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E-Verify to Lock Theft-ridden SSNs: We Should All Worry

E-Verify is being programmed to “lock out” social security numbers (SSNs) that have been repeatedly used by imposters, generating “tentative nonconfirmations” (TNCs) for authorized workers assigned to those SSNs and requiring them to resolve the TNC with potentially understaffed Social Security offices.

USCIS has announced that it will lock SSNs that appear to have been misused based on “a combination of algorithms, detection reports and analysis.” Presumably, USCIS will identify a SSN as “misused” by finding patterns of use of the SSN by different workers for whom E-Verify queries have been made by employers. This identification probably is trickier than it seems, because a worker to whom a SSN belongs might maintain more than one job at a time with employers whose E-Verify querying offices are in dispersed locations, and the worker might change one or more of those jobs frequently. USCIS might at least initially limit the lockdown to SSNs with blatantly impossible frequency and geographic breadth of use in E-Verify.

But it appears that the lockdown is a crude tool that will affect the proper owner of the SSN as well as the imposters who have stolen it. The lockdown apparently will cause anyone– even the worker to whom the SSN properly is assigned– to be given a “tentative nonconfirmation” that must be resolved at an office of the Social Security Administration (SSA).

While the goal of deterring SSN fraud is laudable, this approach gives rise to serious questions, and USCIS’ sudden announcement fails to provide the information necessary for an effective implementation.

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