The Social Security Administration recently (finally) created a database that employers can access to verify that the SSN number of an employee is accurate. Great news, right? Who needs pre-employment social security number verifications as part of the background check or even e-Verify if we can easily authenticate the applicant’s SSN through the SSN Administration?

Unfortunately, like most things in life, it’s not that simple. Below, we bring you the facts about the SSNVS program:

Q: Who can access the SSNS system and “verify” a social security number is accurate?

A: The SSNVS (Social Security Number Verification System) provided by the Social Security Administration is primarily intended for employers, though the system is accessible to third party contractors that handle the wage reporting responsibilities or perform an administrative function directly related to the annual wage reporting responsibilities of hired employees.

Q: Can the system be accessed in the pre-employment screening stage to weed out applicants that are using false or inaccurate information?

A: No. It is currently illegal to use the SSNVS service to verify SSNs of potential new hires or potential contractors.

Q At what point can I (the employer) utilize the SSNVS system without violating the law?

A: You can utilize the SSNVS system when preparing the W-2 (Wage and Tax Statement) for a new (or current) employee. A current employee is defined as “a person who has received and accepted a job offer.” Similar rules apply to contractors. It cannot be used as a screening tool.

Q: What if I run a new employee’s SSN through SSNVS and it comes back as a “Mismatch”?

A: The main thing to keep in mind is that you CANNOT take punitive action against the employee based on any response from the SSNVS system. This means you CANNOT lay-off, suspend, fire or otherwise discriminate against an employee based on the information you receive.

Q: What can or should I do in a SSN “Mismatch” situation?

A: First, you should always make sure you did not make a typographical error. Next, ask to see the employee’s Social Security card to ensure they provided the correct information. If no errors appear to exist, your best bet is to ask the employee to contact their local Social Security office. A local Social Security Administration office should be able to provide them with a confirmation letter that the SSN on their card is accurate. You’ll want to retain this letter for any needed proof for the IRS down the road. Remember, you should not base any disciplinary action off the results of the SSNVS search itself. Keep good records, notes, etc of any communication between you and the employee if there is an issue and a trip to the SSN Administrative office is in order.

Q: So, how I avoid getting stuck in this situation in the first place?

A: Make sure your background screening provider is utilizing a Social Security Trace and Validation during the pre-employment background check. A reputable screening agency that has reliable data can verify most social security numbers during this phase using their in-house databases. It’s much less complex and far more cost-effective to discover a problem before an applicant becomes an employee.

Have questions regarding this post. Please call 888.578.8600 or email for more information. We’re here to help!

Please note:, Background Screening Made Simple Blog, and Background Screening Consultants LLC, do not provide legal advice. Postings, articles, press releases and other distributed or verbalized information should be considered as guidelines and suggestions based upon professional experience, research and industry best practices. Questions or decisions regarding employer’s legal rights or applicants legal rights should be directed towards legal representation.