A Maryland man’s life is turned upside down because he shares a name and birthdate with a felon.
Christopher Jenkins of Maryland doesn’t have a criminal record.
But a Christopher Jenkins in Florida does – a long list of offenses including possession of marijuana and grand theft auto.
When a potential employer ran a background check on Maryland’s Jenkins, he said, the criminal history of Florida’s Jenkins showed up.
Jenkins said he’s never smoked pot and never been to Florida.
Jenkins said knowing if he applies for a job he might not get it because of someone else’s criminal record caused him depression and stress.
According to the FBI, between 2014 and 2016, more than 1 million people requested copies of what's called their FBI identity history summary to see what shows up. Of those requests, about 2,300 had errors with more than half of those being corrected.
If you fail a background check, you have every right to ask why, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
“They also have the right to correct any inaccurate information,” FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection Senior Attorney Tiffany George said.
George said you must contact the company that ran your background check and ask to see the report.
“They should have whatever information at their disposal that proves that they don't have a criminal record and that their identity shouldn't be confused with someone else,” George said.
Jenkins has to carry around a folder of documents wherever he goes:
- A letter from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement confirming he's not the other Christopher Jenkins with a criminal record,
- A notarized affidavit addressing the mistaken identity,
- And a set of his own fingerprints to prove he's not a felon.
“It's devastating for me and my fiance because I'm trying to make a better life for us and if I can't get the right job to provide for the household, it's hard,” Jenkins said. “It's a struggle.”
Identity theft experts said governments that maintain criminal record databases need to set up a better system so that when there is a problem, there is an easier way to challenge it.