Security Clearance Problem – Bad Credit Stories

Can your bad credit effect a background check or security clearance at work?Over 4 million people hold top secret security clearance. Some are in the military, others are contractors who work with sensitive information for the federal government. The ability to get a security clearance is a requirement for many jobs; and, the increasing prevalence of bad credit is threatening many people’s eligibility.

The Dangers of Debt

High levels of debt or a poor history of repayment can keep you from getting a security clearance or, if you already have one, put your status in danger. There’s no specific number as far as credit score or amount of debt that will rule you ineligible; these decisions are made on a case by case basis. Also, unsecured debt like credit cards is handled differently than secured debt like home loans. But, experts say that, as unsecured debt levels head toward 50% of your annual, your chances of getting or maintaining clearance drop.

The reason for this is that those with high debt are considered more vulnerable. The chances of someone with paralyzingly high debt accepting bribes in exchange for information, for instance, are far higher than the risks with someone who is financially secure.

The Whole Person Approach

If you are in the military or if you work with government contracts, a security clearance may be necessary to move up in your career. A lack of eligibility can keep you off plum assignments or stagnate you and make it impossible to get promoted.

Luckily, credit and debt are not the only factors that are considered when you apply for a security clearance. During the adjudicative process, when your history is being considered, they will consider a wide range of information about your personal history. If you have black marks on your credit like a foreclosure or bankruptcy, they will take into account how recent the issue was, and what your behavior has been like since the occurrence.

How to Protect Your Clearance

If a security clearance is something that you will require at some point in your career, it’s important to protect your credit as much as possible. Do not use credit cards to extend your spending capabilities; instead, charge small amounts each month and pay it off regularly. Be conscientious about paying your bills on time.

And, remember that those who make decisions about clearances know that people in the military or in security contracting are vulnerable to the same financial hiccups everyone else is. Frequent moving means that you can wind up upside down on a house. A spouse’s lay-off can cause temporary financial issues. If you are honest about any potential problems and dedicated to improving your credit record, it can go a long way toward improving your odds of getting the clearance you need to move up in your career.