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Question on background checks (old debts)

clearance_checkclearance_check Registered User new member
edited September 2010 in Help / Advice Forum
I've been a longtime lurker, but I have a question about a clearance check. My job (military) requires a secret security clearance. They said they will look at finance history.

Thing is, I had this stint at a community college a few years ago. I went there one semester. I was almost dropped from a class because of this rule they had where if you didn't show up for the first day of class, you were automatically dropped. Talked to the prof afterwards, everything got straightened out. The second semester, I was registered, but during Xmas break I decided to move back to my parents house and volunteer for deployment. When I called the school to drop, they told me I had to do so in person. I wasn't about to drive 2 hours to drop classes, so I decided to let "the rule" take care of it for me. A month later, I get an $800 bill for tuition. I told them the situation, and they said that "the rule" had been changed (without notifying me) and that I owed them the money.

I figured I didn't have a legal leg to stand on, so I kind of hid from it. It has gone into collections, but I haven't heard from a collector in a couple years. I did a credit report in 2009, and it still showed up (at least I think it did, it was hard to read). I assume it's still on my record. I know I should get it taken care of, but I'm not about to pay $800 for classes I never took. Will this prevent me from getting a clearance?

TL, DR Have an old unpaid debt on record, will that fuck me for a clearance?

clearance_check on

Posts

  • ink4n3ink4n3 Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    Taken from Wikipedia:

    A Secret clearance, also known as Collateral Secret or Ordinary Secret, requires a few months to a year to fully investigate, depending on the individual's background. Some instances wherein individuals would take longer than normal to be investigated are many past residences, having residences in foreign countries, having relatives outside the United States, or significant ties with non-US citizens. Unpaid bills as well as criminal charges will more than likely disqualify an applicant for approval. However, a Bankruptcy will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and is not an automatic dis-qualifier. Poor financial history is the number-one cause of rejection, and foreign activities and criminal record are also common causes for disqualification. A Secret clearance requires a National Agency Check, a Local Agency Check, and a Credit investigation; it must also be re-investigated every 10 years.[citation needed] Investigative requirements for DoD clearances, which apply to most civilian contractor situations, are contained in the Personnel Security Program issuance known as DoD Regulation 5200-R, at part C3.4.2

    That being said, I don't think a $800 debt would be considered poor financial history. Secret clearances are pretty easy to come by...

    ink4n3 on
  • CreidhesCreidhes Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    As long as you are 100% honest and forthcoming on the ten page application (and later phonecalls/interviews if needed) regarding past financial issues, you'll be fine. You'd be suprised what's in the background of cleared individuals.

    What may hurt you more is your continued willful avoidance of the that debt. I would pay it immediately. Big Brother has access to much more than your credit report and they will see that debt and your avoidance of it. Visiting Gramma in [insert country of concern here], and not inhaling in college can usually be explained away. Avoiding a financial obligation looks hinky.

    Edit: Also make sure your taxes for the past five years have been filed properly.

    Creidhes on
  • DarkewolfeDarkewolfe Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    Unpaid debts usually refers to significant financial burdens that would make someone easier to bribe/blackmail, therefore a security liability.

    Darkewolfe on
    What is this I don't even.
  • RUNN1NGMANRUNN1NGMAN Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    It's probably not going to bar you getting a clearance, but you should be aware that shirking debts is grounds for administrative separation based on unsuitability. I'd be more worried that this debt is going to follow you around until bill collectors start contacting your CO and you end up getting discharged.

    edit: it's probably illegal for debt collectors to contact your CO, but it's definitely not illegal for the school to contact your CO if you owe them money.

    RUNN1NGMAN on
  • RuckusRuckus Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    I'd say it probably won't affect you as long as you disclose it when the checks are initiated.

    I doubt the Government's going to be particularly worried about a Community College shaking you down for nuclear secrets or anything.

    Ruckus on
  • Actinguy1Actinguy1 Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    You don't specify the country, but here's my American military experience:

    There are three levels of clearance: Confidential, Secret, and Top Secret. Well...and nonclassified, which is basically the information that they hand out on a silver platter to any joe that wants it.

    My job was in public affairs...the government's version of Public Relations...so my duties basically involved actually telling the American people whatever it was that happened to be going on in the military. Even though my job was to publicize positive aspects of military operations, it still required a confidential security clearance (the lowest of the three). Why? Nobody would tell me something they didn't want publicized of course, since that was my job...but it was entirely possible (and happened) that I would accidently come into contact with something that shouldn't be publicized and it needed to be understood that I would not then go running to the nearest reporter with facts that could endanger my fellow soldiers, etc. Thus, I needed the security clearance.

