When performing criminal background checks, there are two options for searching the RCMP’s database. You can use a person’s name and date of birth, or you can use their fingerprints.

These two different types of criminal record checks both have their advantages. In this article, we’re going to compare and contrast them, in an effort to help businesses and other organizations incorporate criminal record checks into their overall background check programs. 

A quick note before we dive into the meat of this article: the information we present here reflects how fingerprint and name-based background checks are handled. For more information, you can visit the types of criminal background checks page. We cannot provide information on police information checks, as they are handled by local police departments, and thus vary from region to region.

Name-based background checks

Name-based criminal record checks are the simplest form of criminal record check. Using a person’s name and date of birth, the RCMP can conduct a check of the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) system. This check may include:

  • A search of the National Repository of Criminal Records
  • A search of other national and local databases

While this check is conducted using the CPIC system, third parties like FASTCHECK are used to purchase name-based checks. You may be able to obtain a name-based criminal record check through your local police force or with the help of a third party authorized by the RCMP.

There are a few advantages to name-based background checks. Name-based checks:

  • Are faster than fingerprint-based checks
  • Can be conducted remotely
  • May cost less than fingerprint-based checks

The main disadvantage to name-based background checks? They’re less accurate than fingerprint-based checks. Two people sharing the same name and date of birth may lead to false positives. Additionally, people can change their name or provide false information or even spelling of their name – it’s impossible to change your fingerprints.

It’s also important to know that these checks will either come back “Negative” or “Incomplete”. In the case of a negative, no criminal record which matches the person’s name was found. In the case of an “Incomplete”, a match may have been found – to confirm that a person has a criminal record, they would need to submit fingerprints. 

Fingerprint-based background checks

Fingerprint-based checks are the gold standard of criminal record checks. They are sometimes called “certified criminal record checks”, and are conducted by RCMP’s Canadian Criminal Real Time Identification Services (CCRTIS). Fingerprint-based checks search through the National Repository of Criminal Records.

While fingerprint-based checks are more costly and take longer than name-based criminal record checks, they are far less prone to error. Almost all fingerprints taken today are digitally scanned – in rare cases when fingerprints cannot be digitally scanned, they are taken manually instead.

Fingerprints are taken by RCMP accredited fingerprinting agencies like FASTCHECK. The fingerprints are then sent to the RCMP, who check it against their databases. While the fingerprinting process often takes 10 minutes or less, getting results from the RCMP can take weeks or even months. The fees for fingerprint-based services vary depending on which fingerprinting agency you hire, and whether or not your application is subject to additional processing fees.

Which background check is right for your business?

A quick summary: name-based background checks are less costly and take less time, while fingerprint-based background checks are more accurate. In addition, should a name-based background check come up “Incomplete”, a fingerprint-based check will be required to confirm if the person has a criminal record. 

Where name-based checks are used

Name-based background checks are often used by employers as a low-cost screening tool to ensure that employees do not have criminal records. As most name-based checks are likely to come back “Negative”, companies rarely incur the additional effort of having employees undergo fingerprint-based checks when an “Incomplete” result is obtained.

These checks are also useful in circumstances where a criminal record check is needed, but fingerprinting is hard to obtain, such as when a person is living in a remote location. 

Where fingerprint-based checks are used

Not all companies can conduct name-based checks, however. Employees who deal with sensitive information (such as information of a fiduciary nature), who work in certain government jobs, or who have other trust-based roles will often be required to provide fingerprint-based criminal record checks. Additionally, there is a separate type of check for employees or volunteers working with vulnerable groups – this check is known as a Vulnerable Sector check, which we’ll discuss in more detail in another post.

The Government of Canada may also require fingerprint-based checks in a number of scenarios, including for a Citizenship Application and for a Pardon Application. 

While fingerprinting-based checks take more time and money, you can expect them to be used in any scenario where accuracy is of the essence.

How FASTCHECK can help

We offer both name-based criminal record checks and fingerprinting in Winnipeg. Have questions about the background check process? Want to make an appointment with us? Give us a call.