In This Article


SSN Trace: A Complete Guide for Employers [2023]

social security number trace

The first step in a pre-employment background check should be to conduct a Social Security number trace (SSN trace).

At iprospectcheck, we conduct regularly conduct social security trace reports for employers across the U.S. in a variety of different industries.

We put together this guide on everything you need to know about SSN trace reports and how to conduct them.

Let’s get started.

What is an SSN Trace?

An SSN trace is a database search for information about a candidate’s reported Social Security number. It is the starting point of a comprehensive background check rather than a standalone search used for making hiring decisions.

What Does an SSN Trace Report Show?

An SSN trace reveals the following information about a Social Security number:

  • Issuance date from the Social Security Administration
  • The state of issuance
  • Names associated with the number, including maiden names and aliases
  • Addresses associated with the number
  • Validity of the number
  • Date of birth associated with the number

What an SSN Trace Does

An SSN trace reveals if an SSN has been issued, is valid, and is associated with the applicant’s name and birth date. This data can uncover discrepancies in the information reported by an applicant.

It’s a great starting point for a more comprehensive background check that includes searches in other jurisdictions and under previous names.

What an SSN Trace Doesn’t Do

Although an SSN trace provides the names and addresses that are associated with a Social Security number, it does not confirm if the Social Security number actually belongs to the applicant.

Mistakes or fraud could result in incorrect addresses or names becoming associated with an applicant’s Social Security number.

An SSN trace also doesn’t provide comprehensive information about an applicant such education or employment history.

It is therefore crucial that you conduct additional searches to verify the information reported by an applicant.

Why Should Employers Include an SSN Trace in Background Checks?

1. Identify County and State Criminal Databases to Search

An SSN trace will provide names and addresses that have been associated with the applicant’s SSN in the past, thus saving you time and effort in identifying where to search and under which names.

This information can be used to identify additional databases in other states and counties that should be searched to obtain comprehensive criminal history results.

2. Reveal Discrepancies

Conducting a Social Security number trace helps you to achieve a more comprehensive background investigation.

When an SSN trace shows a discrepancy between the information reported by a candidate and the data revealed on the trace, you can take additional action to investigate the reasons for the inconsistency and confirm the information reported by the applicant.

3. Expand Searches Based on Name Changes

People might change their names for several reasons, and it isn’t uncommon for an applicant to have previously used a different name.

Some of the reasons why someone might have changed their name include the following:

  • Marriage
  • Adoption
  • Correction of errors on birth certificates
  • Anglicization after moving to the U.S. from somewhere else
  • Concealment of a former identity

An SSN trace can uncover an applicant’s former names and aliases, helping to expand your criminal records searches and your education history, employment history, and professional license verifications.

4. Obtain a Complete Address History

Some candidates will fail to include all of their previous addresses when they fill out employment background screening authorizations.

Completing an SSN trace reveals the addresses associated with a candidate’s Social Security number, helping to fill in the gaps.

When the revealed address history includes more addresses than what a candidate reported, it can direct a screening analyst to additional counties and states to search beyond the location where the candidate currently lives.

When there are unexplained gaps in an applicant’s address history, a Social Security number trace report can also show the need to perform more research about where an applicant has lived to identify other state and county databases that should be searched.

5. Uncover Fraud

An SSN trace can reveal potential fraud, including people who are using others’ Social Security numbers to try to hide that they aren’t allowed to work in your industry.

For example, an applicant might use someone else’s Social Security number to hide the fact that they have a suspended or revoked license or a particular type of conviction that bars them from working for your company under regulatory requirements.

An SSN trace can help uncover the following types of fraud:

  • Invalid/fake Social Security numbers
  • Social Security numbers that belong to deceased people
  • Social Security numbers being used by several people

These types of discoveries could point to a false identity, identity theft, or other issues and should prompt additional searches.

How To Conduct an SSN Trace Background Check

There are two ways to run an SSN trace background check, including a do-it-yourself approach and partnering with a reliable background check provider.

Let’s take a look at both of these approaches.

1. Do-it-Yourself Method

Some employers complete SSN trace background checks by taking a DIY approach by using the Social Security Administration’s Social Security number verification service online.

However, using this service only confirms whether an applicant’s name, date of birth, and Social Security number match the Social Security Administration’s records and will not reveal an applicant’s address history or previous names or point you to other information sources to check.

While the SSA offers a free search, employers that plan to conduct searches at volume through consent-based searches must pay a fee of $5,000 to enroll, so it is expensive.

2. Partner With a Reliable Background Check Provider

The best way to complete an SSN trace is by working with a reliable employment background check provider like iprospectcheck.

Our extensive resources and cutting-edge research technologies help us to quickly compile SSN trace information and identify all appropriate information sources that should be checked.

We also perform additional searches to ensure you receive a comprehensive picture of your applicants’ backgrounds, including employment verification, education verification, professional license verification, and more.

When you work with us, you can feel confident in the accuracy of your background check reports and their legal compliance.

At iprospectcheck, we remain current with all changes in employment background check laws and always return FCRA-compliant reports.

Social Security Trace FAQs

1. How many years back does a Social Security number trace go?

An SSN trace will generally return records going back up to 10 years, based on the information source and type. Address histories typically go back 10 years.

2. What information sources are used for a Social Security number trace?

Social Security traces use the header information provided by the consumer to the credit bureaus to report name and address histories. The information from credit bureaus will not include a credit score and is not a credit report. Instead, it is an aggregate of information from numerous sources.

3. Is a Social Security number trace reliable?

An SSN trace returns aggregated data and might include inaccurate or incomplete information. It is only as reliable as what is reported to the information sources.

For this reason, an SSN trace should not be used as the only source of information for making hiring decisions and should instead only be used as a starting point for conducting additional employment background checks.

iprospectcheck: Your Trusted Partner for SSN Trace Reports and Employment Background Checks

An SSN trace should be conducted at the beginning of every pre-employment background check. At iprospectcheck, we perform SSN trace reports and comprehensive employment background checks for businesses across the U.S.

To learn more about the services we provide or to receive a free quote, call us today: (888) 509-1979

DISCLAIMER: The resources provided here are for educational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. Consult your counsel if you have legal questions related to your specific practices and compliance with applicable laws.

Know Before You Hire

About the Author
Matthew J. Rodgers

Matthew J. Rodgers

Matthew J. Rodgers is a highly accomplished business executive with over 30 years of experience providing strategic vision and leadership to companies ranging from the fortune 500 to iprospectcheck, a company which he co-founded over a decade ago. Matthew is a valued consultant who is dedicated to helping companies create and implement efficient, cost effective and compliant employment screening programs. Matt has been a member of the Professional Background Screeners Association since 2009 . When not focused on iprospectcheck, he can be found spending time with his family, fly fishing, or occasionally running the wild rivers of the American west. A lifetime member of American Whitewater, Matt is passionate about protecting and restoring America’s whitewater rivers.