The most comprehensive background checks often start and end with some form of Social Security Number (SSN) search. Confusing the issue somewhat is what kind of SSN search to use – what the different types of SSN searches are and when it’s appropriate to use them.
SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER (SSN) VERIFICATION
Alternate Names: SSN Validation, SSN Trace
What it is: Though the terminology is sometimes used interchangeably with other kind of SSN searches, an SSN Verification or SSN Validation is typically a search involving a known SSN to confirm its authenticity.
SSN Verifications will confirm that the SSN is one that has actually been issued, provide details on the state where it was issued and an approximate date of issue. While verification for SSNs issued after 2011 would likely mean having to use a paid service, for any other date of issue, you can check for free right here using our SSN Validator tool!
What it isn’t: An SSN Verification is not a background check – it’s effectively just a yes/no answer to whether an SSN is valid and possibly who it belongs to. It also doesn’t provide any context for why an SSN may not match the person using it nor does it definitively prove US citizenship or employment eligibility.
Uses: Having an accurate SSN is one of the best ways to complete a comprehensive background check, so ensuring that the number you have is accurate with an SSN Verification can be useful for that purpose. Beyond background checks, many businesses, employers, landlords and other creditors use SSN Verifications simply to ensure that a number is accurate for good record keeping.
Who can use it: A basic SSN Verification can be run online by anyone – typically, for free. More official (and extensive) SSN Verifications – including those with the Social Security Number Verification Service (SSNVS) – require a specific official purpose and signed permission from the subject.
Bottom Line: A social security number is a crucial component of a US person’s identity, so having a valid SSN can be extremely helpful when starting a background check. By itself, though, you’re not likely to learn a lot about a person.
SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER SEARCH
Alternate Names: SSN Search, SSN Trace, SSN Background Check
What it is: A true SSN Search (or SSN Trace) is actually a combination of an SSN Verification and background check based on that social security number. Using the SSN, an SSN Search can produce past & current phone numbers and addresses, aliases/maiden names/nicknames, criminal records, liens/bankruptcies/judgments and every other available public records – in just seconds.
What it isn’t: A social security number search will not provide you with someone’s SSN if you don’t already know it. Unlike a basic SSN Verification, an SSN search also isn’t free.
Uses: If you need all available background information on someone, an SSN Trace is a great way to do it.
Who can use it: Technically, anyone can run an SSN Trace on someone, but it’s more a question of what you want to do with the background check that you receive. If you’re interested in a background check for an “official” purpose – employment, financial credit, tenancy, etc. – you can run an SSN Trace with permission on FCRA approved sites. If you’re merely curious about someone’s background and have no official (or malicious) purpose, you can run a non-FCRA background check anywhere legally and anonymously.
Bottom Line: If you’re a business, landlord or employer, the background information from an SSN search can be invaluable, but you need to ensure that you’re using the right company and have the proper permissions before you start. For everyone else, a social security search is a great way to get a background check, but it’s not the only way. Typically, the same level of information is available using just a name and last known city (or even just the state) for a small fee.