RMA Welcomes Nia Singletary

Posted on 12, May | Posted by RMA

Nia Singletary has joined the staff of Risk Management Associates as a Security Analyst. Nia started as an intern with RMA in May 2014. Nia will be assisting with background investigative services, and computer forensics.

Nia is a graduate of Meredith College, an independent, private women’s college located in Raleigh, NC, offers a transformative educational experience. The College’s rigorous curriculum and leadership development programs prepare graduates for successful lives as engaged global citizens and leaders. Since its opening in 1899, Meredith has expanded to become one of the largest private women’s colleges in the U.S. Campus life at Meredith is shaped by more than 2,100 students representing 35 states and 45 countries.

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RMA Welcomes Two Interns

Posted on 20, Apr | Posted by RMA

Paige Wilkins and Elizabeth Cheatham have joined the staff of Risk Management Associates as part of an internship opportunity through Meredith College. Paige and Elizabeth will be assisting with background investigative services, including maintaining FCRA compliance, conducting employment verification, gathering historical information about applicants, creating complete and accurate reports, and other tasks as needed.

Meredith College, an independent, private women’s college located in Raleigh, NC, offers a transformative educational experience. The College’s rigorous curriculum and leadership development programs prepare graduates for successful lives as engaged global citizens and leaders. Since its opening in 1899, Meredith has expanded to become one of the largest private women’s colleges in the U.S. Campus life at Meredith is shaped by more than 2,100 students representing 35 states and 45 countries.

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RMA Presents Continuing Education Training

Posted on 30, Jun | Posted by RMA

RMA will present 6 hours of training each day to students in Raleigh, NC.

July 21, 2014 and October 13, 2014
Rusty Gilmore – Computer Forensics II
Billy Green – A Pragmatic Approach to the Terrorist Threat
Tasha Dyson – Report Writing and Documentation
Michael Epperly – Legal Issues for Private Investigators II

July 22, 2014 and January 12, 2015
Marty Coolidge – Planning and Conducting a Successful Surveillance
Billy Green – Workplace Violence Prevention
Lindsey Smith – Use of Forensic DNA in Private Investigations

RMA has developed training programs that are relevant to practice as a private investigator and protection and security professional and is offering these in one-day seminars. Our goal is to provide opportunities for licensees to obtain the required CEU’s and to provide interesting and relevant instruction on protection and investigative topics. Students can register and pay online on the Continuing Education page of our website.

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Christine Peterson and Marty Coolidge Present at Institute of Management Accountants Luncheon

Posted on 28, Feb | Posted by RMA

Christine Peterson and Marty Coolidge presented at the IMA NC Triangle Chapter and the Carolinas Council Annual Winter Conference on February, 28, 2014, at the Prestonwood Country Club in Cary, NC. The presentation titled Enemies at the Gate or Are They Already Inside? focused on fraud and abuse in the workplace which costs businesses on average 5% of revenue per year.

IMA is the worldwide association of accountants and financial professionals working in business. They are committed to helping more than 65,000 members to expand professional skills, better manage organizations, and enhance careers. For more than 90 years, IMA has been a champion of – and resource for – the financial management and accounting profession. The organization was founded in Buffalo, N.Y., in 1919 as the National Association of Cost Accountants (NACA) to promote knowledge and professionalism among cost accountants and foster a wider understanding of the role of cost accounting in management.

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What’s missing in your “nationwide criminal search”?

Posted on 31, Jan | Posted by Tasha D. Dyson

One of RMA’s core services is investigations, and we do a lot of pre-employment background investigations. We are often asked if we can include a “nationwide criminal search”, and we explain that there is no such thing as a public, comprehensive, nationwide criminal record check that searches all courts and jurisdictions. They say, “But I can get one for $19.95 from a website. Doesn’t that search everywhere?” RMA decided to take a closer look at an advertised “nationwide criminal search” to see what information is actually included.

One of the vendors we use for investigative information offers a “nationwide criminal search” in addition to a wide variety of other searches. We chose this vendor as an example for a few reasons. First, we use them to verify Social Security numbers and provide address histories. We trust that the data they provide is accurate. Second, they provide a list of what sources are used to create their “nationwide criminal search” which allows us to examine each source separately.

For pre-employment background investigations, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) allows the reporting of records of arrest within the last seven years and all criminal convictions (no time limit). For positions with an expected annual salary of $75,000 or more, all records of arrest may be reported (no time limit). Using the FCRA as a guide, we examined the results that were provided by the “nationwide criminal search.” We considered the following factors:

  • Do the records include all felony convictions?
  • Do the records include all misdemeanor convictions?
  • Do the records include all traffic convictions?
  • Do the records include all felony arrests or charges within the last seven years?
  • Do the records include all misdemeanor arrests or charges within the last seven years?
  • Do the records include all traffic arrests or charges within the last seven years?
  • Are the records current (less than one month old) or historical?

