Background Checks
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A Surprising Background Check Loophole and How to Close It

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Lying about one’s identity on a background check is becoming more common. Unfortunately, SSN traces alone aren’t enough to catch identity thieves. How can you close this background screening loophole and avoid hiring criminals?

GoodHire’s a new feature, Identity Verification, uses both knowledge-based authentication and photo ID verification to solve the problem. Learn more.

Imagine that you’re a detective, like Lisbeth Salander or Columbo.

A woman who works in HR hires you to find out how she managed to hire a criminal mastermind, even though she ran the gold-standard of background checks.

Can you guess how he did it?

He lied about his identity.

This isn’t a fictional example. With identity theft being so common these days, it doesn’t take a mastermind to pull off this kind of switch.

(And, yes, I realize this would make an awful detective story.)

The point is, background checks assume that the identity provided is genuine.

As we’ll see in a moment, almost no employment screening companies do enough to verify candidates’ information before they run the background check.

This means most background checks have a major loophole.

SSN Trace Isn’t Enough

Background check companies run an “SSN Trace” on your candidates based on the name, address, and SSN provided. While this sounds like something that would catch Identity thieves, it often doesn’t.

That’s because an SSN Trace returns only two things: names and addresses associated with the SSN.

While SSN Trace can catch someone who blatantly made up an SSN, it won’t catch people using identities they’ve bought online or borrowed from a relative.

The name and address provided belong to that SSN, they just don’t necessarily belong to the person who filled out the form.

Even if an SSN Trace comes back with information you think looks wrong, there’s little you can do to prove it. The best you can do is look at their ID. But how do you know that’s real?

You can’t do E-Verify until the candidate has accepted the job offer. And by then you’ve turned down your other candidates.

It’s A Growing Problem

Tens of millions of identities are stolen each year, making it increasingly common that candidates are using stolen identities on background checks. Last year, 1 out of 20 complaints about identity theft were related to someone using a stolen identity to get a job.

Take this recent case in which a woman used another woman’s name, birthdate, driver’s license number, and Social Security number on her background check to hide previous theft convictions. The ruse came to light when she was arrested for embezzling money from her employer.

As buying this information online has become easier and easier, expect to see more cases like this in the future.

The GoodHire Way: Identity Verification

We’ve launched a new feature called Identity Verification to help solve this problem. It works by verifying that the personal details your candidates provide actually belong to them.  

The process works like this. Candidates complete the identity verification at the same time they fill out their personal information for the background check.

We use their SSN to generate a few questions only the SSN’s owner should know. These are the same kind of questions you’re asked when you get your credit score online.

Sometimes, a candidate will forget the answer to a question. In that case, we use a second method to verify their identity.

The candidate is asked to take a selfie and photo of an ID. Our machine-learning technology verifies that the ID is valid and matches the photo of the candidate.

Having two methods of verification lets us provide a better experience for candidates because they’ll only have to complete the minimum necessary steps to get fully verified.

GoodHire is the only employment screening company to use both knowledge-based authentication questions and photo iD Verification.

Read more about ID checks here.


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

About the Author


The GoodHire team keeps customers informed about important news relating to background checks and employment screening.

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