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WHY CHARACTER INVESTIGATIONS ARE IMPORTANT AND 10 THINGS TO LOOK FOR WHEN CONDUCTING ONE

When talking about background checks, one might think, and rightfully so, that their most common applications are for pre-employment screening, tenant and money borrowers reviews, as well as due diligence for banks and businesses to evaluate new investment partners. However, background checks on individuals, or rather their character are very often overlooked.

The most common types of background investigations are the following:

PRE-EMPLOYMENT screening mostly consists of (but not limited to):

  • Criminal history
  • References checks
  • Education checks
  • Previous employment
  • Drug testing

DUE DILIGENCE (for financial institutions and corporations) mostly consist of (but not limited to):

  • Credit verifications
  • Reputational risks (association with criminal or political elements)
  • Financial liabilities risks (debt, bankruptcies, civil litigation against the company)
  • Legal liabilities and compliance with rules and regulations of the industry

TENANT AND LOAN APPLICATIONS (for individuals) mostly consist of (but not limited to):

  • Credit verifications
  • References checks

Rarely do any of those types of investigations include interviews with neighbors or review of past behavior online or in-person (unless applying for top government or other sensitive areas of employment). Standard background checks consist mostly of confirming the information that is present on an application form and will not include a review or analysis of a persons’ past behavior, other than a criminal record.

Confirming the information on a form is an important element of a vetting process but on its own, it does not reveal any information about motivations, interests, character traits, and other factors that can influence future behavior and decisions of an individual. There is a good reason why highly sensitive employment positions require an actual character investigation to be conducted since past behavior is the best indication of present or future actions.

Why not apply the same level of care and diligence when it comes to your loved ones?

In family matter cases, the employment history and validating diplomas (which is part of standard pre-employment background checks) are not the elements that are of particular interest; rather a person’s actual good (or bad) behavior and good decision-making abilities (or the lack of) are the characteristics that will be scrutinized the most in order to determine their suitability for the role.

In addition, not only a background check can be done on the former spouse (since you never know if there was previously undisclosed derogatory information or they might have gotten involved in some new activities since the separation) but a character investigation should also be done on any new partners that the former spouse might be involved with, especially if they will be around the child and interact with them in any manner.

Having to interact with a parent’s new partner is a stressful ordeal on its own for the child, and thus there is a need to make sure that the new partner is suitable to be around children and will not endanger them in any way by being engaged or having been engaged in the past, in any activity that can cause additional stress or discomfort for the child.

Character investigations can also be conducted on the caretakers of the elderly family members in order to confirm a good track record and good decision-making abilities when it comes to providing care for the vulnerable members of the family. People who are at high risk of being taken advantage of, need to be protected and screened from individuals with bad ethics, bad judgment, and bad habits; all of which do not necessarily prevent them from having a clean work record (especially when the employment verifications were only limited to educational credentials, professional experience, and criminal records checks without going into much details about the person’s believes, motivations and behaviors).

An individual can have a license to be a nurse (for example) and take care of the elderly or children but if they were never caught or nobody complained about them, they will have a clean track record while continuing doing unethical or illegal actions that take advantage of your loved ones. Those actions can only be uncovered after the fact (by which points it is too late) or can be avoided by careful examination of the person’s past deeds, comments, and interactions that will reveal their true interests, intentions, and character traits which are extremely important when dealing with vulnerable people.

A character investigation, even if it comes back negative, is worth doing simply because it can provide additional reassurance regarding people who take care of and/or interact with your loved ones. It’s always good to know that they are in good hands; and if they are not, the investigation will provide enough information to act upon and take measures to avoid unpleasant surprises.

When conducting a character investigation the following methods can be used to obtain information:

  1. Research in open sources, news, and social media (including pages of friends and associates).
  2. Verification of court records (both criminal and civil lawsuits) that are available to the public.
  3. Interviews with colleagues, friends, and associates regarding current and past behaviors.
  4. Surveillance to gather video and photographic evidence of any derogatory actions.

The following elements can be looked at to identify past behaviors and actions that could act as indicators of bad character traits and/or decision-making abilities:

  1. Misconduct
  2. Negligence and/or recklessness
  3. Criminal and dishonest conduct
  4. False and/or contradicting statements or comments
  5. Refusal to cooperate with authorities
  6. Alcohol or substance abuse
  7. Addictions (ex: gambling)
  8. Activities that are not compatible with a good, stable, or safe environment for children
  9. Association with groups or activities that support extreme positions on political and social views
  10. Bankruptcies, high debt to income ratios, and spending not appropriate to the lifestyle

In this day and age, almost everything a person does is noted somewhere and/or by someone and unless they deliberately put a lot of effort to cover their tracks, there will always be traces of their activities (good and bad). There are searches that anyone can do on their own in order to dig a bit deeper into a person’s past, and there is a number of things which are better left to professional investigators; but regardless of the approach, conducting a character investigation on people who interact with the vulnerable members of your family is an important step to assure safety and wellbeing.

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