This article will help you:
- Differentiate between SSN Traces (a common step in background checks) and ID verification
- Decide which level of identity verification is necessary for your business
Companies who hire independent contractors at scale, like on-demand, marketplace, or online staffing businesses, must embrace high-volume hiring processes. These processes differ from traditional face-to-face hiring processes, where a candidate walks in for an interview, brings a resume, and often submits personal or professional references.
In a traditional hiring model, identity verification is built into the process--someone on the employer side sees the candidate and has the opportunity to catch false information during the interview and reference checks. Furthermore, with full-time employees, you can verify their identities when they submit their information for an I-9 (employment eligibility verification) form.
For businesses that hire independent contractors at scale, most of these steps don’t occur. While some businesses have in-person onboarding centers, many don’t, meaning that they will never actually see the candidate in person. Absent traditional verification procedures, these businesses rely on other mechanisms to ensure an individuals submitted information is valid.
In most cases, the Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA) performing the background check also never sees the candidate in person. Employers generally pass on their candidates information to the CRA as a last step after most of the hiring process is completed. TheCRA receives personally identifiable information (PII) like the candidate’s name, date of birth, and Social Security Number (SSN), to find previous addresses, aliases, DMV records, and possible criminal records.
Because the candidate has provided a SSN, the CRA can run a trace to identify known names and addresses associated with that SSN. The SSN Trace also identifies which state the SSN was issued in, and approximately which year. The CRA can also detect whether the SSN appears on the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File (in other words, whether that number belongs to a deceased person) or whether the candidate is using a SSN that is known to be false based on the structure of the number itself.
That said, a SSN trace is not the same thing as ID verification. The SSN trace is designed to check whether submitted information (like the candidate’s name and age) matches commercially available database information associated with the particular SSN. The SSN Trace is not designed to determine whether the person entering that information is who they claim to be.
For example, if John Doe enters the legitimate information belonging to Joe Public (e.g., both Joe’s name and SSN), the SSN Trace will not alert either the CRA or the employer that John Doe was actually the one entering the information.
To alleviate this issue, some companies use additional Identity Verification (IDV) or Knowledge-Based Authentication (KBA) services as part of their onboarding process.
IDV or “identity proofing” is used for purposes ranging from opening a bank account, to age verification, to onboarding for high-volume hiring companies. KBA provides an additional level of verification by asking candidates to answer certain questions that hopefully only they would know the answers to. These questions are often based on their credit history, such as what street they lived on or which bank they have a line of credit with. However, because these questions are often based on credit history, KBAs won’t work for every type of candidate, such as younger or first-time workers who lack a sufficient credit history.
That said, no matter what technology you use, you’re still relying on technology to prove that a person is who they say they are, and technology can be susceptible both to fraud and to imperfect information -- for example, in the case that a person changed their name, got married, or simply made a typo when entering information, you may still end up in a situation where the information entered does not precisely match other available records.
Although Checkr is not an ID Verification service, we flag areas where we find data discrepancies or where the candidate’s SSN appears on the Death Master File and reaching out to the candidate for more accurate information.