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Diana Garber
Diana Garber
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ABA Adopts Electronic Fingerprint Technology To Ease Background Checks

The American Bankers Association (ABA) now allows electronic submission of fingerprints for background checks, a program that can save financial institutions time and money.

The American Bankers Association (ABA) now allows electronic submission of fingerprints for background checks, a program that can save financial institutions time and money.

The new service reduces the time period of fingerprint background checks on employees from two months to six days. In order to submit fingerprint background checks electronically, financial institutions will need specific scanning equipment and software or access to a vendor with the required products. There are two main ways a company can prepare a fingerprint check for electronic submission. One is through a live scan, in which a bank purchases technology that allows it to scan the fingers of an employee directly into a computer. A financial institution can also prepare fingerprint cards manually and then scan the card into a computer.

Many banks are extremely enthusiastic about being able to submit fingerprint checks electronically. "I love it," said Terra Null, vice president and fraud investigator at UMB Bank. "Before when we submitted by mail, that meant the employee had already started working and we had already started the training process because it would take up to 8 weeks to get a response back. Depending on if there was a prior arrest, we might have to let them go so we had already spent money on hiring and training. With the new program, I get the results back in a week. We save tons of money just on time alone."

Although not required to run fingerprint checks, Financial Institutions are required by the United States Banking Code to run background checks on all employees. It is illegal to allow anyone convicted of crimes that involve breaches of trust or dishonest acts to work in a financial institution. If any of these companies are caught violating this law, federal penalties reach $1 million per employee per day of employment.

Fingerprint background checks are more thorough than regular background checks because they are checked through the FBI, which uses a national database of criminal records, instead of a state or local one.

On average 10 percent of fingerprints submitted reveal a criminal record.

If a criminal record is not discovered, the FBI sends back a report that will indicate, "no record was found." Electronic submissions receive e-mail responses from the FBI. The FBI destroys the cards after the background checks are made.

To submit fingerprint cards for the first time, a financial institution needs to request an Original Routing Identification number from the FBI. Each employee's fingerprint analysis costs $25.

Since 1982, ABA has handled the submission of fingerprint background checks for the FBI.

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