The following article originally appeared on the “Security Clearance Jobs Forum” on 2/12/16. Read more blog posts like this at ClearanceJobsBlog.com.
The credit report run on a federal background investigation is more in-depth than the one you can pull for free or through your financial institution. The government credit check is a tri-merge, meaning it consolidates the reports of all three major credit bureaus (TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian) into one. It also runs checks for bankruptcies, tax liens, and civil court judgments. Those that don’t keep track of their finances very well are usually surprised when confronted by an investigator about accounts, liens or other issues that they forgot about or were unaware of because they don’t show up on their free credit report.
Things that adjudicators look for on a credit report are:
– different names, social security numbers, dates of birth, employers or addresses listed on the credit report that are not listed on the security application;
– number of open accounts with a high balance (are you living within your means and do you have the ability to pay your debts with your current income);
– number of accounts that were/are delinquent, past due, charged off, or sent to collections. Take note that a debt that is charged off is not resolved, it simply means the creditor has written off the debt as a loss but the amount is still owed; and
– previous or current bankruptcies, tax liens, wage garnishments or judgments (expect questions about the reasons/causes that led these issues).
Your overall credit or FICO score is not relevant to an adjudicator for a background investigation. What is important is your history of being financially responsible and paying agreed upon legal and just debts. This is a reflection of a person’s honesty and trustworthiness. This is not to say that unforeseen events in life happen and we occasionally get into a bind, but rather how you handle resolving these events that is the key to a favorable adjudication.