Locate Person by Social Security Number In Just 3 Steps (SSN Lookup)

Background check repair icon.Written by Background Check Repair

Background Checks | May 30, 2024

SSN card on the left showing the details to locate person by social security number free as man in yellow shirt wonders while holding up a magnifying glass and doing a social security number lookup search on someone else walking by.

Person Location Search
Background check uses name and address to match SSN and shows current address as well as criminal records, employment information, marriages, divorces, and more.

Individuals, employers, and other organizations may have various reasons to locate person by Social Security Number.

Since Social Security Numbers are tied to data including a person’s address, contact information, and personal records, a search by social security number (or SSN lookup) is an excellent tool used for many levels of people’s background examinations.

In fact, using an SSN is actually the preferred method for any federal background check or when trying to verify if an individual has a felony history.

This guide explains exactly how to locate person by social security number in just three steps, making it easy to verify work eligibility and identity. And, it’s a great tool for anyone to use who needs to check their public records, to ensure accuracy.

How Do I Locate Person By Social Security Number?

Social Security Numbers are unique numerical identifiers issued to American citizens by the United States Social Security Administration (SSA).

Originally intended as a relatively narrow personal identifier for social benefits purposes, Social Security Numbers have become increasingly popular for both government and business entities as a quick and efficient means of identifying individuals and their records in large datasets.
Screenshot of the Social security number verification services website.

Today, a Social Security Number has become one of the most important identifiers a citizen can have, being required for opening bank accounts, obtaining credit, and paying taxes. The number is linked to a person’s address (current and past), phone numbers, criminal and financial histories, date of birth, and much more.

Because this information is very sensitive, not all of these services are easily accessible to the public. In addition, there are paid and free varieties of SSN lookups, each with its advantages and disadvantages.

The following guide offers practical and actionable tips on how to legally and cost-effectively search for information about a person using a Social Security Number.

Can You Locate Person by Social Security Number for Free?

In general, ways to find someone by SSN number for free are somewhat limited. The best way is to use a background check service offering a week-long trial without charge and then request a refund within 24 hours (or as soon as you complete the search).

As Social Security Numbers and the information associated with them are highly personal, members of the public are generally prohibited from performing Social Security Number background checks for personal reasons. 

Exceptions are typically only made for employers that need to verify the social security status of a new hire, individuals providing identity certification to an interested agency or organization, or parties with a compelling legal reason (usually as determined by a judge or other binding decision).

For these reasons, ways to find a person by their social security number are limited. But, there are some things that can be done to locate person by social security number.

Find Someone by SSN Number for Free (SSN Lookup)

Finding someone by their SSN number for free is difficult. Social Security Numbers – and the related personal data that they often accompany – are highly sensitive pieces of information.

Tread with caution when evaluating any free SSN lookup services provided online. Some of these sites are not entirely trustworthy and may steal any sensitive personal data you enter for identity theft purposes.

However, that’s not to say that there aren’t options for finding someone by SSN number for free, as long as these general privacy and data-safety guidelines are kept in mind.

Social Security office webpage screenshot for how to locate person by social security number and SSN lookup.

The Social Security system was established in 1936 to track the earnings of U.S. citizens and collect a portion of those earnings, which are designed to be repaid after retirement.

Use a Free Public Records Search To Find by Social Security Number

Before beginning any Social Security Number-related search, one strategy that can be effective is to first perform a public records search.

Public records searches are a good place to begin when attempting to find someone by SSN number for free because they can provide access to information like court records, census data, criminal and property information, voter registrations, and much more. Numerous free public records search sites exist online that provide good starting points.

For example, searching for someone named John Smith along with a certain city and state in a public records search would bring up numerous records, likely including many of those mentioned above.

Another effective, cost-free strategy is to search on social media platforms for the target person. These platforms provide yet another source of information that can be used to gain more data about a given person. The more data the searcher is able to collect, the better chances they will have of locating a given person.

However, public records and social media searches are often not as powerful as a search by Social Security Number. Detailed steps on how to search for information by SSN are described below.

