Social Security Number Trace Information
Some background check reports may display a result for a search commonly known as a “Social Security Number Trace” or “SSN Trace.” This search is drawn from some hundreds of sources and is comprised of millions of records that associates names and addresses to a particular social security number. A screening firm typically uses this search as a research tool to see if other jurisdictions should be added to the scope of the criminal records search.
What It Is and What It Is Not
- The SSN Trace should not be relied upon for any purpose other than identifying locations to search for criminal records.
- SSN Trace information is NOT accessed directly from government records and is therefore not an official review or verification of a Social Security Number.
- The SSN Trace is NOT an “official registry” of current or past addressees nor is it a definitive identity or address valuation tool.
- It is not positive proof of identify, past addresses or the validity of a Social Security number.
- SSN Trace information is not taken from nor does it reflect upon the consumer’s actual credit file.
- The SSN Trace database aggregates data from hundreds of public records and commercially available data sources all of which may contain errors.
- Source data is sometimes reported or entered inaccurately, processed poorly or incorrectly, and is generally not free from defect.
- Trace results sometimes indicate the Social Security number appears to be a valid number and also indicates the state where and the date when it was most likely issued.
- This does NOT mean the screening firm actually checked with the Social Security Administration (SSA) and found information about the particular applicant.
- The screening firm is merely advising an employer that the number appears to be valid based upon information the SSA provides to the public on how to interpret the numbering sequence for SSN numbers issued prior to June 2011.
An employer should never make a direct hiring decision based upon the information contained in the Social Security Trace. However, the information in a trace report can be the basis for further research of an applicant.
The SSN Trace Information Is Wrong – How Do I Get It Changed?
You can contact the screening company to seek a change in the report that was prepared in your name. The screening firm should cooperate and remove the contested information from the background report they prepared. However, they cannot “permanently correct” the names or addresses in the Social Security Trace database because it does not own the data nor can it access or edit the underlying information.
It is important for the consumer to understand that the same information still exists in the database it originally came from and that the next time a background report is run by the same or another screening company, that erroneous information will likely still be there.
Even the commercial aggregator cannot identify the private database that contained or still contains erroneous information due to vast number of data sources and the millions of associated records.
The bottom-line is that because of the wide variety of information sources that are subject to human error the results that are returned are NOT always relevant or entirely correct.
For example, a name or address that has no association with the consumer may come up.
- When names or addresses come up that have no association with the consumer, they may be concerned that the record is wrong or that there has been identity theft. This is usually not the case. In the vast majesty of instances where an unassociated name or address appears, it is simply the result of some sort of data entry, clerical or aggregation error related to one of the databases used in the trace. For example, if a social security number gets transposed by a utility company data entry clerk it will create an incorrect record in some database.
Did Someone Steal My Identity?
If a consumer is concerned about identity theft, they can take measures to protect themselves.
Consumers are entitled to one free annual credit report per year from each of the three major credit agencies. By running their own credit report, a consumer can see for example, if a credit card has been opened in their name that they do not recognize, or if there are charges they did not authorize.
There are also commercial services that twill track credit information for a fee.
For more information, see additional articles on the ESR Job Applicant Resources site at: http://www.esrcheck.com/Resource-Center/Applicant-Resources/.
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