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What’s In A Name?

An Analysis of Fingerprint vs. Name-Based Background Screening Searches  

There is a common misconception that fingerprint-based background checks are the benchmark criminal search for employment screening purposes. Many organizations are beginning to require this search for their employees but, how can they decide what type of search is best for their organization? The key is to understand the differences between a comprehensive name-based search and a fingerprint-based. Your organization may miss the mark if it utilizes fingerprint-based checks alone. However, the two types of searches can work hand in hand to create one complete background screening. 

Shortcomings of FBI Fingerprint-Based Searches 

It is fair to assume that an FBI fingerprint-based check is the ultimate screening service. These records are stored in a central database of fingerprints, also known as the Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Database. However, there are a few prominent shortcomings associated with these checks. These can include: 

  • The original purpose of the search was to aid law enforcement and not for employment screening. 
  • The location of a fingerprint in the CJIS Database does not always necessarily tell the whole story. Typically, a fingerprint is taken during an arrest, but not if the person was ultimately charged with the crime. This can lead to difficulties for credit reporting agencies in developing a final report.  As a credit reporting agency, background screening vendors are limited to the type of adverse information they can return to organizations. Since the CJIS Database does not indicate the final disposition of the court case, the story is incomplete. Therefore, information may not be legally reportable by credit reporting agencies without further details.  
  • Fingerprinting may take weeks to return results, while name-based checks can take only a few days. 
  • Participation with state and local agencies to report to the centralized fingerprinting database is voluntary and irregular, making such information in the CJIS Database incomplete. 

Advantages of Name-Based Criminal Searches 

Praesidium specializes in background screening for employment purposes by a team that is highly trained in effectively screening for abuse risk. The use of name-based searches grants many advantages in employment screening. As an organization governed by the Federal Trade Commission and following the Fair Credit Reporting Act, Praesidium is well-versed in the laws and requirements that protect consumers and employers. When running a screening check on a potential new hire, a name-based criminal search is a preferred option over a fingerprint-based search for the following reasons: 

  • These checks use multiple identifiers, including the applicant’s name(s), addresses, and social security number, to drive the criminal research. 
  • Name-based checks tell the whole story of an applicant’s criminal history and allow access to multiple databases and jurisdiction records. 
  • These checks follow best practices and are an industry standard for employment screening. 

There is a growing awareness of the limitations of fingerprint-based searches, and the importance of pairing fingerprint checks with name-based searches for employment screening. It is important to thoroughly discuss your options with your Human Resources department and legal counsel. You may also visit the Professional Background Screening Associations website for more resources and tools. 

Want to learn more about Praesidium’s screening services and how they can help with your abuse prevention efforts? Contact us today at, and one of our highly trained background screening specialists will work with you to meet your organization’s unique screening needs.