SSn Lookups

How SSN Lookups are Used in Employment Background Checks

SSN lookups are often used in the hiring process for employment background checks. As an applicant, you might wonder why you are asked to provide your social security number (SSN) during the hiring process. Since SSN data is very sensitive and private, you might also wonder if there is a way around SSN lookups.

As an employer, you might wonder whether or not you should conduct SSN lookups. What benefits are there? What risks do you face without SSN lookups? Are SSN lookups even legal?

In this article, we have the answers to these questions and more. Whether you are an applicant or an employer, it’s important to know what your rights are and how sensitive SSN data is used in employment background checks.

SSN Lookups For Applicants

As an applicant or prospective employee, you might have some questions about the hiring process. Particularly, if you are asked to provide your SSN, you want to proceed with caution. Keep reading to find out when and why you might be asked to provide your SSN and how that information might be used.

Why Are You Asked to Provide Your SSN?

When you apply for a job, you will probably be asked to provide your SSN at some point during the hiring process. Why? First of all, to confirm your identity.

Before hiring you, an employer must make sure you are who you say you are. Otherwise, the employer could be putting him- or herself, the company, and other employees at risk. 

Unfortunately, there are criminals who use stolen SSNs. Therefore, it is an employer’s responsibility to double check this information. Employers are also responsible for ensuring that their employees are U.S. citizens or permanent residents. 

Second, employers need to verify the SSNs of potential hires for accurate tax reporting. Having accurate SSNs for each employee allows employers to correctly pay wages and report them on W-2 forms. So if you want to get paid, you’d better hand over your SSN!

Finally, employers might use your SSN to conduct a background check. This ensures that your employer can trust you, and it keeps the other employees safe as well. As an employee, wouldn’t you feel better knowing that your coworkers with whom you work closely have been vetted before joining the team? 

All of these reasons why employers might request your SSN during the hiring process allow them to remain compliant and avoid hefty fines. So although you might feel inconvenienced, companies can be penalized for failing to verify SSN data for their employees.

What Information Shows Up on a Background Check?

Employers conduct background checks for three reasons. A background check that includes your SSN verifies your identity, retrieves address history, and accesses certain records.

A criminal records search does not require an SSN. Criminal records searches can be conducted with just a name, date of birth (DOB), and address. However, most companies will still request SSNs to conduct a more complete and comprehensive background check.

This is because a background check that includes an SSN results in more information than can be retrieved with just a name and DOB. And, of course, one of the main reasons for conducting a comprehensive background screening is to verify an applicant’s identity.

SSN verification retrieves your first and last names, aliases, DOB, and address history. It also indicates whether the SSN is flagged for identity theft or is inactive.

Are SSN Lookups Even Legal? 

Do SSN lookups seem like a scam or an invasion of privacy? Well they are completely legal when the information is used ethically (for the reasons listed above, for example). According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), it is completely legal for businesses, banks, schools, private agencies, etc., to request your SSN and use it for any purpose that does not violate a federal or state law.

The Federal Privacy Act of 1974 also protects individuals’ records retrieved by personal identifiers such as a name, SSN, or other identifying number or symbol. For example, this law requires the consent of the citizen before information found in government records can be made public or even transferred to another agency.

Can You Refuse to Provide Your SSN?

Of course you can refuse to provide your SSN. But the requestor then has the right to refuse services. This applies to employers as well. Refusal to provide your SSN to an employer could prevent you from being hired.

If you are concerned about your privacy, you can always ask if an alternative identifier would be acceptable. It doesn’t hurt to ask, but there is some information that can only be accurately retrieved with an SSN—so don’t be surprised if you are asked to provide it.

Are There Negative Consequences for Providing Your SSN?

There aren’t any negative consequences for providing your SSN to legitimate companies. That is, provided you are who you say you are and aren’t attempting to break the law or fake your identity.

However, there are, unfortunately, online scams that could try to trick you into providing your SSN. So, it’s important to know when you should expect to provide this information and when you should trust the requester. 

To avoid job search scams, do not provide your full SSN until you have interviewed with the company. An employer will not ask for your SSN until late in the hiring process. 

SSN Lookups For Employers

As an employer, it is your responsibility to verify the SSNs of your employees. Not only is it required in certain situations, but it affords you certain benefits as well. SSN lookups are completely legal, and you could be in big trouble if you don’t verify SSNs.

Benefits of SSN Lookups

First and foremost, SSN lookups help you remain compliant and avoid hefty fines. It is your responsibility to ensure that your employees are U.S. citizens or permanent residents. In other words, you have to determine whether applicants are even eligible for employment. 

Second, SSN lookups help you verify the identities of your employees. By conducting an SSN lookup, you can prevent identity theft and identify stolen or inactive SSNs you might receive. 

Third, you can use SSNs to conduct complete and comprehensive background checks. This allows you to get a clear picture of the people you are hiring and whether or not you can trust them. It is best to know your employees’ histories ahead of time so that you can properly protect yourself, your company, and your other employees. 

Finally, you will want to use SSN lookups to verify tax information. You will need accurate SSNs for your employees to correctly pay wages and report them on W-2 forms.

How to Conduct SSN Lookups

There are three SSN lookup services you can use in your business for employment background checks during the hiring process. 

1. SSN Check and Validator

The SSN check and SSN validator can validate a few SSNs a day or a few hundred a month. The SSN validation tool verifies whether or not an SSN is valid.

For valid SSNs, the report includes where and when an SSN was issued including the state and year or year range. It also indicates whether the SSN is assigned to a living or deceased individual. 

You can be confident that all information is accurate and up-to-date. Information for this search comes from SSA records and the SSA’s Death Master File Index. Just enter the number in question and search!

2. SSN Verification: SSN and Name Match

For this search, all you need is an SSN and last name to search public records and SSN databases. SSN verification matches an SSN to an individual by indicating whether or not the number matches the last name.  This search can be used to verify employees, customers and clients, or anyone you might need to send a 1099 to. 

Results indicate whether or not the information provided matches. If the information is a match, the search results will include names and aliases associated with the SSN, recorded DOB, cities lived in, active or deceased status, and when and where the number was issued.

3. Reverse SSN Lookup

You can use reverse SSN lookup to locate a name, address, and possible phone numbers from an SSN. Use this tool to verify that SSNs in your database or on employment applications actually belong to the right person.

With this search, you can also sometimes get DOB, previous addresses, and even an email address associated with the number. Information comes from public records and SSN databases. 


SSN lookups are an important part of employment background checks during the hiring process. Whether you’re an applicant or an employer, it’s important for you to know when SSN data is necessary and its intended use. 

SSN lookups are completely legal and expected when the data is used properly. Make sure you know your rights, and keep SSN data private when necessary.