Employment Background Check Basics: The Role of a SSN in a Criminal History Record

Several misconceptions surround the use of a social security number match in employment background checks.  

One of the most common inquires that I receive from our customers is “What is the role of Social Security Number (SSN) in a criminal history record?” 

It is a common misconception that an employment background check company walks into a courthouse and types the job applicants’ SSN into the magic county computer and “SURPRISE!”,  a yes or a no record appears.

Let me answer the following question:


I need to begin by explaining the main differences.

  • Most county criminal searches are researched by a name and then verify by primarily a DOB and very rarely a SSN.
  • Within the statewide criminal search, the SSN is more likely to be used as either an identifier or a means of search method, but keep in mind this is for very few states.

County criminal searches are public record.  
This means anyone has the ability to view these cases.   Due to the open nature of these records, most states have actually removed the SSN to prevent identity theft.  County criminal searches are searched by subject’s name, then verified by DOB.  This is not to say as a whole that every county in the US has no option to verify a record by SSN, but it is becoming more rare as time goes by, and becoming more obsolete is the option to search solely by SSN.

Statewide criminal searches are not always available to the public.  
In a select few states (example: FL, GA, MO) the SSN is used as a search method and a means of identification.  In this scenario, the state compiles records based off of both name and SSN.  The advantage to this method of applicant match is that AKA/Maiden names do not need to be searched.  The disadvantage is that statewide criminal searches tend to run higher in price and again there are only a handful of states that use the SSN as a search option.  The majority of statewide criminal searches are also searched by name and DOB.

Hopefully this helps clarify any questions regarding general search methods and how the SSN plays a role in criminal records on the final employment background check report.  


Written by J. Chullen


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