Most rental application forms will require the applicant to supply a Social Security number, but too often a landlord will not take the time to verify the number. This is a critical mistake. Last year alone 12.6 million Americans were the victims of identity theft, a number that continues to rise each year. Social Security Number Fraud has now become a means to unlawfully obtain tenancy. So instead of renting to what you believe is an ideal tenant, one who has an unblemished record and good credit, you will have rented your apartment to a criminal. It goes without saying that this is a disastrous outcome.
Thus Social Security Verification is a necessary step. To catch SSN Fraud you should watch out for the following:
- name or address that are slightly different
- multiple SSNs associated with the name
- if the SSN is listed as “deceased”
- if the date of issuance of the SSN is greater than the age of the applicant
- if issued prior to June 25, 2011, the first three digits of the SSN cannot be between 734 and 749, or above 772
- if a set of zeros appear in any of the number groupings, or if 666 or 900-999 are in the first digit group
It is not always a certain sign of fraud when multiple SSNs are attributed to a name. In the majority of these cases it is typically owing to data entry errors during credit reporting processes, thus we recommend you follow-up with the rental applicant to try to clear up the discrepancy.
An applicant who claims not to have an SSN is probably being untruthful. Parents who wish to claim a tax deduction for their children need to list their SSNs, regardless of the age of the child.
Foreign workers who are legally in the U.S. are also required to have an SSN. However one valid example of someone seeking housing who would not have an SSN is a foreign student studying full time.
Some rental applicants might refuse to provide their SSN stating that they fear its misuse (indeed, they might themselves claim to be worried about identity theft). In such cases you must inform the applicant that all information supplied will be kept in the strictest confidence. If they persist, you will have to politely tell them that you cannot consider any application without a valid SSN. It’s possible then that the applicant will not go forward in the rental process, and in all likelihood you have eliminated a disreputable tenant from consideration.