No Way To Check

By John McCormick  |  Posted 2005-06-14 Print this article Print

Steven Calderon was into his second week working as a security guard for Fry's Electronics when Anaheim, Calif., police walked in and arrested him. Fry's had requested a background check on Calderon, which was done by The Screening Network, a service of C

No Way To Check

Unfortunately for Steven Calderon, he could not check or dispute whatever data ChoicePoint had on him before the Anaheim police arrested him at Fry's in January 2002.

Calderon spent a week being transferred from jail to jail in Southern California. He continued to protest his innocence, but the police were unmoved.

Only after an officer in Ventura noticed that Calderon's driver's license number, height and weight did not match the ones on file on the suspect being sought, did they check his prints and realize they had the wrong man. So, they let him go. He returned to work at Fry's. A year later, he filed suit against Fry's, ChoicePoint, the city of Anaheim and the California counties of Orange and Ventura.

Everyone who spoke about the case—Fry's and Anaheim officials—expressed regret that it happened. But all said their actions were correct, or at least understandable, given the situation. Calderon's lawsuits against the city and counties were dismissed. Mark Facer, the attorney for Anaheim, says the police acted on an arrest warrant that looked valid.

ChoicePoint's only comment on the case is that the plaintiff dropped the complaint. Calderon could not be reached for comment, but Stephen Gargaro, Calderon's attorney, says he requested a dismissal—which the court granted—because he felt "the law was on the edge as to whether they [ChoicePoint] had liability."

Fry's attorney, Alex Curotto, "disputes vehemently that [Fry's] did anything wrong." Calderon settled with Fry's, but the company's community relations manager, Manuel Valerio, says Calderon should have told Fry's when he was hired about the ID theft. "The crime of identity theft is compounded by not making the employer aware," he says.

Such finger-pointing is common in cases where bad data is involved. Bad data sets off a chain of errors, in which each misstep is linked to the last. Calderon told the court he'd forgotten about the identity theft, although he certainly would have told Fry's if he knew he'd spend a week in jail.

But it never occurred to Calderon to refuse a background check. As he told the court: "My record was clean."

Story Guide:

Blur: The Importance of Accuracy

  • Not Just Security, But Accuracy
  • 'Serious' Errors Are Common
  • Data Customers Pay the Costs
  • Collecting Data Without Garbage Filters
  • Records 'Full of Inaccuracies'
  • Crap In, Crap Out
  • Fix It Yourself
  • No Way To Check
  • ChoicePoint Data at a Glance


Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...
eWeek eWeek

Have the latest technology news and resources emailed to you everyday.