We took this data (current as of 12/31/2013), made a chart, and mapped the results. The results are below.
criminal records available from vendor

Generally speaking, darker shading means more complete records. For this particular “nationwide criminal search”, the most complete information came from Utah and Oklahoma, where the data is current and they reportedly obtain all felony, misdemeanor, and traffic convictions and arrests/charges. The worst states were Kentucky and South Dakota. In Kentucky, the vendor only reports felony convictions before 2008, meaning that there is no arrest/charge data, no misdemeanor conviction data, no traffic conviction data, and no data from the past five years. In South Dakota, they provide no information at all. (Delaware and Wyoming also report no data, but these two states require fingerprints to conduct criminal record searches.)

There are a few things to remember when considering criminal records:

  • Not every state makes statewide criminal histories available to the public (Example: California).
  • Not every state makes statewide criminal histories available online (Example: Illinois).
  • Some states will not allow name-only searches and require fingerprints (Example: Delaware).
  • Some states have lower courts (municipal, justice of the peace, county, district) that to not report to a single state repository (Example: Ohio).

RMA does not search “nationwide”. We search each location where the subject has lived or worked, individually. When we search for criminal records, we start with the most authoritative source – courts, state police, or administrative authorities. Each state has different laws about what records are available to the public, and all states have a different mechanism for requesting records. Sometimes, the best records are only available by mailing a request.

We then looked at our sources, asked the same questions, and assigned the same shading. In our case, we did not limit searches to “online” and allowed for mailed requests.
criminal records available through RMA

The best results for RMA come from North Carolina. We have a direct connection to the Administrative Office of the Courts and get the same real-time information as a clerk of court. The state with the least information is West Virginia, where we can only access felony convictions. (Again, Delaware and Wyoming report no data, but these two states require fingerprints to conduct criminal record searches.)

The findings:

Is their “nationwide criminal search” faster? Absolutely.
Is it cheaper? Sure.
Does it provide all the criminal information allowed to be reported based on the Fair Credit Reporting Act? No. Results only include the electronic records the state or county makes available to that particular vendor, and there are serious gaps.
Is it comprehensive? Not even close.

criminal records available from vendorcriminal records available through RMA

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RMA Presents at CSI Week at Meredith College

Posted on 25, Oct | Posted by RMA

Chris Peterson presented Enemies at the Gate – or Are They Already Inside? as part of CSI Week at Meredith College. CSI Week allows students at Meredith to explore career opportunities in law enforcement and related fields. The event is sponsored by the Sociology and Criminology Programs, and the Sociology & Criminology Club (and with the support of Political Science, Accounting, & Social Work).

Other presenters during the week included:

  • Special Agent Jahaira Torrens spoke about Homeland Security Investigations.
  • Cat Flowers, owner of Cat Eye Detective Agency, presented.
  • Police Officer and Social Worker Renea Lockhart spoke about domestic violence and being both an officer and a social worker.
  • U.S. Marshals talked about the work they do tracking down fugitives and other law enforcement activities.
  • Wake Country Prosecutors spoke about their work.
  • RPD Gang Unit talked about their work with gang prevention and dealing with gangs in Raleigh.
  • Crime Scene Analysis, RPD patrol officer, CCBI investigator (the local CSI) and a detective from Raleigh Police talked about how they work and investigate a crime scene.
  • Cary Police Department crime mapping analyst Elise Pierce spoke about her work in the use of Crime Scene mapping to facilitate the work of police in Cary.

Chartered in 1891, Meredith College is one of the largest independent private women’s colleges in the U.S. Meredith also offers coeducational graduate programs in business, education and nutrition, as well as post-baccalaureate certificate programs in pre-health and business, a dietetic internship program, a didactic program in dietetics and a paralegal program. Meredith’s programs – undergraduate and graduate — challenge each individual student to think deeply, push hard, discover new strengths and grow even stronger. Meredith has been cited as one of the “best colleges” in the region and the country by U.S. News & World Report, The Princeton Review and Forbes.com.

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WRAL: Security measures not foolproof, consultant says

Posted on 17, Sep | Posted by RMA

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House of Cards

Posted on 28, Jun | Posted by Tasha D. Dyson

bricksDo you remember that scene from My Cousin Vinny when Vinny talks about the prosecution’s case, bricks, and playing cards?

