Background Investigations

How to Make it Easier for a Background Investigator to Contact You

It seems every day we hear a new story about some company or government agency getting hacked by unknown perpetrators who steal sensitive identity or financial information. Think…….Yahoo, LinkedIn, Oracle, Target, State Department, Office of Personnel Management, and the Internal Revenue Service just to name a few. As a result, we follow the advice of experts who give us tips such as putting a freeze on our credit accounts, never giving out personal or financial information over the phone, and verifying the identity of individuals who try to solicit information.

Now imagine you are a background investigator trying to complete checks for a security clearance applicant. You have a badge that identifies you as a representative of the Office of Personnel Management (or some other agency) and an electronically signed release form the applicant that says you can obtain information about them. Everyone cooperates and gives you what you need, piece of cake, right? Wrong! In today’s world where paranoia about hackers and impersonators trying to steal your information abound, background investigators are finding it more challenging than ever to get even the simplest checks done.  For agencies like the CIA, NSA, or NRO whose investigators are making follow-up calls and checks for Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI) access requests, they cannot even disclose to the source as to who they work for. Just the other day I got a call from an SCI access applicant concerned about an investigator from an unnamed three letter agency who asked her to unfreeze her credit accounts so that they could run a credit check for the investigation.

Here are some tips for security clearance applicants and those undergoing upgrades, periodic reinvestigations, or SCI access processing:

  • Ensure all of the contact information for the sources you list on the SF-86 are accurate and up to date, and then make them aware you are undergoing the clearance process and that they may be contacted by an investigator.
  • If you put a freeze on your credit accounts, prior to completing and releasing your e-QIP, take the freeze off for 30 days and ensure you are monitoring your accounts for any unusual activity during that time.
  • If previous employers you worked for have a company policy where a specific company release of information must be signed in order for them to provide any information then get it done with the company directly so that when the investigator makes contact there is no delay in obtaining the required information.


  1. After the interview if you think of other details or information that you feel is important regarding the investigation will that raise a red flag if you contact your investigator

  2. Not necessarily, unless it is about something that you were required to disclose and didn’t.

  3. Thank you . Something came up about something I did 5 1/2 years ago. I spoke with the investigator about it. I wasn’t arrested or charged. Just did something ( poor judgement) . I put it so far back into memory that I keep thinking of my information to mitigate what I did. Maybe I should just wait until adjudication , but it seems what I understand it’s best to give clarity as much as you can during the investigation. I already called my investigator once but not sure if I should call him again. About the same topic. Is it ever too late?? This incident wasn’t disclosed bc it was part of a FBI investigation and I was a witness so I only knew it was in my records after they ran a name check on me

Comment Archive

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    Isn’t it kind of half-assed, catch-as-catch-can, the way investigators do Subject interviews? Contractors and feds should have rented office spaces where ESIs are conducted. Not scrambling to reserve a library private study room and when not available in the most isolated part of a library. Crazy. Can imagine any other government agency doing it this way.

    “Hi Mr. Smith, this is the IRS. We need to do an audit interview. Can I meet you at your office or at the library nearest to you?”

    “You’ll come to me?”

    “Yeah, we’re just like Safelite techs. Except I can’t give you a window of time for ETD but a specific time. And I will give you a business card and on the back you’ll find a number to call to complain if I’m a few minutes late or ask you questions you don’t like or you don’t finding me cheerfully deferential enough after discussing two dozen delinquent accounts and three DWIs and an employment disciplinary a action. And that complaint call– perhaps the only instance of a federal government quick action response– will have me looking for new job. But don’t let the low-rent style fool you, this is about national security, pal.”

  2. Avatar

    Correction: ? …ETA

  3. Avatar

    @dcinv your post is spot on! Obviously it makes sense to conduct source interviews at the sources preferred location but having to scramble for space to conduct subject interviews is completely uncalled for. Especially when I see so many government buildings with underutilized space. But be careful if your a contract Investigator and you ask to use some available GSA space. You better know your role and just shut up and tell the subjects to meet you at a library. Stop worrying about doing the job right and just get your source units of and don’t forget to note that it was conducted in a private space.

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    How about when you call back the investigator (who is already running like a chicken with his head cut-off) and they cannot answer their phone, you courteously leave them a voicemail so he can’t assume you are who you are given that he has a dozen other calls that have been made during the day?

  5. Avatar

    But, guys, NBIB will fix our problems!

    …Oh, what’s that you say? No significant overhaul of actual investigative operations? Welp, guess I’ll go back to my reserved study room to check off some more boxes on my tier chart.

  6. Avatar

    This is the genius (link below) behind the tiered investigation idea. Check out the ‘In the media’ section. I hate to bash a fellow Terp, but this stuff is too good not to bring your attention to.