    Anyhow, the REASON that I joined the military was that my finances were a complete wreck. I was on the run from creditors...I even had a half dozen warrants for my arrest for not paying parking tickets and such. I got the confidential clearance without any effort. It's that easy.

    Secret is only one step up, but it is a significant step just the same. Whereas I needed clearance because I might accidently find out about something serious, Secret people are dealing with this every day. Further, they may accidently find out something that is TOP secret, which is actually some pretty serious shit. Getting a secret clearance is a significant accomplishment, but it IS accomplished every day by perfectly normal folk.

    As long as you don't strike your investigators as the sort of guy who would sell out his country for 700 dollars, you're probably going to be fine. More often, it's the sort of people who have serious gambling problems, involvement with prostitutes (especially of the same gender), drug dealings, criminal backgrounds, close family members or other loved ones who have some level of involvement with "bad guys", etc that costs you your security clearance. The reason, of course, is that these are the sort of people who are easy to blackmail into doing all kinds of terrible things.

    If 700 bucks to a community college is your only problem, I wouldn't worry about it....other than fixing it as soon as that first paycheck comes in, in case you ever want to buy a house or such.

    Actinguy1 on
  • Actinguy1Actinguy1 Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    RUNN1NGMAN wrote: »
    It's probably not going to bar you getting a clearance, but you should be aware that shirking debts is grounds for administrative separation based on unsuitability. I'd be more worried that this debt is going to follow you around until bill collectors start contacting your CO and you end up getting discharged.

    edit: it's probably illegal for debt collectors to contact your CO, but it's definitely not illegal for the school to contact your CO if you owe them money.

    This is not illegal at all. In fact, it is precisely how this is done.

    It is extremely important to the military that it's soldiers, etc, are viewed an honorable people. When a member of the military fails to live up to this standard, they can either correct it or GTFO. Hardships are understood, but the reality is that when a debt collector, landlord, etc contacts the CO, he tells you to fix it RIGHT NOW, and expects a full report by the morning on how everything is better now.

    This happens all the time. In fact, this is exactly why landlords are so eager to rent out to military people, and even offer discounts. They know that if they have a problem with the renter, the military will handle it (and may even dock the soldier's pay to ensure the landlord is paid immediately).

    The good news is that if there IS a hardship, the military has organizations in place that will give you a 0% interest same-day loan, and it's extremely easy to get. I had to do it twice in a year (my pay was messed up by the finance department), with zero career backlash.

    Actinguy1 on
  • QuidQuid Definitely not a banana Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    Eight hundred dollars isn't going to hold you back.

    Quid on
  • Dunadan019Dunadan019 Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    negotiate the debt and pay it off.

    simple as that.

    Dunadan019 on
  • RUNN1NGMANRUNN1NGMAN Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    Actinguy1 wrote: »
    RUNN1NGMAN wrote: »
    It's probably not going to bar you getting a clearance, but you should be aware that shirking debts is grounds for administrative separation based on unsuitability. I'd be more worried that this debt is going to follow you around until bill collectors start contacting your CO and you end up getting discharged.

    edit: it's probably illegal for debt collectors to contact your CO, but it's definitely not illegal for the school to contact your CO if you owe them money.

    This is not illegal at all. In fact, it is precisely how this is done.

    It is extremely important to the military that it's soldiers, etc, are viewed an honorable people. When a member of the military fails to live up to this standard, they can either correct it or GTFO. Hardships are understood, but the reality is that when a debt collector, landlord, etc contacts the CO, he tells you to fix it RIGHT NOW, and expects a full report by the morning on how everything is better now.

    This happens all the time. In fact, this is exactly why landlords are so eager to rent out to military people, and even offer discounts. They know that if they have a problem with the renter, the military will handle it (and may even dock the soldier's pay to ensure the landlord is paid immediately).

    The good news is that if there IS a hardship, the military has organizations in place that will give you a 0% interest same-day loan, and it's extremely easy to get. I had to do it twice in a year (my pay was messed up by the finance department), with zero career backlash.

    I said it was illegal for bill collectors to contact the command--not sure why you're arguing with my post.

    RUNN1NGMAN on
  • urahonkyurahonky Registered User regular
    edited September 2010
    I got a Secret Clearance with probably more debt than you can imagine. My $5k credit card was nearly maxed, and my student loans (about $44k) were sure to come up, and they deemed me worthy of getting one.

    urahonky on
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