Step 1: Use the Social Security Number Verification Service (SSNVS)

A great place to begin SSN lookups is the Social Security Administration’s very own Social Security Number Verification Service (SSNVS). This service, for use by employers and other third-party verification services, allows for the verification of a Social Security Number and its associated name against the SSA’s database.

While this service does not provide further records and information associated with the SSN, it does allow the searcher to confirm, for free, whether or not the number is valid – an important first step to locate person by social security number.

In order to use the SSNVS, access must be requested and granted by the SSA. Here’s how to request access.

Step 1: Navigate to the Social Security Administration’s website.

Click on the drop-down menu and, in the “Business & Government” section, select the “Employer” option. Alternatively, navigate directly to the page by clicking here.

Step 2: Click the “Business Services Online” button, which should be highlighted in a blue box on the right-hand side of the webpage. Then, click the “Register” button – also located in a blue box on the right-hand side – to begin the account creation process. An account is required to use the SSA’s Business Services Online. Information on the account creation process is available here.
creenshot from SSN website titled Business Services Online.

Step 3: Read the “User Registration Attestation” outlining the terms and conditions for the use of SSA’s Business Services Online. Then, click the “I Accept” button in the bottom right-hand corner.

Step 4: Follow the prompts to create an account. This will necessitate inputting personal information, creating a password, and submitting the information for SSA’s review. A video walking through the process can be found here.

Step 5: Make careful note of the User ID and password. These will be the login credentials for the new account. Then click the “next” button in the bottom right-hand corner.

Step 6: Follow the prompt and request access to the desired suite BSO services (usually the employer suite.) There are suites for employers, attorneys, and other parties. Then click the “next” button in the bottom right-hand corner.

Step 7: Add Your Employer Information. Click the blue link titled “Add Your Employer Information” in the top right corner. The Employer Information Attestation form will appear. Click the “I Accept” button in the bottom right-hand corner. Then, populate the information fields on the following page. Press the “Submit Employer Information” button in the bottom right-hand corner.

Step 8: Click the “Request Access to BSO Services” button. Ensure “SSA Services Suite for Employers” is still marked with a check mark, then click the “Next” button in the bottom right-hand corner.

Step 9: Confirm that the Employer Information is correct, then click the “Next” button in the bottom right-hand corner.

Step 10: Answer the questions under the Report Wages to Social Security section, then click the “Next” button in the bottom right-hand corner.

Step 11: Request access to the SSNVS. Select “yes,” then select “next.” If approved, the associated employer will receive an access code in the mail in a few weeks. This code can be used to activate the account.

Step 12: Review the final information associated with the created account and click “confirm” if it is correct.

Step 13: Once the access code has been received in the mail and the account has been activated, the account will be able to search and confirm employee names and Social Security Numbers against the SSA’s database.

While the registration process can take some time, using the Social Security Administration’s Social Security Number Verification Service is an excellent way for employers to verify a Social Security Number against its associated name – a great start when attempting to find someone by Social Security Number for free.

For searchers who aren’t employers, but still wish to validate an SSN against the SSA’s records, other, third-party verification services exist.

Find Missing Person by Social Security Number

Whether it’s an estranged relative, a long-lost friend, or someone who needs to be located for legal reasons, there are any number of reasons why someone may wish to find a missing person by social security number.

Luckily, options to do so abound, ranging from free, to inexpensive, to exhaustive and comprehensive.

Step 2: File a Freedom of Information Act Request

Once the methods mentioned above have been utilized, searchers may consider beginning to use more enhanced techniques.

One option to find a missing person by social security number is to file what is known as a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. FOIA is a federal act that allows for the disclosure of records from U.S. government agencies.

Filing a FOIA request is relatively straightforward, but there are techniques requesters should be aware of to increase the odds of success and reduce potential monetary charges. Here’s how:

Step 1: Visit the FOIA webpage.

Step 2: Click the “Create a Request” tab at the top of the page, and enter “Social Security Administration.” Then, click “Start FOIA Request.” Alternatively, click here to automatically begin creating a FOIA request for the SSA.

Freedom of Information Act website screenshot for making requests for how to find someone by social security number

The Freedom of Information Act allows many requests, but for it to be approved, the request to find someone by social security number must be legitimate and legal.

Step 3: Enter personal contact information into the appropriate fields.

