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The Sumsuber

Verification knowledge hub

2022-11-29
2 min read

How the Social Security Number (SSN) Can Help with Client Identification

The Social Security Number (SSN) is a unique nine-digit number given by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to US citizens and its residents. The administration uses SSNs to keep track of an individual’s lifetime earnings and working history, track Social Security benefits and for other identification purposes. While SSNs are mainly used to verify current or former employees for wage reporting purposes, companies can also collect them to verify new users. 

Here we give you a detailed analysis of when and how businesses should or shouldn’t use an SSN check.

Is it legal to use SSNs for identification purposes?

According to the guidelines issued by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCen) in 2018, financial institutions must collect and verify the following information from their customers:

  • Name;
  • Date of birth:
  • Address;
  • Identifying number.

Identifying numbers are usually represented by the SSN, but it can also mean any other identification number accepted by the Customer Identification Program (CIP).

While the identification number is necessary for the onboarding process, the issue appears when customers get registered online, where there is no secure way to check if a user is the actual owner of the given SSN. The number is assigned by collecting written data and a signature on a paper form, which can easily be falsified.

As such, an SSN is neither informative nor secure enough to verify one’s identity. Additional checks (e.g., liveness check) should be conducted to ensure that the provided information matches the owner. 

How to verify SSN online?

If you want to use the SSN for wage reporting purposes and find it sufficient for your needs, the easiest way to verify the number is by using the Social Security Number Identifier Service, a free online service offered by the SSA that allows registered users to conduct basic checks manually. During the verification, the SSN immediately matches an individual’s name and date of birth. 

You can find more detailed information in the Official SSA Handbook, as well as in the administration’s tutorials on SSN verification.

How to verify large amounts of SSN data

Even though SSN verification via SSA is a free option, it is inefficient with large amounts of data. In cases when a company needs to verify a substantial number of SSNs, a proper verification solution provider is needed. Verification providers operating in the US are constantly adopting new technologies to quickly check the SSNs and conduct additional biometric checks. Sumsub is among such providers. 

Our solution allows US companies to conduct SSN checks to verify users through Social Security records. Our SSN verification also enables background checks, which can immediately spot red flag customers, including bankruptcies, liens, criminal records, and more.

Notably, this approach to verification allows companies to not only match a full name, date of birth, and address to an individual, but also confirm that these are indeed the person’s full name, date of birth, and address.

Overall, SSNs should primarily be used for wage reporting purposes. As for identity verification, use a solution that combines and uses raw data, image authenticity analysis, database checks, fraudulent patterns analysis, biometric check, and other similar means.

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