February 7th, 2022 | Joy Henry, US Head of Technology and Business Services

What Background Check Information is Your Gig Platform Missing?

As a relatively new industry, the gig economy (now consisting of more than a third of the US workforce) is continuing to grow and adapt to new circumstances. The gig economy business model differs from a more typical W-2 workforce by emphasizing the ability to onboard high volumes of candidates quickly enough so that employees can start working on the same day they sign up. Naturally, the pressure of fast turnaround times in order to avoid candidate drop-off — while still running a thorough background check — poses a serious challenge for gig platforms.

The world of background checks and identity verification consists of multiple layers of information searches that together can paint the full picture of a candidate’s past to their future employer. When many gig platforms first implement a background check vendor, they assume that their vendor’s screenings cover ‘all the basic information’ to provide that full picture, but in practice, many do not. With traditional employees resigning their full-time 9-5 jobs in record numbers and turning to gig work, there is no better time than now for gig platforms to become more knowledgeable about exactly who is applying to their workforce. So when a gig platform is searching for a background check vendor, they need to know what misconceptions have been circulating around background checks. Let’s debunk six of the most common of these misconceptions, while also discussing how to address them to help ensure your candidates really are who they claim to be.

Misconception #1: Background Checks Automatically Run Identity Verification

This detail comes as a surprise to many gig employers, but most background check vendors DO NOT automatically include identity verification as a basic service when screening a candidate. This means that the background check report is missing critical information including an answer to the question: “Is this person actually who they say they are? The lack of required Personally Identifiable Information (PII) leaves a major gap in the screening process, which (unfortunately) most vendors neglect to mention.

Your gig platform can best address this misconception by first asking your background check vendor: “What safety measures does your company take to help determine candidates are who they claim to be during the background screening process?”

Misconception #2: SSN Trace and Identity Verification are the Same Thing

Social Security Number tracing and identity verification may sound similar, but they deliver very different information. However, when both are paired together, they can provide gig platforms with more reliable information to confirm whether a candidate is being truthful about their identity or not. Let’s briefly outline the difference between these methods:

  • SSN Traces search public records to supply a detailed history of the candidate, including specific information such as address history and an alias search.
  • Identity Verification uses biometric data collected by third-party vendors to confirm a person’s identity via facial recognition, fingerprinting, or in some cases even voice recognition. Identity verification is used to confirm the identity of a particular candidate, while an SSN trace confirms a person’s history.

In order to clear up this confusion, just ask your background screening vendor: “Have you implemented identity verification and SSN trace in your background screenings?”

Misconception #3: Adding Identity Verification to the Screening Process Increases Turnaround Time

For many gig platforms eager to onboard people ASAP, it may seem like adding an “extra step” to the background screening process will increase the turnaround time for candidates, but this is just another misconception. When gig employers add identity verification to their onboarding process, not only do they receive more reliable information about their candidate, but they also empower candidates to speed through onboarding by uploading their biometric data. Third-party vendors, like ID.me, can collect and verify a candidate’s identity simultaneously while the background check is running so the process is not held up by adding this step. For more details, our on-demand video elaborates on the benefits of incorporating identity verification into your Gig platform.

Navigate this area of confusion by asking your background screening vendor: “Can you explain where the identity verification process is added during the onboarding process? Does it take additional time for the background check to run?”

Misconception #4: There is Only One API Integration for Gig Platforms

If your gig platform is currently looking to find a user-friendly API integration, there are vendors who specialize in gig economy background checks that would be able to fit your needs. Some have been around for over a decade, developing and innovating API integrations with gig platforms (and/or their third-party vendors) to create a seamless onboarding experience for their candidates.

Avoid this misconception early by asking your screening partner: “Do you have an API that is able to integrate with my existing program? Can your API work if our company expands globally?”

Misconception #5: All Background Screenings for Sex Offenders Run Through the DOJ

Unfortunately, no. All sex offenders convicted in the US are required to register within their respective states through the Dru Sjodin NSOPW website, maintained by the DOJ, which houses all registration and information on the state level. Because this is not backed on a federal level, background screening vendors that utilize third-party databases for sex offender checks may not have complete criminal information about a potential candidate.

You can clear up this area of confusion by asking your screening provider: “What database do you run your sex offender checks through?”

Misconception #6: All Background Check Vendors Require Volume Thresholds

As most gig companies begin to grow, it is important that they find a background screening partner who can grow along with them. Most vendors require their clients to lock themselves into a certain volume threshold (i.e. commit to a certain number of background checks) so clients will pay extra (potentially thousands of dollars) even if they do not actually need such a high volume. However, there are background screening providers who instead utilize a more affordable pay-per-check model, allowing your gig platform to save money and avoid hefty fees from volume thresholds.

Make sure to ask your background vendor: “What volume thresholds do your contracts require? Will we be penalized if our company doesn’t meet them?”


Considering the sheer number of people looking for gig work, and the growing number of gig platforms eager to put them to work, clearly it pays for the latter to cut through the misconceptions surrounding background screening. Not only can gig HR teams avoid common onboarding errors, they can also gain profitable insight into how companies they trust, like their background check providers, can better help them achieve that goal.

Sterling is not a law firm. This publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out this information. We encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.