Will the Real Will Smith Please Stand Up?

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A person’s name holds the key to their past. It helps companies or lenders connect the dots between where an individual has worked and their academic experience, as well as financial risk, criminal misgivings, and more. Companies run background checks to ensure that you are who you say you are when interviewing for a job, lenders run background checks to verify you’re trustworthy of a loan or significant responsibility, and both leverage them to verify you’re staying out of trouble.

While most people have a name that distinguishes them from others, some people share the exact same name, like Will Smith. According to estimates based upon statistical and demographic data from the U.S. Census Bureau, there are more than 36,000 U.S. Citizens with the name Will Smith. When one shares the same name as others, they might be automatically associated with someone who committed a crime or fails to meet the requirements of a position. Additionally, if you shared your name with a famous individual, your name will be that much harder to search for accurately.

These not-so-unique situations highlight the importance of using a qualified, vigilant background screener. Does your background screener put the effort in to ensure a match and avoid red herrings? It’s never been more important to get accurate results consistently.

The Fresh Prince

The first case involves Will Smith, not that Will Smith, a different Will Smith.

Will is a great candidate on paper, but this candidate’s name created two significant challenges. First, Will Smith is EVERYWHERE online. You can’t search Will Smith online and get anyone but THE Will Smith. Second, his name is arguably the most common alias in America. That means 36,000 other Will Smiths are out there with financial records, education and employment histories, criminal and civil charges, and so much additional information.

After initial background screens flagged our “Will Smith” as the actor, we knew an extra level of scrutiny and hands-on analysis was required. We sorted through the noise and the false positives, narrowing our results down to just our candidate. This meant throwing out significant charges, convictions, and more because they weren’t our “Will Smith.” When we finished the thorough background screen of our applicant, we confirmed that he had a clear record, and none of the derogatory criminal records, civil records, or newspaper articles were part of his past.

This entire process took longer than it would for a typical background screen, but no corners were cut. Using automated tools or online databases could set you up for failure, ultimately resulting in the loss of a good candidate, and creating undesirable legal risks for your company

Trust but Verify

In another case, a company was looking for a senior finance leader in their business. After interviewing John Doe, they felt like they had their candidate. While the company traditionally had not done background screens, they had just implemented a new policy to run backgrounds before hiring. Not wanting to wait and because they had a great feeling about John, they started to onboard him while the background screen was being conducted.

After several conversations with DISA, something just wasn’t right. John’s information wasn't lining up quite right, and he was becoming frustrated and getting difficult to work with. We learned through these conversations that the home address provided by John Doe was a completely different address than where he mentioned he lived. Our persistence paid off in the end as we revealed an abundance of issues, including:

  • Criminal Records
    •      Multiple Minor Motor Vehicle/Traffic Violations
  • 17 Civil Lawsuits
    •      Causes of action for these cases include Tort, Contract, Appeal, Foreclosure, Domestic Violence, Enrollment of Foreign Judgment, Divorce, Paternity and Eviction.
  • 6 Tax Liens
    •      These include a Federal Tax Lien in the amount of $88,721 and five state tax liens in the amounts of $17,132, $30,631, $42,179, $42,954 and $63,888 – all outstanding.
  • Judgments
    •      Two of the civil cases resulted in money judgments against the subject, including a judgment for $5,094 and multiple judgments stemming from the subject’s divorce totaling $659,825. The judgments associated with the divorce appear to have been partially satisfied.
  • Employment Verification
    •      Unable to locate and verify any of the employments that were found on the subjects provided bio and LinkedIn bio.Education Verification     Educational claims were not supported by our findings. The subject claimed a Master of Business Administration degree from American InterContinental University and an Associate of Applied Science degree from the University of Maryland Global Campus, both of which report that the subject attended for a short time without earning a degree. The University of Houston - Clear Lake, where the subject claimed to have earned a separate Associate of Applied Science degree, found no record of the subject ever having been enrolled as a student.
  • Association Verifications
    •      The subject was not found to be a member of any professional associations related to information technology or cybersecurity that he stated he was a member of.
  • The company decided not to pursue this individual as a member of their finance leadership team.

How Can DISA's FIS Team Help You with Due Diligence?

By running a simple background check, a company is ensuring the hire is a safe fit for the job. DISA’s FIS professionals can help reduce risks associated with bad hires by utilizing in-depth employment screening procedures, such as financial due diligence searches which include:

  • Corporate Records and Affiliations Research
  • Bankruptcy Filings
  • Federal and Civil Litigation
  • Judgment Filings
  • State & Federal Tax Liens
  • Criminal Records

In both these cases, the company was able to validate their hiring decisions through the means of a background check. The results of those searches prevent individuals from being hired who could cause damage to a company, such as costly fines and fees, lawsuits, loss of confidential company information, etc.

About DISA's Financial Investigative Services

DISA’s Financial Investigative Services provides a more in-depth, customized, and hands-on method of performing background investigations both domestically and internationally. To ensure each report fits the needs of your industry, our services are customized by several tiered levels of investigations that will accommodate both research and budget requirements. Our professionals can assist you in creating a scope of work that meets your industry standards. For more information on Financial Investigative Services, call 1-800-755-0435 or contact us.

DISA Global Solutions aims to provide accurate and informative content for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. The reader retains full responsibility for the use of the information contained herein. Always consult with a professional or legal expert.