COPYRIGHT ©2021 APSCREEN EMPLOYEELOCATOR. All rights reserved.
To find missing participants, our Department of Labor (DOL) outlines the requirements in Title 29 CFR 4050.4. These records outlinethe diligent search compliance requirements for participants with a social security number (SSN).
Making the SSN available is an essential requirement because the entirety of the file chain is rooted in the SSN.
Also, the SSN more adequately identifies a participant. That includes up to an acceptable consumer reporting agency standard.
In recent years, identity theft has skyrocketed. Compliance and audit departments are aware of the root sources of the identification information, including the major credit bureaus.
These sources include the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) Identification and the Death Master File (DMF). In addition, credit bureaus and other source agencies that contribute to finding missing participants have also been affected.
How can one administer the pension or benefit plan if one does not possess the participant’s SSN?
What if a transposition error occurred somewhere in the chain of custody of a given consumer’s file management?
Possibly the Human Resources (HR) department makes a mistake. Or maybe the Actuary or Third Party Administrator (TPA). And no one catches the error until a commercial locator service discovers it.
Or your vested participant has departed employment with their plan sponsor, and the file went inactive. The lost SSN was not found because of a destroyed employment file. As a result, the TPA, HR, or another in the plan administration chain tasked to locate the missing participants can’t retrieve the stored file(s). Seven years later, the participant is reactivated.
Innocuous as these scenarios seem, they wreak havoc for any commercial locator service.
Under all assigned rules, there is no provision for a mistaken or completely missing SSN in the administration stream. So, how can plan administrators locate this missing participant?
There is some contradiction in accessing non-SSN data to find missing participants.
Today any company that buys credit reports, employment background checks, or commercial locator services must be properly vetted to be classified as a legitimate end-user.
Also, commercial locator services do not technically fall under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). So, it potentially damages consumer concerns if the locator service does not maintain itself to an FCRA standard.This process is critical, so the consumer may have direct and unfettered access to whoever touches their personal information if they assert foul play.
An end-user must justify the use of the consumer’s private identification information. And a provider must prove that it thoroughly determined the service it provides was to a legitimate end-user. Then the data remains secure.
The consumer is protected, and most importantly, that consumer is sent down the road to interview other end-users for their personal information, which may have resulted in a compromise.
It’s essential to vet All end-users carefully. EmployeeLocator reports are based not only on a participant’s social security number. We also use other data, including name, date of birth, and former address.
One caveat that bears discussing is the cost. Using the SSN to connect the participant with his pension or benefit is the least expensive way to locate missing employees. Without the SSN, a potential drama known as back-end compliance comes into play.
Any commercial locator service using data other than a SSN to locate a missing participant puts this business and the end-user in the highly compromised position of mimicking an identity thief.
It thus exposes the locator service (and its end-users) to additional scrutiny, especially if the identity is actively under assault.
Being under assault is defined as if theft of that person’s identity is already underway at the time of the inquiry. Or, there is an active police case number assigned, or they are the subject of a law-enforcement sting operation.
Under these circumstances, the commercial locator service and the end-user could be scrutinized by law enforcement. This inquiry remains true when a locator service or end-user involvement is documented as innocent. It also includes if the request is permitted, justified, proper, and in the ordinary course and scope of their respective business models.
Regarding numbers 1 & 2 above, circumstances happening, you will likely incur slightly increased costs for locates. For number 3, someone must determine if the increased costs are justified or if they cannot find the archived file.
Ultimately, locating missing participants for your benefit and pension plans without the SSN is possible at a somewhat higher cost. As long as the end-user vetting process is competent, these alternate methods can be a lifesaver for participants who want to claim their funds.