Get Wright On It: False background check causing problems for Sh - KSLA News 12 Shreveport, Louisiana News Weather & Sports

Get Wright On It: False background check causing problems for Shreveport man

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) -

For many people, jobs are their lives. It's how people provide for their families but what if your ability to do so was taken away to no fault of your own?

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The past is coming back to haunt one Shreveport man — the only thing is that past belongs to someone else. Shreveport resident Terrence Johnson Sr. can't escape it when a background check pulls up the wrong person.

"That's how I keep my sanity, I go to church and I let it all out," Johnson said.

He never thought at 31-years-old, playing in the church choir would be the only way to provide for his wife and two children.  

"It's paycheck to paycheck Shayne, it's living by the crumbs." he told KSLA News 12's Shayne Wright.  

In 2015, Johnson says he was laid off his job as a forklift operator and for the past two years he's filled out over 200 job applications. Each time, however, he’s gotten the same response.

"We decided to pursue other candidates," Johnson said. "I get the same message, time after time again."

Johnson thought this was just the worst case of bad timing and bad luck. That was until he says, he was trying to rent a home and his realtor broke the news.

"When we went in and sat down she introduced these pieces of paper with a certain amount of charges on my background that doesn’t belong to me."

On Terrence's background check, there are dozens of criminal records with his name and date of birth.  The charges ranged from reckless driving to serious felonies.

"Breach of peace, interfering with officer resisting, assault 3rd degree, the operation of drug factories, possess with intent to sell, the sale of certain illegal drugs, violation of probation, evading...come on," Johnson said. "Tampering with physical evidence. Then it goes on and on, that's not me."

There were over 30 criminal charges that Johnson says have absolutely nothing to do with him.

While he shares the same name and birthday, most of those charges are from crimes over 1500 miles away in Waterbury, Connecticut.

"It's ridiculous to look at my background and to see that kind of stuff," Johnson said. "I've never been to Connecticut. I can't spell it."

KSLA News 12 contacted the Waterbury Superior Court. Court clerks there say there is a man named Terrance Johnson with a matching date of birth but with a different social security number.  

"The more common the name, the chances of it happening are greater," said Tom Ostendorff, president of Southern Research Company.

Southern Research Company specializes in background checks. Ostendorff says there are two main types of background checks. The first is a database search which mainly uses a person's name and date of birth. It's similar to the one people do online when wanting to find information about another person.  It's a broader search which Ostendorff says companies should not use to make a decision on a potential employee because of its accuracy.

"Just think what could go wrong," Ostendorff said. "It could deny someone who rightly deserves a job a chance in getting that job it denies an employer the opportunity to hire a good productive employee for the future."

He says Appfolio, the company that provided the background check on Terrence, seems to have done a database check.

A consumer report, if used, is more accurate and is governed by the Fair Credit Report Act. The consumer report uses more information to make a match, including social security numbers.

"It could have really been resolved by them just making a phone call saying he we have a potential subject that we are running a background check on," said Vivian Stephens, director of operations for Southern Research Company. "The name is very common, all we have is a name and date of birth but we're pulling all these records, can you verify a social."

Appfolio, though, does add a disclaimer for their clients which reads in part:

"We cannot guarantee that the record matches definitively belong to the applicant..it is highly recommended to cross-check against the applicant supplied information to verify the data prior to making decisions."

A check of Terrence's social would have shown he was not the other Terrance Johnson Sr. in Connecticut.

"All these years, I've been suffering from this and not being able to do nothing," Johnson said. "It's like being stuck in a hole and no way to climb out, no rope, no ladder, nothing.”

He plans to dispute the charges on his report with Appfolio and will now make sure he tells potential employers to use his social to cross check what they find, so he has a fair shot at getting the job.

"I don’t like asking for handouts," Johnson said. "My dad always told me, 'Son you're a man, you do manly things. If you have a family, you take care of that family by any means necessary.'"

Until then he says his organ at church is all he has to put a smile on his family's face and a few dollars in his pocket.

"Sam Cooke said change gonna come and I believe it," Johnson said. "So, when that change comes Shayne. I'll have the victory."

KSLA reached out to Appfolio for an interview regarding Johnson's story but declined to comment.

If you've been affected by false background checks — you have rights under the Fair Credit Report Act. Click here to know your rights. 

If you have a story you'd like Shayne to Get Wright On, email him at swright@ksla.com or message him on Facebook. You can also call and leave a message on our investigative tip line at 318-422-1282.

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