Step 4: Write the request. Be as thorough and detailed as possible in questioning, and describe the records being sought as specifically as possible. Requesters may specify not only what information they are seeking, but also what format they would ideally like to receive the information in. A sample FOIA request template can be found here.

Step 5: Attach additional information. If the searcher has consent from the person whose records are being sought, uploading proof of consent here can be very helpful in increasing both the width of access and the speed with which the request is answered. Uploading personal identification may also be helpful to establish if it establishes a relationship to the records being sought.

Step 6: Fill out fee information. Most FOIA requests do not result in charges to the requester. However, should the search prove labor-intensive, labor costs can arise that are then charged to the requester. In the fee section, requesters specify the upper limit of what they are willing to pay in the event the search is expensive. Requesters may also apply for a fee waiver, which is a waiver granted if the information proves to be in the public interest.

Step 7: Choose expedited or normal processing. As with the fee waiver, the federal government may expedite certain FOIA requests if they meet certain criteria. Requesters may elect here to apply for this status or not.

Step 8: Review and submit. The FOIA request will now be processed by the appropriate agency, in this case, the SSA. In 2021, the average processing time for simple FOIA requests at the SSA was 18 business days.

More information on using FOIA to find missing persons can be found here, under the header “What about requirements for obtaining records on someone else?”

Step 3: Search the Social Security Death Index (SSDI)

A third option for finding a missing person by social security number is the Social Security Death Index (SSDI), also known as the Limited Access Death Master File (LAMDF.) This file is a large database maintained by the Department of Commerce which contains nearly 100 million death records of U.S. citizens.

Gaining access to the SSDI is complex and expensive, and is generally reserved for larger organizations such as government agencies and banks. Users interested in gaining access should do the following:

Step 1: Review information about what the SSDI is – and isn’t – by reading the associated webpage on the SSA’s website here.

SSDI screenshot for how to find someone by ssn number for free.

Step 2: Understand that accessing the full, public SSDI file requires a complex certification process, membership at an institution like a bank or government agency, and fees often in excess of tens of thousands of dollars.

Step 3: If this route is an option, learn more about getting started with the certification process here.

Step 4: If this route is not an option, consider looking online for free SSDI search websites. Many popular genealogical and family history search websites allow users to perform limited searches of the SSDI, often for comparatively low costs or as little as starting a free trial.

Note: the SSA previously had what was known as a letter-forwarding service, in which the agency would attempt to forward letters to missing persons based on their name and SSN. Despite numerous reports to the contrary online, this letter-forwarding service has been discontinued.

Letter forwarding conditions ssn website for free ssn number lookup by name

There is one final method to find a missing person by social security number that should be mentioned: enlisting a private investigator, or PI.

Private investigators tend to be much more expensive than the other services mentioned, and typically will only take on a case if the searcher has a valid legal reason to be inquiring about potentially sensitive legal data. That being said, PIs have access to enhanced databases and search software. While expensive, contracting a private investigator is one of the single most powerful ways to locate person by social security number.

Using Other SSN Records

When interested parties search by social security number, it’s possible that they’ll be finding all sorts of information.

Date of birth, address, phone number, workplace, and other data are often contained in SSN records and can be found by looking in the right place. In the following section, methods for finding these records and information types are discussed in more detail.

Find Someone’s SSN From Public Records

If a searcher is attempting to find someone’s SSN from public records, there should certainly be a legitimate, compelling legal reason to do so – lest the searcher risk committing a crime by accessing sensitive, protected information.

In many cases, accessing someone’s SSN without their permission may be considered identity theft.

It bears repeating that Social Security Numbers are extremely private information. Searchers should only attempt to access another person’s Social Security Number if they have permission from that person and/or a compelling, legal reason to do so – including permission from a court or other legal entity.

Genealogical family search sites are great places to start – they often have comprehensive public death records that may even include SSNs.

Finally, if the searcher has forgotten or misplaced their own Social Security Number, and is attempting to access their own SSN via public records, there are alternative methods available.

The SSA allows individuals to replace lost or stolen Social Security Cards online; this is a fast, free, and convenient way for interested individuals to find out their own Social Security numbers. More information on this service can be found on the SSA’s Frequently Asked Questions page.

