E-Verify system can't detect ID theft, witnesses say

Flaw could allow dishonest workers to thwart the system

The Homeland Security Department’s E-Verify employment verification system cannot detect identity theft and fraudulent applications, according to testimony before a Senate Judiciary Committee subcommittee.

The Internet-based E-Verify system allows employers to check Social Security numbers for their employees and prospective employees to determine whether the numbers are valid and the employees are therefore eligible to work. However, it is not designed to detect borrowed or stolen Social Security numbers.

“E-Verify is not without its flaws, including one fundamental problem: its inability to detect identity theft,” Lynden Melmed, former chief counsel for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), told the committee's Immigration, Border Security and Citizenship Subcommittee on July 21. “Unlawful workers can beat E-Verify by using another individual's valid identification.”

USCIS has been expanding its database of photographs to be used as a back-up checking tool to ensure that the images of applicants presenting their Social Security numbers to E-Verify match in appearance the images in photos existing in current government systems linked to the same Social Security number. However, the photographic matching is limited in scope, Melmed added.

Melmed endorsed the idea of strengthening E-Verify to include possible fingerprint collection.

“Congress should therefore give consideration to using E-Verify as a platform and expanding photo-tool for currently issued documents and/or incorporating a new biometric identification document,” Melmed said.

Former USCIS Commissioner James Ziglar told the panel, "If someone has stolen an identity and presents legitimate documents connected to that identity, or presents fraudulent documents which make use of stolen identity data, the purpose of the employment eligibility verification exercise can be defeated.” 


“In my opinion, it would border on irresponsible not to seriously analyze the possibility of incorporating a biometric identification and verification module into the E-Verify system,” Ziglar said.

E-Verify is a voluntary system used by about 134,000 employers, though it is mandatory to some degree in 12 states. Under an executive order from the Bush administration, federal contractors were supposed to begin mandatory use of E-Verify in January. However, that deadline has been pushed back to Sept. 8 due to a lawsuit. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano recently said the Sept. 8 deadline would be firm.

The E-Verify system has been controversial due to alleged high error rates in the databases used. USCIS acknowledges a 3.1 percent rate of initial non-matches in the system.

The Migration Policy Institute on July 20 issued a report recommending that DHS test several options to strengthen E-Verify, including use of personal identification numbers and biometric scans.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

Reader Comments

Mon, Jul 27, 2009 Jeffrey A. Williams Frisco Texas

E-Verify in it's early concept stages didn't take into account how IDTheft would or could impact the accuracy of the disposition of someone applying for a job using e-verify. Due to the number of illegal workers having very good indenty documentation based on false names, E-Verify is not difficult to thwart for what is was originally concieved of doing. Ergo, there is now due to the vast number of illegal workers in the US with very good false and passable identities that E-Verify or any other means of attempting to verify many workers as US Citizens is not plausable. Regards, Jeffrey A. Williams CSO/DIR. Internet Network Eng. SR. Eng. Network data security IDNS.
div. of Information Network Eng. INEG. INC.
ABA member in good standing member ID 01257402 E-Mail
jwkckid1@ix.netcom.com
My Phone: 214-244-4827

Sun, Jul 26, 2009 UncleSamchez

E Verify's intention was not to detect ID theft! DUH! E Verify was an elegant and simple device to stop fraudulent workers from making up SS numbers, especially when they are linked to a real AMERICAN citizen. http://numbersusa.com is an excellent way for American to contact their elected officials about illegal immigration and proposed laws

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

What is your e-mail address?

My e-mail address is:

Do you have a password?

Forgot your password? Click here
close

Trending

  • Dive into our Contract Award database

    In an exclusive for WT Insider members, we are collecting all of the contract awards we cover into a database that you can sort by contractor, agency, value and other parameters. You can also download it into a spreadsheet. Our databases track awards back to 2013. Read More

  • Navigating the trends and issues of 2016 Nick Wakeman

    In our latest WT Insider Report, we pull together our best advice, insights and reporting on the trends and issues that will shape the market in 2016 and beyond. Read More

contracts DB

Washington Technology Daily

Sign up for our newsletter.

Terms and Privacy Policy consent

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.