Background Investigation - Credit Report
Your Credit Report Counts
Pulling your credit report is one of the smartest things you can do as an applicant. One of the first things Border Patrol does when they start your background investigation is pull your credit report. Shouldn't you pull it first to make sure all the information on your credit report is correct?
From the CBP.gov website:
"The background investigation will include credit and criminal history checks, records checks to verify citizenship of family members, verification of birth, education, employment history, and military history. Interviews will be conducted of sources who know the candidate and of any current or former spouse (divorced within the past ten years). Residences will be confirmed, neighbors interviewed, and public records queried for information about bankruptcies, divorces, and criminal or civil litigation. Additional interviews will be conducted, as needed, to resolve any inconsistencies or developed issues."
"Issues such as poor credit history, criminal background, or association with undesirable individuals or foreign nationals could render an individual unsuitable for employment."
Surprise in my credit report!
My credit report has always been stellar and I've always done my best to keep it that way. I make my mortgage payments on time, watch my checking account balance to avoid bouncing checks and getting 'non-sufficient funds' fees, and I have automatic minimum payments setup on my credit card so I'll always show up 'pays as agreed.' Imagine my surprise when I recently ran my credit report and found that I had a collection record on it! My credit score took a bit hit because of it, which is understandable. It took a few calls but I finally figured out the story: I had gone to an urgent care center for a sinus infection. When I checked in I gave them my driver's license and insurance card, which they made copies of for their records. The doctor gave me a simple once-over, wrote out a prescription, and said 'have a nice day'. I paid any co-pay I owed on the spot. I saw the usual insurance paperwork come through the mail saying that insurance covered everything else. What I didn't see was that the bill the insurance paid was just the 'facility' charges, and that the doctor's services were charged separately. The doctor's bill was sent to an old address, while everything else was sent to my correct new address. So I never saw any billing they sent. My phone number never changed, but I never got a collection call. The overdue balance was quickly sold to a collection agency. All they did was put the collection record on my credit report with one credit bureau. This is important! Check all three agencies! In the end I was able to settle the account and have the collection agency remove the collection record from my credit report.
The background investigation is used not just to look to see if you have a criminal record, but to assure that you are a responsible and trustworthy person in all ways, including your finances. They need to make sure you make good decisions in the small things, as it is one of the indicators they'll use to determine if you can be trusted with large things like protecting our nation's borders. From the CBP.gov website:
"Suitability is always a consideration for federal employment. All individuals employed by the federal government shall be reliable, trustworthy, of good conduct and character, and of complete and unswerving loyalty to the United States. This means that the appointment of each employee in any department or agency of the government is subject to investigation. The scope of the investigation will vary, depending on the nature of the position and the degree of harm that an individual in that position could cause."
I recommend you check your credit report now, and be sure to get a report that pulls from all three credit bureaus. You should also consider signing up for a credit monitoring service.
You can check your credit report with information from all three credit bureaus through the Equifax website.
You can sign up for the Equifax Credit Monitoring Service of all three credit bureaus.