3 Ways To Get Rid Of Digital Dirt That Comes Up In Public Records Searches


Public records are routinely searched by employers who conduct background checks as part of the hiring process. They are often databases that are part of the “hidden internet” and so they don’t come as part of a general internet search. You have to go to the specific government database to find those records. What kind of public records are found in databases like this? Court records, tax records, real estate transactions, liens, and criminal records, among others. You can search the public government databases for your county and state to see what they say about you. Again, search under your name and address, along with any options (like phone number or Social Security number) they offer. Alternatively, you can pay an online service to do it for you. What happens if you discover negative information about yourself? Unfortunately, when it comes to public records, your options are limited. There are really only three ways to get deal with the negative information:

1. If The Negative Information Is False Or Otherwise In Error, Then Report It. Conduct these searches at least once a year—even if you’re know you’ve done nothing wrong. Every government agency is staffed by people and gets information from people. Of course, people make mistakes (like superimposing Social Security numbers), and you want to uncover those mistakes as fast as possible. Otherwise, those lingering errors could prevent you from getting your dream job or advancing your career. So if you find a mistake, contact the agency in charge of the database immediately to find out how to file a report. Find out if they need any proof from you, or other requirements. For example, if they show your property taxes are in arrears, then you might provide them with a copy of your canceled check that proves timely payment.

2. If The Negative Information Is True, Then Correct The Underlying Problem That Caused The Negative Information To Appear. Sometimes, you’ll find negative information that is true. For example, maybe the government real property tax database shows your property taxes are in arrears because you really haven’t paid them. In that case, there’s nothing you can do to get the adverse information removed other than by paying your property taxes (and whatever penalties are due). Contact the agency responsible for the database. Ask how to rectify the problem and find out how long the negative information will remain publicly available. Follow up to be sure the negative information is timely removed.

3. If The Negative Information Is True, And There Is No Underlying Problem To Correct, Then Do Your Best To Move Forward. Again, sometimes that negative information is true. Maybe you really were arrested. Maybe you really did file for personal bankruptcy. Maybe you really were convicted of misdemeanor littering. And maybe there’s no way for you to get that information removed from public databases. In some cases, the information may automatically be purged after some set amount of time. In other cases, it will be there forever. Either way, you can try to bury the information or distance yourself from it while you wait it out. And, of course, you can proactively and diligently build a positive reputation for yourself. Over time, many of these problems will have less and less impact on your job search and career development. After all, if you’ve had a clean, positive, and professional record, then employers are less likely to care about mistakes you made 10, 15, or 25 years ago.