Background Check OFAC List?

Our background check company is touting that they now check the OFAC lists as part of a background check. I didn't think much about it until I saw a news story in the last few days about a women who had an OFAC alert on her credit report because her name matched one on the list but it wasn't her. She had a lot of problems as a result. Does anyone know anything about this list and is it something we should check for new hires?


  • 5 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • If your background checks include a credit report, OFAC is automatically included.
  • I don’t see why you would need to run this as part of a new hire background check.  Reading the US Dept of Treasury website, there is no specific mention of employers needing to run this kind of check on potential hires.  It's my understanding that the list is to be used for financial transactions, i.e. credit, home loans, insurance etc.  <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

    The only mention of employment type information on the treasury website deals with workers comp.  If someone is on the OFAC list, they may not receive workers compensation payments. 

    I have read some problems with the list, such as what you referred to, that even partial names appearing on the list may get you flagged.  Right now, many background check companies are selling this check, but I really don’t see the need.  Anyone else? 


  • I don't see the need for this either. I suspect that issues like this are going to come up more frequently as background check companies start trying to look at all the different "lists" out there.  My name is supposedly on the TSA Terror Watch List (not me but someone with the same name). I didn't know it until I went to fly about 6 months after I got married. I couldn't check in online and I had to go to the ticket counter to find out why. They told me the had to verify my ID against the TSA system. They were able to determine that it wasn't me but someone with the same name as me.  They told me that unless I got this corrected with TSA that I was going to have an issue every time I fly.  I had to send the TSA a bunch of forms and copies of my documents and then they sent me a letter that it has been corrected.  I haven't flown since so I don't know if it truly has been. 

    Point of my story is that if the background companies start checking this list then I may still show up on it, in error.  Once you have this information that a person is on one of these lists, what are you supposed to do with it.  Are you even sure it is that person?  The only was TSA was able to figure out that it wasn't me is because my SS# was different then the one on the list.  But the airlines couldn't see that. They just looked at the name and weren't going tol let me fly.



  • Thanks for the input. I read an interesting article (by a background check company no less) that pointed out that many names on the OFAC list were common Arabic names. They suggested that relying on the list with a name match only could give rise to claims of national origin, race, and religious discrimination claims. I think I'll scout around and see if the EEOC is taking a position on this type of background check.
  • Well, one thing is certainabout the EEOC's stance: the first thing they're going to want to know is what is the job-relatedness of the check you are doing.  If you can't demonstrate job relatedness, then everything else is suspect.  A lack of job relatedness on one hand and a Company that is expert in background checking saying the names are mostly Arabic on the other hand suggests that you need to look at this very carefully to ensure that you have both a) a strong case of job relatedness and b) a way to ensure that the applicant is in fact the same as the person who shares their name on the list.

    If you can't establish job relatedness, there's no reason to go any further.

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