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Probe: February 5, 2001

February 05, 2001

QUESTION: How do you find out what in your background disqualified you for a job at the county Sheriff's Office?

I applied for a job and was one of three people interviewed. After the interview I was notified to pick up a packet for a background check.

Three weeks later I received a letter saying I was no longer being considered due to my background check. Nobody would tell me what in my past disqualified me for the job.

I have an excellent driving record, no financial problems and a good job record. I was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army and the California National Guard. I had a secret clearance while stationed overseas.

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When I asked why I was ruled out, I was told I had signed a waiver freeing the Sheriff's Office from any obligation to explain.

This is a true concern to me. If I knew why, perhaps I could correct the problem. — Disqualified, Brawley

We share your concern. If you get turned down for credit, the credit grantor must tell you what credit reporting agency gave you a bad rap.

If you ask, the credit reporting agency must provide you a copy of the credit report that shot down your credit application.

For most people getting a job is more important than getting a new credit card.

Some of the looser background checks may violate one's right to privacy. It certainly dents one's right to face one's accusers.

County Sheriff Harold Carter said his policy is to deny explanations on background checks because such discussions could lead to lawsuits.

A candidate for a job at the Sheriff's Office may be ruled out by arrest or driving records, bad credit, or comments from previous employers or even neighbors, he said.

QUESTION: I got this letter in the mail saying I can get a rebate on my property tax if I send in $36? Is this true? — Senior, Calexico

You can get your rebate without sending in the money. We've been telling low-income seniors that for two weeks.

We have a new local number for you. Call 353-4207 between 12:30 and 4:30 p.m. You will reach people who will provide forms to apply for the rebate.

That Sacramento outfit offering to get the tax rebate for qualified seniors for $36 must be sending letters in batches. Every time a new batch arrives in Imperial County, we get a whole new batch of phone calls and visits.

Our advice is don't send the money. You can do this yourself.

QUESTION: I got this in the mail. It says I have won $1 million to be paid at $33,000 a year for 20 years. There's an 800 number to call? That's a toll-free number. What have I got to lose? — Ready to retire, Calexico

Nothing if you don't get switched to an expensive 900 number and if you don't buy anything.

Knowing the pitfalls, the Calexico reader decided to call the number. He promised to let us know what happened.

Before he called he was reasonably sure the prize-giver was selling something. The tip-off was the letter's statement that it was not necessary to buy anything to win a prize.

Later he called us, reporting, "They're selling magazines … and they're not cheap." He didn't buy any. Good!

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