illusion that something was done. If it’s not thorough then it has no value. It’s like saying, “Please X-ray my hands so I know my body as well.” You need to X-ray the whole body to know the whole body as well.

What is it an average cost here for a comprehensive misconduct search? What does it usually take?

We usually estimate between $125 and $175. This is the current price and it’s subject to change. It’s probably not going to go down. It will probably go up. That’s a normal range that you’d expect to pay.

That makes a lot of sense. I noticed it says per person. Does that mean that you and your agents are spending a good amount of time looking under these rocks and that simple fee gets you there?

We have to pay databases and access fees and review. We have all our agents reviewed by another agent what we call the lead agent to make sure it was done correctly. We spot-check, we check the records, we check the documents to make sure they did everything and to some of our friends out there, avoid paying for this search by name. Let’s say someone has three married names and their maiden name and then you’ve got four names and that can be $500, $600. It should be one price to look at everything for a flat rate for a person. How many names there are, that’s where to go.

How long does it usually take?

It usually takes three days. The reason is let’s say we get the request in the afternoon on Monday. It’s got to be searched by computer first and skip trace. My tip is half-hour to get to it and then another twenty minutes to go through it. It’s going to go out to different counties. Some counties can only be accessed in person. We send it to our network of agents around the country. Those agents will go to that court and look under those directories and databases or sometimes give the list to the clerk and then come back the next day and get the list back from the clerk and then report to us then we write a report. Three days is the right time to do a thorough search.

I’m noticing here that it also says some insurance carriers will lower premiums. That means it’s almost like money found. You’re going to lower the premium, you’ll definitely get your $1 at a $25, $75 back.

Carriers have an actuarial table that denotes risk and if you prevent to the best of your ability improper people from having contact with assets or with others, it goes down. If any of you out there are friends who are interested in doing a comprehensive search and your insurance company does not give you a discount, call me and I will make sure they do something for you. I will prove to them that the risk for loss and injury is much lower because you’re weeding out people that normally would not be weeded out.

Comprehensive Misconduct Research: The risk for loss and injury is much lower when you do a comprehensive search because you’re weeding out people that normally would not be weeded out.

The insurance company reading that would make a big difference from somebody that has the experience that you do.

The insurance companies are happy to offer a discount when risk is lower because to them it’s about risk. If we can lower the risk of injury or theft or some misconduct, it’s better for them as well.

There’s a big benefit to this. These are different ways you can even promote yourself as somebody that is in this safe environment.

For example, we have an investigator verified logo, which is trademark and our clients are allowed to use that on their information, on their publicity, on their letterhead and other places and saying, “We have an outside PI agency license doing a thorough investigation.” That gives you confidence that an independent licensed organization has checked these out, especially for caregivers, for childcare, for organizations handling money and credit cards. It’s huge to have that. You can get more clients and get more business if you can demonstrate that you’re doing everything right.

Client confidence goes up. Our ability to make it a safer environment for employees goes up. That’s a big piece to it. It is cost-effective in the long-term. It’s more of a long-term play for sure. 

One example is you can do an instant search for some criminal records. Maybe 20% of the records that exist are in this database for $15. Some rideshare companies do this for $5. They’re not looking. There are some people who are international terrorists who are on the no-fly list who are sexual predators because they didn’t search county by county, state by state or the federal system in every district, then they’re liable being sued because they’re unwilling to spend the money. It’d be sure that the person doesn’t have anything that would prevent them from being at work. My message to these rideshare companies is to call me.

There’s the ownership that can have some comfort in knowing that they’re covered because they’ve been screened. 

How would you like that to run an elder care business with 40 people on your staff? All you’ve done is the state live scan, which checks criminal records in that one state. They’ve been convicted of elder abuse in other States, if they’ve been sued by individuals because of misconduct or mishandling or mistreating the elderly or the impaired, children. You don’t want them under your employment.

For somebody reading this blog that says they want to engage a private investigation firm before screening. What are some of the questions?

First, does the firm perform a comprehensive misconduct search? If they don’t know what that is, move on. If they say, “We do a full criminal record and we check every criminal record.” That’s half of it. What about the other half? If they don’t know what that is, go on to the next person or next agency. The next question would be how many years back do you go for search? Though most states believe that seven years is adequate, you’ve got to go back 10 or 12 to find out if anything’s in that seven-year scope because the scope begins the seven years at the end of the sentence. They were convicted of a crime, they were in prison for five years. That 5-year-period might end up within the seven. Also, if they don’t go back far enough, something relevant, maybe they’re not even looking. Let’s say we have an eldercare or childcare or credit card access, we want to go back fifteen years at least to go back and be sure there’s nothing that might be relevant.

The turnaround time also could be helpful too. If it’s over three days, then they’re not maybe present to what needs to be done.

