Frequently Asked Questions

What are your hours of Operation?

We are open 8-4:30 CST, Monday – Friday except for major Holidays.

What is your privacy policy?

Under no circumstances will the personal information collected and maintained in our databases ever be sold or provided to an outside entity for any purpose. The McDowell Agency, Inc. does not use our database of applicant information to compile mailing lists for sales or any other purpose. All data shall be collected, stored and used in compliance with applicable law, which may include the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, individual state background screening and privacy laws and other national and international laws.

What security do you have for your website? I am concerned about entering confidential information.

The McDowell Agency, Inc. uses multiple layers of security to ensure information is kept in strict confidence. From the point of entry, all data is encrypted upon submission to our web server. The McDowell Agency, Inc. uses 256 bit SSL security, with a security certificate provided by VerisignTM. The McDowell Agency, Inc.’s web server is running a specialized Web-only version of Windows Server 2008 R2, is protected behind both hardware and software firewalls, and is locked in a secure, armed guard network operating center in the Twin Cities area.

“At rest” data in the data center is encrypted on our redundant SANS systems (high and low speed) which is also SSAE 16 certified. In addition, all data in the data center is behind a “managed” Protect Point fully redundant system with intrusion prevention and detection monitoring by Protect Point network analysts and sophisticated software algorithms, 24/7/365.

Why is background screening necessary?

An applicant’s past history is the best predictor of future performance. Background screening is your chance to validate information provided by your applicant. It can reveal discrepancies and information that was intentionally or inadvertently withheld; for example, a county of residence that contains a criminal record or poor employment reference. Simply knowing a screening program is in place can discourage applicants with criminal records or false qualifications, and encourage applicants to be more forthcoming about their past. Background screening also demonstrates due diligence on the part of the employer, and arms the employer with hard facts to make confident hiring decisions.

How much does background screening cost?

The cost of background screening can vary based on several factors such as types of background checks, annual volume, geography, candidate demographics, and so on. Most background reports contain several different types of background checks, such as a Social Security Address Trace, County Criminal Searches, Employment History Verifications, Education History Verifications, and more. We can help you tailor a cost-effective and comprehensive background screening program that meets your unique needs.

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What is the turnaround time for a background check?

Our average turnaround time is 2-3 business days. Use of our online service expedites the background screening process. Some counties searched may take longer. Also, anytime you add a third party for your background check, such as education or employment verifications, the turnaround time may end up longer.

What happens if an applicant disputes background screening results?

The applicant may be referred to The McDowell Agency, Inc. and we will provide them with the source of the information as well as who to contact to dispute that information.

How do I make requests and receive reports?

Requests are entered online using our convenient online process. Results are received the same way. You will receive an email notifying you when results are available. You can check the status of all applicants by viewing our status reports or contacting your designated account representative.

Why do we need a candidate’s Social Security Number?

A Social Security Number is necessary in order to improve the reliability of the background check report. The Social Security Number provides three vital functions in the background check process:

  • Validating that the Social Security Number is real, still active, and issued after the provided date of birth.
  • Identifying relevant past addresses and additional alias names that are associated with the individual. If additional names and addresses are found, they are used to determine where criminal background checks should be performed and under what names they should be searched.
  • Matching background check information to a given individual, depending on the source.

Why are county criminal searches necessary when statewide databases are available?

State criminal repositories are often not linked with county-level data. Although Statewide Criminal Searches can be a great supplement to a County Criminal Search, county-level information is more commonly up-to-date and accurate. State “databases” are often periodically updated making them less reliable. To get a complete and accurate picture, we recommend using county-level searches to identify records in counties of residence. As a prerequisite to county-level searches, we also recommend a USA Criminal Index Search to help identify jurisdictions on a broader scale where a person may have a criminal record.

How do I know which counties to search?

Typically counties to be searched are derived from the applicant’s provision of all employment and residence locations within the last seven years. Additional locations can be discovered through a Social Security Number/Address Trace to supplement information provided by the candidate. This type of trace is based upon credit reporting agencies and many other resources.

When is a Motor Vehicle Records check necessary?

It is recommended you supplement your package with a Motor Vehicle Record search for all applicants whose job description requires driving on behalf of your organization.

When is a Credit Report necessary?

It is recommended you supplement your package with a Credit Report for all applicants whose job description requires the handling of money or any other financial responsibilities on behalf of your organization.

What if an applicant has a maiden name or other alias?

Our forms request the disclosure of all names used in the last seven years; these alternate names will be entered as AKAs and searched as well. The Social Security Address Trace will also find additional aliases.

Are release forms necessary from the applicant?

Yes, a signed release form should be obtained from each applicant before initiating a background check. A copy of this release should be kept for your records and a copy of the Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) should be provided to each applicant undergoing background screening to ensure FCRA compliance.

How does the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) apply to background screening?

The FCRA is the federal governing act applicable to all background searches, not just credit reports. It defines permissible purposes, ways in which information is handled, what procedures and documents must be used, and course of adverse action. The purpose is to protect the rights and privacy of applicants; violations may result in legal ramifications. Additional information can be obtained at http://www.ftc.gov/os/statutes/fcrajump.htm.

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