New Security Enhancement to E-Verify Meant to Deter Identity Theft May Create Increased Bureaucracy for Employers

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On November 18, 2013, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced the implementation of a new program meant to help combat fraud and identity theft. The new E-Verify safeguard enables USCIS to “lock” a social security number (SSN) that appears to have been misused, protecting it from further potential misuse in E-Verify. USCIS will use a combination of algorithms, detection reports and analyses to identify patterns of fraudulent SSN use and then lock the number in E-Verify.

If an employee attempts to use a locked SSN, E-Verify will generate a “Tentative Nonconfirmation” (TNC). The employee receiving the TNC will have the opportunity to contest the finding at a local Social Security Administration (SSA) field office. If an SSA field officer confirms the employee’s identity correctly matches the SSN, the TNC will be converted to“Employment Authorized” status in E-Verify.

The new program has potential to reduce the incidence of identity theft and to help individuals find out sooner when their identities have been stolen. However, it may also place an increased burden on employers’ worker verification practices. As the new system locks the SSN of any individual whose identity has been compromised, if the legitimate SSN owner applied for a new job, running his or her SSN through E-Verify would generate a TNC. To resolve the TNC, the legitimate SSN holder would have to work with the employer and the SSA, creating more paperwork for all parties involved.

Restaurants, hospitality service employers, and landscaping companies have a relatively high employee turnover rate. As such, they will likely be affected more than other businesses and may need to brace for increased bureaucracy in the context of E-Verify.