AMC Background Checks: Fair or not?

Monday, November 11, 2013

“I was just asked by an AMC to get a background check. Do I have to comply?”

As risk management advisors for Appraisers and Inspectors, this is one of the questions we hear over and over again.

Let’s face it -- appraisal fees are lower than ever before. Essentially, AMCs are asking you to do the same amount of work for less pay. In some cases, they’re even asking you to do more work. Does it make sense then that you have to get a background check in order to work for a specific AMC?

Unfortunately, the increased costs associated with getting a background check are not the only problem Appraisers face. Other concerns include identity theft, hassle, and fees that are simply unfair.

  • Identity Theft - Think about the information included in your background check -- your name, address, date of birth, social security number -- precisely the information needed for identity theft. The AMC, banks, loan officers and others will have access to this information. If that doesn’t scare you, it should.

  • Unreasonable Hassle - In many cases, each AMC requires that you get a background check specifically for them. This makes it impossible to save time and money by completing one background check that you can share with any organization or client that requires it. As if your time isn’t spread thin enough as it is!

  • Unfair Fees - In some cases, background checks ordered by AMCs cost much more than the actual cost. This unfair increase in cost is a significant concern -- especially if you’re required to have a separate background check for every organization you work with.

What does a background check tell an AMC about you?

Depending on whether the background check is civil or criminal, it can tell the AMC a number of things about you, including:

  • Your name and other names you’ve previously gone by;

  • your date of birth; other people you associate with;

  • your current address as well as previous places you’ve lived;

  • UCC Filings, bankruptcies and tax liens;

  • DMV registrations;

  • property deeds and assessments; and

  • a nationwide criminal and sex offender record search.

AMCs are preying on Appraisers because they know that it’s not easy to turn down work. Asking for a background check is just one more way they’re making you jump through hoops. For some Appraisers, this is one hoop they won’t touch with a 10 foot pole.

If turning away work is not an option and you do choose to submit to a background check, be sure to ask a lot of questions first.

  • Ask why. The first and most important question to ask is “why”. Why do they need to run a background check on you when you’ve already gone through this process in order to secure your license in the state you serve? Sometimes this question alone can be enough to put a stop to this request.

  • Find out the type of check being done. Are they running a criminal or civil background check (or both)? If the AMC is running a background check that you already have documentation on, see if you can provide that documentation instead of submitting to another check.

  • Ask when (not if) you’ll have an opportunity to respond. Find out when you will receive a copy of the information collected and whether or not you’ll be able to refute any incorrect information.

  • Find out how your information will be protected. What will the AMC do with the information they collect on you? Are they committed to protecting your privacy? Have they ensured that they will not sell, rent or share your information to a third party?

The bottom line is that you do not have to submit to a background check. It’s entirely up to you. Now, whether or not you get any work from a particular AMC may rely on your decision, but the decision is still yours.

And if you do decide to move forward with a background check, you have the right to ask a lot of questions and get some answers before you commit to anything, but it’s up to you to exercise that right and push back before giving in.

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