Understanding SSN Background Checks

An SSN background check is a unique reporting tool employers use when hiring staff. These checks are much different from the typical criminal background check. Indeed, you cannot use information from such checks to disqualify candidates with a criminal report. Instead, these tools help provide identity verification services. They play an essential role in creating a more comprehensive background check process. An “SSN trace” is a closely related tool. These solutions help verify that a Social Security Number is valid.

These searches often provide a list of names and addresses associated with the number. Not every company requires applicants to have a pre-employment background check with their SSN. However, it can be an essential tool for thorough due diligence. Should employers always use SSNs in their process, and what benefits do they provide? Here’s our short answer.

Why Do You Need a Background Check With an SSN?

The information you glean from SSN checks and SSN trace results is helpful for several reasons. Ultimately, they contribute to more robust, safer, and detailed vetting processes. There are several reasons to run an SSN background check.

First, this tool helps you verify an individual’s identity. Though rare, someone may commit identity theft and use that ID to seek jobs. An SSN check helps expose potential mismatches that warrant further investigation. Verifying an identity also makes correlating criminal records to your applicant easier.

Second, knowing an applicant’s aliases is also vital for vetting. Criminal records mostly rely on the name and date of birth to identify a subject. Don’t let someone change their name and fly under the radar. Nobody can change their Social Security number. Thus, verifying or tracing the number can help you make matches more confidently.

Finally, a Social Security number trace may produce address histories. Perhaps these locations are outside your county or state. Still, the applicant might have a criminal record in these other places. Therefore, you can target your background check orders more accurately to avoid overlooking information.

What Appears on SSN Background Checks?

What will you see when you order a report on someone’s Social Security number? Understanding what you’ll receive and how to interpret the results is essential. In general, you can expect to see some or all the following information:

  • The date the Social Security Administration issued the number
  • The assignee’s state of residence at issuance
  • Any known aliases associated with the SSN, including maiden- or changed names.
  • Any recent addresses or addresses known as associated with that SSN.

With this information, you can verify more about a candidate. For example, does the issued date not match the applicant’s birthday? Does the list of names and aliases seem unrelated? Is the state of issuance incorrect? All these are red flags that may warrant more investigation.

The Relationship Between a Criminal Records Search and an SSN

Does every criminal background check need to run an SSN trace? Not necessarily. Social Security numbers could play an essential role in improving your process. However, there are some caveats to keep in mind. Whether you’re selecting and vetting volunteers or hiring new employees, these hold true.

An SSN is not a prime necessity of the process. You can still obtain detailed and informative criminal background checks without one. Contrary to what some believe, criminal records don’t contain SSNs. You won’t find additional data just by including an SSN. Since criminal records are public, private data like SSNs won’t appear. Checks using SSNs are merely tools to provide additional context. The information you get from them is what you may then use to improve your screening.

Using an SSN Trace as a Kind of Alias Search

While SSNs aren’t directly related to criminal record searches, they have pivotal roles.

Annually, tens of thousands of people legally change their names. Some do so after marriage, while others do so arbitrarily. Simultaneously, the threat of identity theft has remained high for many years. These factors mean people may not always be who they say they are. That doesn’t automatically imply malicious intent; married names are ubiquitous. It means you should consider additional work on the vetting process.

For instance, consider a tool such as the US AliasSEARCH check from backgroundchecks.com. When you order this check, it differs from a criminal history search. It strictly relies on SSN information and checks the number against critical sources. These sources include the SSA’s Death Master Index. If the SSN appears in this index, it could indicate fraud. The AliasSEARCH can also automatically produce criminal history reports based on alias data from the SSA. With this information, you can zero in on the correct records in a criminal search.

Using SSNs to Zero in on Other Addresses to Search

Remember, applicants might have criminal records geographically far from your company. If you only search local records, you may never know that someone has a serious record elsewhere. The US OneTRACE service helps you verify additional address information.

Employers who perform address history checks can expand the scope of the records they review with an SSN Trace. As a best practice, check county-level criminal records in the locations where an applicant has lived going back for the last seven years.

The Importance of Social Security Number Verification

Not every employer uses SSNs in their hiring process. However, the additional confidence is valuable. Consider one illustrative example. In one state, a man shared the same name as his father, a registered sex offender. The man ran into trouble trying to find work because of mismatched records. Although courts ruled the FCRA wasn’t wrong in this case, companies faced costly litigation. Verifying an individual’s identity with an SSN could’ve avoided this issue altogether.

Ultimately, the SSN background check is an exceptional supporting tool. It won’t provide the information for making employment decisions, but it will help you find it. Use the US AliasSEARCH or US OneTRACE to verify SSNs and find aliases or address histories. Build this information into your other workflows. With SSN verification as the foundation of your process, you can combat fraud and increase confidence in each hiring decision.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does an SSN check show employment history?

No. These checks only verify an SSN’s validity while providing an address history.

Why should a background check include Social Security Number verification?

Using SSNs ensures you don’t miss criminal records associated with an individual. Applicants might have records listed under former names or aliases. The address history SSNs may supply also makes background check processes more thorough. Such a list tells you where to look for potential local criminal records. Verifying SSNs also combats identity fraud and helps confirm that you’ve identified relevant court records.

Why do employers run SSN background checks or address history checks?

Even though SSNs aren’t tied to criminal records, they still have other uses. SSNs help employers add more detail to their background check process. Using SSNs helps avoid overlooking potentially decision-altering information. Employers could miss critical information from other cities or counties without these tools. SSN searches help establish greater confidence in the overall hiring process.

Is it safe for applicants to give employers an SSN?

Companies can’t compel an individual to include their SSN on an application. Many applicants rightfully have concerns about identity theft. The better choice is to work with a team such as backgroundchecks.com. With a secure and encrypted digital workflow, employees can submit to a Social Security background check in a safer environment.

Can you check someone’s Social Security Number (SSN) for free?

Yes, the Social Security Administration offers a free SSN verification tool. However, it only verifies that a name and SSN match the records held by the SSA. It is not a background check with a Social Security number per sé. You will need to use third-party services for more detailed information. The SSA also provides a paid service for companies verifying at larger volumes.

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Michael Klazema

About Michael Klazema The author

Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based backgroundchecks.com with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments

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