What to Do If the Wrong SSN Is on Your Background Check

Last Updated:
April 20, 2023

Your background check contains a lot of important information, much of it personal. For example, it should include your full legal name, your birth date, and your Social Security number or SSN. But what happens if you find the wrong SSN on your background check?

In that case, you need to correct that erroneous information as soon as you can. Let’s take a look at how you can do that and why it’s so crucial to fix inaccurate Social Security numbers on background checks and credit reports.

Why is the SSN So Important for Background Checks?

Your Social Security number is the closest thing in the United States has to a “citizen ID.” It’s a unique number that’s assigned to each individual when they are born. While the original purpose of the SSN was to allow everyone to participate in the Social Security system before and after retirement, it has since expanded and become a crucial identification number for lots of things.

Your SSN is used for:

  • Employment applications
  • College applications
  • Criminal records
  • Business files
  • Background checks

Your SSN is important for background checks because it’s one of the key ways that a background check agency identifies you and finds your personal background information.

For example, when you apply for a new job, you provide your employer with an application that includes your Social Security number. When the employer gives your information to a background check agency to look into your work and criminal history, that agency uses your SSN to identify you and make sure it locates the right background information.

That’s vital since people can have similar or even identical names! For instance, two Mary M. Smiths might share the same name, but they definitely won’t have the same Social Security numbers. Therefore, background check agencies can use SSNs to distinguish between the two individuals.

Why Can the Wrong SSN Be on Your Background Check?

From time to time, background check agencies can make mistakes. They might replace one individual’s identity with another, switch Social Security numbers, or make some other type of error. When this happens, they might provide inaccurate or erroneous information to a prospective employer.

If you’re denied employment because of your background check information, your prospective employer will send you an adverse action letter explaining that. Then, you’ll be able to notice the inaccurate SSN on the adverse action letter’s information.

The wrong SSN might be on your background check because:

  • Your prospective employer made a mistake when providing the information from your application to the background check agency
  • The background check agency made a mistake, either by switching your number with someone else’s or making some other error
  • You made a mistake when filling out your job application – for example, you may have accidentally written the wrong Social Security number by transposing one number with another

Regardless of the root cause, a wrong SSN on a background check is never a good thing. 

Results of a Wrong SSN on a Background Check

Since your SSN identifies you as a unique individual, having the wrong Social Security number on your background check can spell all sorts of trouble.

If your background check has the wrong SSN, the background check agency may find inaccurate information from another person and assign it to your profile. For instance, if you use the wrong SSN for your job application, and it’s the number of someone with a criminal history, the background check agency might assume that you were responsible for that person’s criminal actions, even though you know you don’t have any criminal convictions.

A wrong SSN on a background check can lead to a whole host of problems, like:

  • Denied job opportunities, even if you are apparently qualified for the positions
  • Denied loans or other financial opportunities, like mortgage loans, lines of credit, etc.
  • Inquiries into your background or criminal history
  • Debt collectors coming after you if your wrong SSN gets repeated

All of these can be major headaches, both in the moment and as you attempt to fix the issue.

How to Fix the Wrong SSN on Your Background Check

Fortunately, there are a few ways in which you can correct a wrong SSN on your background check. Which method you should use depends on who’s ultimately responsible for the background check mistake.

Tell Your Employer

First, you should tell your employer about the inaccurate SSN as soon as you can. That way, your employer can take steps to correct its files or records of you within its internal systems.

For instance, if you have an employee ID or workplace profile, your Social Security number might be a key component of those things. Telling your employer quickly will let them fix the issue, at least in the workplace.

Furthermore, if you are responsible for the inaccurate SSN on your background check (e.g., you made a mistake when filling out your application), you need to tell your employer so they can give the background check agency the right information quickly. This is true regardless of whether you were already hired for the position or are still waiting for an answer.

File a Dispute Letter with the Background Check Agency

But what if the background check agency is responsible for the inaccurate Social Security number? In that case, you need to file a dispute letter with them.

Under the terms of the FCRA or Fair Credit Reporting Act, all consumers have the right to fair and accurate credit and background information being used for job applications, loan applications, and more. So, if you see that your SSN is wrong on your background check report or adverse action letter, you have the right to dispute this with the background check agency responsible for the mistake.

Most agencies allow you to file dispute letters online, in person, or by mail. You have the right to file a dispute letter once you notice a mistake, plus request that the inaccurate SSN be fixed quickly.

Once a background check agency receives a dispute letter, it has 30 days to check out the issue. If it notices the inaccurate Social Security number, it has a legal obligation to fix the SSN and notify your prospective employer. This can be beneficial if you are still waiting to hear about a job decision. 

What if the Agency Doesn’t Correct the Erroneous SSN?

From time to time, background check agencies may refuse to do the right thing. They might not correct inaccurate Social Security numbers, or they may not do an investigation at all. Whatever the case may be, know that you have grounds for a lawsuit if you know that your Social Security number is incorrect and the background check agency won’t fix it.

When that happens, you should contact background check mistake attorneys right away. Attorneys like Fair Credit can help you file a dispute letter initially, as well as break down your legal options if a lawsuit seems necessary.

A successful lawsuit might yield damages of up to $1000 or more to compensate you for lost opportunities and for all the trouble that the mistake caused you. Don’t try to file a lawsuit by yourself, as it’s easier to succeed with knowledgeable attorneys on your side.

Contact Fair Credit Today

Whether you’ve found an inaccurate Social Security number on a background check or credit report, Fair Credit’s knowledgeable legal experts can help. With our assistance, you’ll file an effective dispute letter and get the issue taken care of ASAP. Contact us today to learn more.

Ready to take action?

Don't let these companies get away with violating your rights and causing you financial & emotional distress.

Free Case Review