CRAs vs Background Screeners?

So what’s the difference between a CRA and a Background Screener, anyway? Well, at the highest level, a CRA is a Consumer Reporting Agency (sometimes called a Credit Reporting Agency – not to be confused with a credit bureau). They follow very specific guidelines around disclosing certain information and notifying the consumer of any adverse action. The reports they produce are called Consumer Reports and they may be used for housing, employment, and credit decisions.

Background Screener is a fairly broad term, though. All CRAs are background screeners, but not all background screeners are CRAs. Their businesses are not subject to the FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act) and may not be used for any credit, housing, or employment decision. Additionally, they don’t have to disclose or notify anything to the subject of the reports.

Because of this, most non-CRA background screeners will have certain language on their websites – things like, “Not for employee screening” or “for informational use only.” These services can be used by anyone with a few dollars to spend. The flip side is that the data quality in these reports is significantly worse than what you might see in a compliant Consumer Report. They contain opt-in person data (data which is collected from magazine subscriptions, mailing lists, etc.) and public criminal and arrest records.

It’s important to know what kind of business you’re dealing with when you purchase a report like this. Martin Data is not a CRA nor a background screening company, but we supply pointer data into both industries. We supply the data which a background screener or CRA might use to help track down public records which they can use to put into a FCRA-compliant or informational-use-only report.

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The authors of the information presented on this page are not attorneys nor are they affiliated with attorneys. The information presented on this page does not constitute legal advice. Before acting on any of the information obtained from this page or any others on this website, please consult your own legal counsel.
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