On November 18th, 2013, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) announced a new security enhancement to its E-Verify service that will allow it to ‘lock’ Social Security numbers that appear to have been used fraudulently.
The E-Verify system allows participating employers to verify employment eligibility of new employees through government databases. There are over 470,000 employers currently participating in E-Verify, and USCIS reports that approximately 1,500 new employers are enrolled each week. It is likely that use of E-Verify will become mandatory for all employers at some point in the future.
This enhancement attempts to address cases of identity theft or identity fraud in which a legitimate social security number, matching name, and date of birth, have been stolen or sold and are being used by another individual to work. The new security enhancement will allow USCIS to lock a social security number (SSN) that appears to have been misused, similar to what credit card companies do when a card is reported stolen. When USCIS determines an SSN appears to have been misused—borrowed, stolen, or purchased from another individual—the agency will be able to lock the SSN from the E-Verify system to prevent further potential misuse.
The details of how USCIS will make the determination that a particular number has been misused are not clear. The notice states it will use a combination of algorithms, detection reports, and analysis to identify patterns of fraudulent use and will then lock the number in E-Verify. While the specifics of how this will work are not revealed, presumably the system will monitor for multiple uses of a particular name and SSN, potentially in geographically distinct areas, and lock the numbers used in those cases.
If an employee attempts to use a locked SSN, a Tentative Non-Confirmation (TNC) will be generated. Just as with any TNC, the employee who receives a TNC will have the opportunity to contest the finding at the local Social Security Administration (SSA) field office. Failure to do so gives the employer no option but to terminate the employee.
If the SSA office confirms that the SSN matches the employee’s identity, the E-Verify system will be updated to indicate that the employee is employment-authorized. The notice encourages employees who are able to successfully confirm their identities with the SSA, and to establish they are victims rather than perpetrators of identity fraud, to contact USCIS for additional information on identity theft and fraud prevention.
If you are an employer with questions regarding whether you should enroll in E-Verify, or if you are currently enrolled and have questions about how this announcement will affect you, please feel free to contact the attorneys at Minsky, McCormick & Hallagan.