The routine background check that sent Steven Calderon to jail by mistake may have been an isolated incident. But the inaccurate, rarely verified data that caused the error sure isn't. There's a lot of bad data out there, and the brokers that sell it say
Steven Calderon had a clean record, a clean conscience and no reason to think that his new employers routine background check would cause any problem at all. Then the sheriff showed up at the office and took him to jail on warrants for child molestation and rape.
A nightmare? Sure, but Calderon figured it was a mistake that could be cleared up pretty quickly. Hed reported the theft of his Social Security number and birth certificate in 1993, so it was obvious that the bad guy was whoever had stolen Calderons identity.
A week later he was still in jail, a victim of bad information from data broker ChoicePointand of the blind belief held by his employer, the police and everyone else involved that he was more likely to be lying than the data was.
ChoicePoint says its data is troublesome in only a tiny fraction of the millions of background checks it performs every year.
But commercially available data is rife with errors, whether critical or no, and ChoicePoint had no formal process to check for mistakes other than to wait for clients to complain.
Added to the danger of mistakes is the risk that the identity thieves can simply buy the information they need from ChoicePoint and other companies, which admit to having been scammed by fraudsters in Nigeria and elsewhere.
s Deborah Gage and John McCormick were very careful to verify the data they gathered in their report on the market for and risks posed by bad data, including how it can happen, the risk it poses to the companies that use it, and the cost of making sure it never happens to your company. Check it out:
Blur: The Importance of Accuracy
Not Just Security, But Accuracy
Serious Errors are Common
Data Customers Pay the Costs
Collecting Data Without Garbage Filters
Records Full of Inaccuracies
Crap In, Crap Out
Fix It Yourself
No Way to Check
ChoicePoint Data at a Glance