Protecting candidate SSNs is paramount for employers
Social security numbers are collected from job applicants to conduct pre-employment screenings, providing an independent third-party source of candidate personal history critical to any comprehensive background check. However, there are a number of regulations governing the use, access to and storage of personal information - including social security numbers - that employers should be enacting into their own record-keeping policies.
Most states carry specific data privacy and security laws to safeguard sensitive data from unauthorized access, destruction or modification. Other state and federal regulations specifically address and limit business use and disclosure of SSNs to protect candidates from identity theft, which occurs when a person's information is used for fraudulent purposes without their knowledge. According to the 2017 Identity Fraud Study, released by Javelin Strategy & Research, identity thieves stole $16 billion from 15.4 million U.S. consumers in 2016.
Employers seeking to limit risks associated with data theft can verify a new employee's SSN through the Social Security Administration. Developing internal policies and procedures is another way for companies to keep SSNs safe, although state law should always supersede company policy.
SSNs acquired from applicants can only be utilized for the following reporting requirements:
* Pre-employment background checks
* Employment eligibility verification
* Withholding of federal and state taxes
* Compliance with state new-hire reporting
* Enrollment in company benefit plans
In addition, all documents containing SSNs must be stored in a locked, secured area, accessible only to persons with legitimate business reasons for viewing the material. Access to this information is granted primarily by department heads, while all computer applications containing SSNs must be kept in secured computer stations only. For example, an HR rep is allowed to securely send a benefits plan participation document bearing a worker's SSN.
Any records that contain SSNs are to be maintained in accordance with federal and state data security laws. Physical documents and records tabbed for destruction should be destroyed by shredding.
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