SSA screenshot for how to apply for a replacement ssn card online

When performing the search on someone else, attempt to gain the person’s permission; if this is not possible, contact legal authorities or a private investigator for further options. Be wary of free online sites, as not all of them are reputable. In lieu of potentially unsafe SSN search services, other avenues such as checking for arrest or criminal records may be considered as means of gathering more information on a given person.

Reverse SSN Lookup

A reverse SSN lookup refers to a search in which the searching party already has the Social Security Number of the target individual. With this information in hand, a reverse search can provide information including names and aliases, addresses, phone numbers and contact information, date of birth, relatives, and more.

Reverse SSN lookups are great options for finding out more information about a person. As Social Security Numbers are considered the “key” to U.S. citizens’ entire information records, once searchers have legally obtained a target person’s SSN, they are well on their way to discovering all the information they need.

Several sites exist online that provide reverse SSN lookup services. Many of these websites will charge a small fee for their services as they involve databases that are paid-access. As with any situation in which sensitive data is being input into websites online, it is paramount that searchers make sure the site they are trusting with their – or someone else’s – Social Security Number is reputable.

Look for reviews, check to ensure the connection is secure, don’t be afraid to ask questions, and in general keep an eye out for anything that looks less than fully legitimate on reverse SSN lookup websites.

Find Address by Social Security Number for Free

One of the most commonly searched-for pieces of information when looking for a person is address, and for this reason, attempts to find an address by social security number for free have become more and more sought after. Similar to a reverse SSN lookup, many online services will provide assistance in finding an individual’s address (or addresses) if that individual’s SSN is provided.

Multiple techniques exist for discerning an individual’s address via the use of their Social Security Number. One is to leverage a reverse SSN lookup to find all associated addresses. Another is to perform a utility search, a type of search that checks the target individual’s Social Security Number against utility payments (i.e. for water, gas, electricity, etc.) across all addresses. This has the advantage of showing which places the target individual may currently live.

Unfortunately, very few of these methods will be entirely free, as many involve labor-intensive search processes that in some cases must be performed by humans rather than simply online.

Find Date of Birth by Social Security Number Free

Similar to address searches, ways to find the date of birth by social security number for free often involve a reverse SSN lookup. Again, if the searching party is already in possession of a target individual’s Social Security Number, they are mere steps away from finding out that individual’s date of birth.

If the individual is deceased, finding out their date of birth is free and easy with the SSA’s SSDI database. If the individual is still living, their date of birth should still be relatively available with the corresponding SSN number in hand.

An initial place to try is a free public records search – since date of birth is one of the more common pieces of information to find in public records, starting with a public records search is a good idea, as these are generally free.

If locating a person’s date of birth is still a challenge, it may be beneficial to turn to an online search registry. While these organizations may charge a small fee, it is almost certain that they will be able to locate the date of birth if given the SSN.

SSN Lookup Process

Whether it’s an employer using the SSNVS to verify a new hire, a family member checking the SSDI to find out information on a passed-away loved one, someone filing a FOIA request or checking local court records to find out more about a missing person, an interested party supplementing their SSN queries with a free public records search, or a concerned person tracking down someone else’s SSN after being granted legal permission, the SSN lookup process can take many shapes and forms.

Setting out to locate person by social security number can lead to much information about the target individual, but the process must be done correctly and legally in order to save money, avoid violating privacy, and succeed in finding out the desired info.

Frequently Asked Questions About Locating Someone by Social Security Number

Can You Find Someone's Employer With Social Security Number?

The process for finding a current or past employer can certainly be assisted with a social security number, but the process is different that using a social security number to locate someone.

How Do You Find People's Social Security Numbers Free?

Since social security numbers are highly private and are used as identifiers, the process for finding them legally can be lengthy and expensive.

Is It Possible for Someone To Be Using Social Security Numbers To Track Individuals?

Technically, yes, a person can be tracked with their social security number, but usually not in real-time. Tracking would occur after the number was utilized for a specific reason, such as applying for a loan.

Will a SSN Lookup Include Dismissed or Pending Charges?

It depends on which state the charges happened. Learn more about when dismissed charges and pending charges may show up on a background check.

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