E-Verify Attempts to Thwart Identity Theft

by Josie Gonzalez

Users of E-Verify, the government database that allows employers to check the veracity of work authorization documents of new hires, have long known that the Achilles' heel of the program has been the ability of new hires to thwart the program by assuming the identity of another person. Now, through "a combination of algorithms, detection reports and analysis," E-Verify is able "to identify patterns of fraudulent SSN use," and will lock the number in its system in order to prevent its misuse. (http://www.uscis.gov/news/new-security-enhancement-helps-e-verify-deter-employee-fraud)

How does this all work? Let's suppose a person steals, borrows or purchases the data pertaining to another person's identity - name, date of birth, social security and driver's license numbers. One can then have a fraudulent social security card and driver's license with one's own photo counterfeited. E-Verify can access photo information only for a limited number of state motor vehicle agencies, so the photo that matches the driver's license will not appear during the employer's verification of authenticity through E-Verify.

How will E-Verify know that an "imposter" is using another person's identity? My guess is that E-Verify will not be able to catch every instance of misuse -only "patterns of misuse." It will be able to detect if the same social security number is being used multiple times across the country. Generally, counterfeiters who purchase the identity data of another will sell the documentation to hundreds of individuals, not just to one person. Where E-verify sees an abnormal pattern of usage of the social security number, it will "lock" the social security card and issue a Tentative Non-Confirmation (TNC) which will require that the new hire go to a Social Security Office to confirm his identity. By issuing a TNC, E-Verify will protect the real holder of the documentation from having employment denied. The victim of identity theft will also not suffer the misfortune of having to resolve IRS tax assessments for the wages of others or the denial of other benefits such as unemployment or disability claims because one's social security number is used by others.

The new enhancements will not catch 100% of all instances of identity theft. It won't catch the person who borrows his relative's documents and somewhat resembles the photo on those documents; and it probably won't catch instances of misuse of a social security number that doesn't reflect an abnormal pattern. No system is perfect. However, the new enhancements will go a long way to combat identity theft while offering protections for the victims of identity theft.

About The Author

Josie Gonzalez, Partner, Stone Grzegorek & Gonzalez LLP, is recognized nationally as an expert in employment-based immigration, I-9 compliance and worksite enforcement. Josie has served in AILA committee leadership positions in the areas of worksite enforcement and labor certification (PERM), and is a longtime member of the AILA Board of Governors. In 2008, Josie received a Founder's Award from AILA as the immigration attorney having "the most substantial impact on the field of immigration law or policy."

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