What Is an SSN Trace?

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Posted by: David Garcia September 01, 2023

Employers are faced with making sound hiring decisions, but with hundreds of applicants, picking the right one isn’t so easy. 

With a potential job offer on the line, candidates might be tempted to lie or embellish their previous employment historycriminal backgroundeducational background, and other details in their application. 

Before performing pre-employment background checks, you must verify their identity. That’s where an SSN trace can help. 

In this post, you’ll learn what an SSN trace is, what type of information they provide, and why employers should include them in their background screening process. 

What Is the Purpose of an SSN Trace?

An SSN trace looks through different databases like schools, credit card companies, and banks using a social security number. The results show when and where the number was issued, along with the names and past addresses connected to it, helping you confirm the information provided by a job applicant. 

The intended purpose of the SSN trace is to confirm that the SSN is valid and matches the job candidate’s name and date of birth. It reveals that the number is issued, valid, and associated with the candidate’s name and birth date. It also reveals any discrepancies in the information the applicant has submitted. 

It’s usually used as a reference point for a thorough background check and helps find places where other types of background checks might be needed. For example, most companies run an SSN trace before conducting credit history, criminal background search, and other screening. This gives preliminary confirmation of the person’s identifying information. It can also help employers pinpoint which state criminal record databases to search in their additional screenings.

That said, the SSN trace should not be used alone. It’s meant to ensure the accuracy of other searches but shouldn’t be used as the sole basis of any employment decision or taking adverse action. It’s also only meant to check US citizens, meaning it can’t verify non-domestic statuses or green cards. 

What Shows Up on an SSN Trace?

An SSN trace typically reveals the following information about a candidate: 

  • The year their social security number was issued by the Social Security Administration 
  • The state that it was issued
  • Name and aliases (or alternative names such as their maiden name) associated with the social security number 
  • Their address history, including the list of addresses associated with the person. 
  • The dates of when the person lived in each address for up to 10 years 
  • Validity of the Social Security Number 
  • Date of birth associated with the number 

Why Employers Should Include an SSN Trace in Their Background Screening Process

An SSN trace is a step that shouldn’t be skipped. It’s a vital part of the background screening process to verify their SSN is valid and helps provide a more accurate background check. Here are reasons why you must perform an SSN trace on each candidate you’re interested in. 

Verify an Accurate SSN for Background Checks

SSN verifications are a crucial pre-check to ensure the identity matches other pre-employment checks such as criminal record history. The SSN trace ensures the screening results match your job applicant’s information, preventing you from confusing your candidate with someone with the same name and date of birth. 

This could lead to problematic legal disputes where the candidate denies their disqualification or the employer wrongfully dismisses a qualified candidate. 

Learn Where to Search Next 

The information revealed in the SSN trace will help you determine your next steps for the background checks. 

If the applicant has lived in multiple places in the previous decade, you can run motor vehicle record searches, criminal background checks, and other screening searches in those jurisdictions. 

Also, if they went by an alias or maiden name, you’ll need to perform additional searches based on those names.

Uncover Illegal and Fraudulent Activity 

SSN traces can also uncover illegal and fraudulent activities. For example, it can show that a person may use another person’s name to hide their crimes, like suspending licenses or sanctions that ban them from working in a particular field. 

They typically can catch instances where there are: 

  • Numbers of people who passed away 
  • Fake numbers that weren’t issued
  • Numbers used by multiple people 

Find Potential Identity Discrepanies Early On 

Consumer reporting agencies use SSN traces to verify whether a number is valid and belongs to the name the applicant provided. 

If you find an SSN assigned to a different name or currently not in use, that could be a sign of false identity or identity theft. You may even find that a social security number connects with multiple names.

Find State and County Criminal Databases to Search 

An SSN provides names and addresses linked with the candidate’s SSN, thus saving you the effort and time in figuring out where to search and under which names. 

You can use the right databases in other states and counties they previously lived in to receive comprehensive criminal history results

Broaden Searches Based on Name Changes 

People may change their names for a few reasons, and it’s not uncommon for candidates to have used a different name. 

For example, they might’ve legally changed their name because of: 

  • Marriage 
  • Concealment of a former identity 
  • Adoption
  • A recent move to the US from a foreign country 
  • Correcting errors on a birth certificate 

If an applicant previously went by another name or alias, you’ll need to perform your background checks under all their past names. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Does an SSN Trace Take?

Generally, it takes a few hours for the SSN Trace to return results. When the details are entered, a social security search shouldn’t take longer than one day. The SSN trace verifies the person’s identity so they can ensure the provided information matches the official records. 

How Many Years Back Does an SSN Trace Go?

An SSN trace can recall records between 3 and 10 years, depending on the information source and the type of information. That’s because most databases like credit reporting, employment records, and tax records retain people’s records for up to 10 years. 

Are SSN Traces Dependable?

SSN traces are only as dependable as the accuracy of the sources. Since the information is gathered from various sources like credit bureaus, the data is only as accurate as the source. However, it generally gives accurate traces, meaning it can verify the identity when performing background checks. 

Final Thoughts

Before hiring someone, you need to perform an SSN trace to ensure their SSN matches the information they provided. This should be your first step before you ensure you run any background checks. 

Thus, you can account for any additional names, aliases, or addresses they may go by, ensuring you do a complete background check on a person. Without it, you could get partial or incomplete information, affecting your hiring decision and, ultimately, your bottom line. 

To streamline your hiring process with comprehensive background checks, check out ScoutLogic’s background check services. 

ScoutLogic offers every background check search type you need, such as employment, criminal searches, education verification, drug test results, social media, and more. Trust us to provide accurate, cost-effective, and compliant background checks and help you make better hiring decisions.

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