Western Verify

Fingerprint background checks may be required for certain positions within the federal government, state agencies, or regulated industries. In this blog article, we’ll learn the limitations of fingerprint background screenings and find out why private screening companies, such as Western Verify, can provide a more complete criminal background check that may help better protect your business or organization.

For this reason, most employers and organizations that are not expressly required to conduct background checks through the FBI’s Fingerprint Background Checks, choose name-based screening solutions, usually provided by private screening companies, like Western Verify.  For those that are required to use fingerprint background checks, many choose to supplement the required fingerprint background checks with name-based background checks.

FBI Fingerprint Background Checks

Fingerprint background checks are often perceived as the most thorough method for screening candidates. These checks involve matching fingerprints against federal databases, a process mandated for certain government positions. However, this method is not without its flaws.

The FBI database is almost entirely reliant on the data of state and local jurisdictions, states are under no obligation to report to the federal government. They reserve the constitutional right to keep much of that information to themselves. Thus, the FBI can’t mandate the accuracy of its criminal records databases.

  • Data Integrity Issues: The 10th Amendment limits the federal government’s ability to mandate how states contribute to national databases, leading to inconsistencies in the data’s accuracy and completeness.
    • A 2020 Study found that states only sent about one-third of final dispositions in criminal cases to the IAFIS.
    • Relaying criminal record data from the local level to the FBI requires a concerted effort between courts, prosecutors, state agencies, and the FBI. This process isn’t uniform or regulated, so one jurisdiction might report complete and timely data, but other jurisdictions might not.
  • Operational Delays: Fingerprint checks can suffer from longer turnaround times (1-4 weeks), and the need for physical fingerprinting can complicate the logistics.
  • Limited Scope: Approximately only 49% of law enforcement agencies report to National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS), and records are often not verified directly with courthouses.

Name-Based Background Checks: Efficient and Comprehensive

On the other hand, name-based background checks, processed by private screening companies, offer a robust alternative. These checks involve:

  • Speed and Accuracy: Average turnaround times are between 24 to 72 hours, with researchers directly verifying data at the court level.
  • Comprehensive Data Retrieval: Includes checks for felony and misdemeanor convictions in every county and state in the nation, ensuring comprehensive screening.
  • Adaptability and Compliance: These checks can be customized to meet specific organizational needs and are fully compliant with Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) guidelines.
  • Other complementary Services: In additional to criminal checks, screening companies can provide many other valuable services, such as Employment, education, personal reference, and professional reference verifications.


While fingerprint checks provide a unique identifier through biometrics, they fall short in several operational aspects crucial for most employers and organizations. The PBSA advises against relying on them (Fingerprinting) alone when searching an applicant’s criminal history. Name-based checks, meanwhile, offer a more adaptable and often more accurate reflection of an individual’s background. For most private companies, the flexibility, speed, and breadth of data available from name-based checks make them a preferable option.  Even if an organization is required to use fingerprint background checks, it is highly advisable to supplement them with a name-based criminal background check.