Several months ago, we wrote about the challenges we face when reporting court information to you and we briefly mentioned that VICTIG used a service called NameGrades™. We were asked to provide more detail. First, we’ll review the issue NameGrades™ addresses.
As you know, when you order a criminal record, VICTIG goes to the appropriate source(s)/courts(s) to obtain the information. The issue is that the courts do not have their information filed with a unique identifier.
When you order a driving record, you input the drivers license number and state and that is unique. When you send an email, that email is unique. Social Security numbers are intended to be unique.
Court records are a different story because the identifiers immediately available are a name and date of birth. Some records will have a middle name, some won’t. Some will have the full date of birth; others will omit year of birth or only have the year available.
A name and a date of birth are not unique. As we discussed in our previous article on this subject, even if your name, combined with your date of birth are so unique as to be one in a million, that means there are about 340 others in the United States with your name and date of birth.
So the challenge for VICTIG is two-fold. First, if we go to a court with a name and date of birth, there may be multiple matches. We cannot simply report them all and say “you figure out which, if any, of these pertain to your applicant or employee.” VICTIG is regulated by the Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and one of their key imperatives is “maximum possible accuracy.”
Secondly, there is the case where there is only one file and the identifying information matches exactly. But the name is such a common name that accuracy could be compromised by simply reporting this “exact match.”
This is where our use of NameGrades™ comes in. NameGrades™ has obtained US census data, and the commonality of the name is classified into one of 100 “buckets” or statistical quadrants. The year of birth is used because the popularity or names varies by year. (“Festus” as a first name may have been popular in Gunsmoke days—today, not so popular.) NameGrades™ takes this information and generates a score. Gender and middle names will improve the accuracy of the score.
VICTIG, rather than just reporting a record–even a record with exactly matching identifiers—will do further research on the more common names identified by the algorithm to ensure maximum accuracy to you.
This is what the CFPB believes is a best practice for companies such as VICTIG. In fact, in an action against a company like VICTIG, the CFPB recommended procedures to “include using algorithms to distinguish records by middle name and match common names and nicknames.”
NameGrades™ is the algorithm VICTIG uses to ensure we provide you with maximum possible accuracy.