Trustworthy, professional background screening firms perform comprehensive background screenings that make use of a wide range of search methodologies to develop accurate and detailed information regarding an individual. While an SSN Trace is always the first step in any background screening, it should be combined with additional search processes to ascertain critical information about an applicant and to ensure that the potential employer is in compliance with U.S. employment law.
Many employers erroneously think that running a simple Social Security Number (SSN) Trace is all that’s needed to confirm an applicant’s right to work under United States law. This is far from the truth. Falling prey to this myth can lead a business to hire someone who is ineligible to work in the U.S., potentially exposing the business to civil and criminal penalties. An SSN Trace (or SSN “Validation”) simply generates a report listing any addresses, as well as any aliases, linked to the specific SSN provided by the applicant.
An SSN Trace does not confirm whether a specific SSN belongs to the applicant. Nor does an SSN Trace fulfill legal requirements for eligibility to work verification, which is usually performed after an applicant has been hired. Unfortunately, there is a robust trade in false identifies. Individuals who don’t have the right to work in the U.S. or have unfavorable backgrounds can often obtain SSNs that belong to other people.
An SSN Trace alone is usually insufficient to reveal if the SSN belongs to the applicant, unless it returns either no information or information that is completely different from other background information provided by the applicant. Either result is an immediate red flag, requiring additional communication with the applicant.
While SSN Traces do not verify employment eligibility, they are a vital part of background screening and can reveal critical data, such as locations where an applicant has resided that differ from what he or she has provided, and verify the validity of the SSN. A background screening firm can then search the criminal and civil courts in those jurisdictions for any action naming the applicant, potentially uncovering issues relevant to the hiring decision.
To help determine if an applicant-provided SSN is not tied to that individual, a background screener can conduct a Consent-Based SSN Verification (CBSV). During a CBSV verification, information linked to an SSN in the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) records is compared to information provided by the applicant—such as date of birth, current address, name, and so forth—to determine if the information matches. A signed form of consent from the applicant is required and can be requested at any time during the hiring process. However, a CBSV only confirms that the applicant-provided information is consistent with what the government has on file for the SSN; it does not confirm employment eligibility.
Online right-to-work verifications are conducted using E-Verify, an electronic system maintained by the federal government. Under the E-Verify system, information from the SSA and Department of Homeland Security is compared to information provided by the applicant on Form I-9. E-Verify simply confirms that the individual has the right to work in the U.S. All employers must complete Form I-9 for each new hire, but E-Verify checks are voluntary for most U.S. firms; E-Verify checks are required for certain government contractors and for businesses in some states. E-Verify checks are performed after an offer of employment has been extended but before the new employee has been working for three business days.