There are contractors for the federal government. I used to work in that area where their background checks take three months. I don’t know why, unless they wait three months to start. Maybe three days shy of three months. We’d done three days. Sometimes it takes longer because you’ve got to order the file. It’s in the basement of some accounting clerk. Some clerk’s office they’ve got to go pick it up, bring it out, an agent has to go get it and make a copy or read it through. It might take a little longer, but usually three days is enough. They should be licensed. The PI firm has to have a state license to operate and to assess character. If they can’t assess character, there’s no reason to ask them to assess character.

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By asking this question, you could also add in there maybe, is the report free to the person that is doing it? It might be a good question to screen the organization.

If they don’t make a free report available to the person who’s the subject of the search, you’re not following what we call the Fair Credit Reporting Act. They’re not complying with that Federal and State Act that subordinate to that. A copy has to be made available. A copy of the report is not a database report. It reports on a letterhead by an agency licensed to do this and it should be signed or identifiable back to an individual that prepared the report.

How about the letterhead stuff? Is the report signed or on the letterhead? They’re putting their name behind it sounds like?

There’s an agency that can be addressed. We have insurance to cover us if we do something dumb, but luckily we haven’t had that. After many years, I’m happy to say we’re looking forward to a much better. We’re going to do a thorough job. We may not be perfect. We have many ways to recheck ourselves. We’re eliminating the chance of error to some infinitesimal number instead of maybe an 80% error if you do an instant search. It’s worth the money and it should be on letterhead. It should be signed by somebody.

You’ve stressed many times on these shows about having a licensed PI agency. Why are these different that they have a clear view of what you know is in your CMS? Tell us a little bit about why this is valuable.

A CMS is what we call a Comprehensive Misconduct Search, and before anyone that employs an agency, you want to be clear to them what it is you’re looking for. If you say, “I want to no criminal record information only and I want it in one county only and I don’t want to go back before seven years.” It will be cheaper and protect that company or that person making requests. You want to be clear that if you want to look for misconduct wherever you can find it, then that’s what you want. PI firms aren’t always licensed. Sometimes they call themselves detective agencies or data search agencies or whatever. That’s not going to hold up in court.

The key fact is there needs to be a waiver signed by the subject, the person that they’re searching is on, they have to know that it’s being done. Unless an attorney asks you or it’s for a criminal case or civil case where there’s an issue, a case number going, somebody has to sign that document that says, “Go ahead and check on me.” You need to give them a free copy of the report if they want it. Usually people who don’t have anything don’t want it. There’s nothing. How do you pay? Sometimes they say, “Sign up and do 45 searches in a month for $10. Who’s going to go to court for you?” Is it on the letterhead? It’s not. You want to pay either on a volume scale or by an individual scale, but don’t do subscriptions and monthly payments.

That usually means that they’re interested in the subscription fee, not in paying for what they do or may not really matter. You want to make sure that you allocate three days. If you can’t wait to hire someone in three days, you’ve got to hire them now or rent to them now, start three days early and then you’d be fine. You’ve got to give that time for the proper search to be conducted and then have a point of contact at your organization and their organization. The same two people are talking to each other and are up to date on what’s going on. PI firms should have one person that deals with that one client and makes life much easier. Anyone picking up the file will not know the history of what’s going on. Only the person that has experience and knowledge and some compassion for that client will be able to handle it well.

Those are all important values. The point of contact and it’s significant. Tell us more about how people can get connected to you and your company so they could access your services.

Our firm is Net Check Investigations and our website is NetCheckPI.com. There’s a list of other shows and blogs on there for your review. Anyone that has a good question like, “What do I do?” That’s a good question. Please give me a call, myself or my lead agent or my office manager can direct you or help you. If you need an attorney or not sure what to do next, we’re happy to offer our ideas. We’re not saying that the case always goes the way you want it to go. The evidence will help it go the way it should go. Being preventative in mindset before you go out the front door, check the weather, before you get in your car make sure your tires are there. Little simple things that you would normally do. What we’re saying is prescreen thoroughly and comprehensively. We recommend a comprehensive misconduct search so that you’re sure that the right person or at least the person that you bring in to an environment has nothing that would hurt others or nothing that you could use to detect their misconduct in the past.

Jonathan, this has been informative and the information here has been valuable. I feel a great sense of certainty that you and your team make a bang-up job on this thing and for people to at least call and have an exploratory discussion with you would make a big difference. That they can get their minds used to what the things they’re looking for and how you could provide the service can make a big difference. 

We know that information is power and good decisions start with great information. Our role is to provide that information and support and we want everyone to be successful and safe and happy.

Comprehensive Misconduct Research: Do a comprehensive misconduct search so that you’re sure that the person that you bring in to an environment has nothing that would hurt others.

Thank you, Jonathan. We’ll see you at the next episode. 

Thanks, Bill.

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