Consumer Awareness in the Trust Economy

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There are mixed feelings about security, privacy, and trust in these days of social media and instant connectivity. We’re wary of our data and personal space until presented with the convenience of a service. Ride-sharing apps, grocery delivery, task-hiring apps, all require people - strangers - to come in close contact with either you, your information, or your loved ones.

These services, among many others, are collectively referred to as the Gig Economy. But I like to refer to it as the Trust Economy, because these services require an immense amount of trust on behalf of the consumer. Few companies in this industry offer, advertise, or perform thorough background screening on their applicants and freelancers. Some nanny services even leave it up to the consumer to choose to have a background check done on the person they decide to hire.

We put our trust in not only the individual providing the service, but in the company to properly vet and hire reliable, trustworthy people. So how do we know what, if any, background checks are being done on these freelancers?

Where do we find this information?

Some trust economy companies are up front about the type of screening they do upon hiring or recommend the consumer have done on the people they hire. These are typically nanny services, or pet and elderly sitters. Most others require a bit of digging through their websites or even making a phone call (which is the last thing any of us want to do - we’re here for convenience, after all).

When you’re looking for background screening information on a company website, look for an FAQ page, or a web page referring to Trust or Liability. These should be in a pull down menu and should explain, or at least list, their background check policies. If neither of those pages have the information you’re looking for, or don’t exist, then you may need to locate the Terms of Service. Comb through all the legal jargon to find a section on Vetting or User Representations. This should outline who they hire, how, and what the company is liable for.

What do all these terms mean?

Now that you’ve located the company’s background screening information, you need to know what it all means. Background screening can be a complicated process to explain because there are multiple pieces and no one source of information. These companies typically use umbrella terms without detail to streamline their explanations. This is the real problem we as consumers face, because what the consumer gleans from the explanation may not be exactly what it seems.

Identity Checks

Several sites tout their thorough identity checks or Social Security number screenings. This type of screening runs a candidate’s social security number through databases and pulls known current and prior addresses so that the employer can verify the truthfulness of their application. The drawback to this is that most don’t dive deeper to ensure the person matches the Social Security number they’ve given. Because this type of search includes information compiled from numerous public sources, such as credit holders and financial services, there could be missing or inaccurate information due to poor data entry.

National Criminal Search

Other sites advertise their commitment to a National Criminal Search. This could mean a variety of things because there is no specific, overarching national database to obtain this information. True source information is only found in city, state, and county records. In reality, the National Criminal Search could be a quick database search that isn’t inclusive of all the criminal sources available through a higher level screening. Or it could mean they performed a search through the primary county of residence only. Or it could mean they performed a search through all the known counties of residence. Or it could not. This nebulous term is cause for pause, but an inquiry to the company should help clear any misunderstandings.

Sex Offender Checks

One thing to also note when reading these websites is whether or not they add the Sex Offender check. This can be a separate background scan, but if they’re doing thorough criminal background checks, that information will be in that report as well.

At Critical Research, transparency is one of our fundamental beliefs. The industry of background screening can be difficult to navigate for consumers because the process is complex and requires multiple sources of information. This sometimes leads to discrepancies in what companies say they offer versus what they’re actually checking. Always do your research when hiring someone from the Trust Economy and if you feel uncomfortable with a company’s policy on background screening, don’t hesitate to reach out to them.