“The DA’s going to build a case. Building a case is like building a house. Each piece of evidence is just another building block. He wants to make a brick bunker of a building. He wants to use serious, solid looking bricks like – like these. Right?” Vinny knocks on the cinder blocks of the cell.

“Let me show you something.” He opens a deck of cards and takes out a single playing card.

“He’s going to show you the bricks. He’ll show you they got straight sides. He’ll show you how they got the right shape. He’ll show them to you in a very special way, so that they appear to have everything a brick should have. But there’s one thing he’s not gonna show you.” He turns the card to the side. “When you look at the bricks at the right angle, they’re as thin as this playing card. His whole case is an illusion, a magic trick. It has to be an illusion, ‘cause you’re innocent.”

When you get reports from a company that does background investigations or records checks, are you getting solid bricks or flimsy cards?

Some companies that advertise a “nationwide criminal record check” are selling playing cards. There is no such thing as a nationwide criminal record check available online that searches all courts and jurisdictions. The jurisdictions they do search are listed somewhere in the fine print. The cost is generally inexpensive, and you get what you pay for.

We sell bricks. When we do criminal history searches, we check states first (where available) and then individual counties or municipalities as needed using an address history. The process may be a little slower, but it is much more accurate.

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No Full Names Please

Posted on 3, May | Posted by Tasha D. Dyson

We have a client (let’s call them Sub) who is obtaining criminal history information as part of their compliance to another company (let’s call them Prime). Prime states that Sub should “Provide a criminal record check with the applicant’s full legal name.” Sub contracted with RMA to provide that information.

When we search, we don’t limit our results to the full legal name. Here’s our standard process:

  • We search using the first name and last name. When we see a matching date of birth, we look more closely.
  • We search using first name, last name, and middle initial. When we see a matching date of birth, we look more closely.
  • We also search for previous names (if we know them) such as maiden names or previous married names.
  • When we find a potential match, we then start looking at other information such as address, full or partial SSN, or driver’s license number.
  • If a record matches on three or more pieces of known information, we report it.

Sub, our client, submitted the information to Prime, but the results were rejected because the search did not use “the applicant’s full legal name.”

Here’s the problem: When you limit the search to a subject’s full legal name, you will probably miss matching records.

Let’s say your subject is Katherine Marie Petersen, and her maiden name is Saunders. Using the records from NC Administrative Office of the Courts as an example, records matching your subject could be listed as:

  • Petersen, Katherine
  • Petersen, Katherine, M
  • Petersen, Katherine, Marie
  • Petersen, Katherine, S
  • Petersen, Katherine, Saunders
  • Saunders, Katherine
  • Saunders, Katherine, M
  • Saunders, Katherine, Marie

criminal search
In addition, there could be matching records based on misspellings or abbreviations, such as:

  • Peterson for Petersen
  • Sanders for Saunders
  • Mary for Marie
  • Kathy, Kath, or Kat for Katherine

The information contained in the record depends on how it was originally entered by the officer or the clerk. In general, the older the record, the more likely it is to be inaccurate or incomplete.

The whole point is to be as accurate as possible about the applicant’s criminal history. This requires widening our search possibilities, including searching maiden names and previous married names, not just the “full legal name.”

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Check Their References

Posted on 10, Jan | Posted by Tasha D. Dyson

applicationI was working on a background investigation for a client recently, and I was reminded of a valuable lesson. (By the way, names and identifying information have been edited in this story, but the circumstances and situations have not.) When we verify employment, normally companies only provide dates of employment and position held. Sometimes companies will tell you whether the applicant would be eligible for rehire, but some companies prohibit releasing this information.

The applicant is seeking a professional, white-collar position. On the face of it, he seems to be a “stand-up” guy. He speaks well and presents a good image. His résumé says all the right things. He listed his previous employer on his application and indicated that his previous employer could be contacted as a reference. He even listed his previous employer as an additional professional reference.

Would you hire him, or would you want to know more?

The applicant listed three former employers. The most recent employer was a small business, so when I called to get information, I was directed to Mr. Smith. Mr. Smith is one of the owners of the business, and he was also the former direct supervisor of the applicant. I asked him to confirm dates of employment and job title, and the information matched what the applicant had provided.

When I asked if the applicant would be eligible for rehire, Mr. Smith said, “Not a chance in hell.”

When asked for a reason, Mr. Smith said, “Sucked. Lied – lied about his abilities.” When asked if he wanted to provide additional detail, Mr. Smith said, “I can’t without cursing and getting really angry.”

This is why we check references.
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