Auditors Say 24 UNC Hospital Employees Had Wrong Social Security Numbers

Published: January 29, 2007

RALEIGH, N.C. – According to the North Carolina Office of the State Auditor, 24 University of North Carolina (UNC) Hospital workers were using Social Security numbers that didn’t exist or were assigned to other people.

According to the report, which was released by State Auditor Leslie Merritt’s office Jan. 29, seven UNC employees were using nonexistent numbers, 13 were using valid Social Security numbers assigned to other people who were living, and four were using real numbers assigned to people who are deceased.

Although some of the problems were related to innocent human error, 17 of them were considered “deceptive mismatches” by the auditor. Nine of the people using these numbers have resigned, while another eight have been fired by UNC.

The audit says:

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We reviewed the social security numbers (SSNs) of all employees on the Universityof North Carolina Hospitals payroll and noted that seven employees were identifiedas having invalid SSNs.

For the seven employees:

  • Four employees SSNs were determined to be invalid by the Social SecurityAdministration.

    The Social Security Administration’s online service confirmed four employee SSNs were invalid, meaning those numbers had never been issued. The four personnel files did not contain a copy of the employee’s social security card. We interviewed two of these four employees and one employee acknowledged that her social security card was not issued by the Social Security Administration: instead it was obtained from an individual. The other employee presented his ITIN instead of his SSN. He said his SSN was submitted to IRS so he could be issued an ITIN. We asked him where he obtained the SSN that was currently being used in payroll. He stated that he had received it from the Immigration and Naturalization Service in California.

    We informed him that the ITIN was not a valid SSN. He said that he wascurrently applying for permanent residency in the United States and oncegranted he would receive a new SSN card. The other two employees did not show up for their interviews and resigned during our audit.

  • Two employees were issued temporary SSNs by the hospital

    Two of the employee SSNs were temporary numbers assigned to employees pending their SSN applications. The employees’ correct SSNs were updated in the payroll office prior to our visit. The employee files contained a copy of the social security cards and the numbers on the cards matched the valid numbers in the payroll file.

  • One employee’s SSN was keyed incorrectly into the payroll system

    The employee came in for an interview and presented her SSN card to us and it was verified by SSA. We determined that the employee’s SSN was keyed incorrectly into the payroll system.

The Department of Justice, Immigration and Naturalization Service’s Handbook for Employers states that “Persons or entities who are convicted of having engaged in a pattern or practice of knowingly hiring unauthorized aliens (or continuing to employ aliens knowing that they are or have become unauthorized to work in the United States) after November 6, 1986, may face fines of up to $3,000 per employee and/or 6
months imprisonment.”

Recommendation: UNC Hospitals should follow-up on the employees that have used fraudulent documents to obtain employment and take appropriate action against these employees. UNC Hospitals should investigate and correct all keypunch errors on atimely basis. The hospital should develop a written procedure to correct employeeSSNs.

Auditee’s Response: The Human Resources, Payroll and Legal Departments at UNC Hospitals are working together to address the issue of employees obtaining employment by using fraudulent documents in a manner that is effective while recognizing the rights of the employee during the process of evaluating each issue and determining the appropriate action to be taken.

Written policies and procedures are being developed that will address these issues and provide for the correction of incorrect social security numbers and key punch errors in a timely manner.


We matched social security numbers (SSNs) from the hospital payroll file to the social security file of deceased persons. Four employees had SSNs that matched the SSN of a deceased person but with different names from the name on the Social Security Administration’s deceased persons file.

Of these four employees we noted the following:

  • One employee’s SSN was a keying error. The employee came in for an interview and presented his SSN card to us with the correct number. We asked him why he had not had Payroll correct his SSN. He commented that it was always an issue at year end for tax reporting and he had attempted to get it corrected several times in Payroll since November 2000. However, the Human Resources and Payroll records continued to reflect the wrong SSN.
  • Three employees were using the SSN of a deceased person according to our matched SSA files. These errors had not been corrected at the time of our audit and employee payments were still shown with the invalid number in the payroll file. Two of these employees had been terminated prior to our visit and the other one resigned during our visit when asked to be interviewed inthe payroll office.

Recommendation: UNC Hospitals should correct employee SSN keypunch errors on a timely basis. The hospital should verify SSNs for all new employees within three business days to prevent employees from using false SSNs. A documented procedure to correct employee SSNs should be developed.

Auditee’s Response: The Employment Department at UNC Hospitals has been utilizing the SSA database for employment screening purposes, via a vendor, since the database was made available by the SSA. Also, the Human Resources and Payroll Departments at UNC Hospitals are working together to develop procedures and policies that address the need to verify social security numbers at the time ofemployment and to investigate and correct social security numbers and key punch errors found after initial employment in a timely manner.


We selected additional employees from the payroll file to determine if their name and SSNs matched the names on file at the Social Security Administration. These were employees who did not appear on any of our exception reports (i.e. the SSNs are valid and belong to people who are not deceased). Thirteen of these employees had names or SSNs that did not match the names or SSNs on file at the Social SecurityAdministration.

These failed verifications could be the result of keypunch errors, name changes not registered with the Social Security Administration, or numbers from false or illegal social security cards. Additional research indicates some of these SSNs may have more than one name associated with them.

Recommendation: The hospital should investigate these employees and take appropriate corrective action. The hospital should also routinely perform SSN verification on the payroll and determine the reason employee names and SSNs do not match with the names or SSNs on file with the Social Security Administration.

Auditee’s Response: The Human Resources, Payroll and Legal Departments at UNC Hospitals have worked together to investigate the employees noted above in a manner that was effective while recognizing the rights of the employee during the process of evaluating each issue and determining the appropriate action to be taken.

The Information Services Division of the Hospitals has completed the work needed to systematically perform a SSN verification of all UNC Hospitals employees currently on the payroll. This verification will be completed periodically (on a quarterly basis) so that mis
matches, if any, are identified and addressed in a timely manner.


A quarterly SSA verification error report is available through SSA-Business Services Online each quarter. UNC Hospitals has not been using this report to verify employees’ social security numbers.

The hospital should submit all payroll employees appearing on the quarterly payroll to the social security administration for social security verification. The Social Security Administration will compare the employees’ social security numbers to their SSA data base and provide a “SSA Verification Error Report” to the hospital. This report contains the names of the employees whose name, date of birth, gender, orsocial security number do not match the Social Security Administration records.

According to the Social Security Administration’s Web site, if a social security number fails verification, the employer should compare the failed social security number with the employment records to check for typographical errors. If the employment records and the name and social security number shown on the social security card match the employer’s records, the employee is asked to check with the local Social Security office to determine and resolve the issue. Once the employee visits the Social Security Office, they should inform the employer of any changes. If the employee is unable to provide a valid social security number, the employer should document its efforts to obtain the corrected information.

Recommendation: UNC Hospitals should initiate the quarterly SSA verification error process available to them through the SSA Business Services Online. The exceptions identified on the SSA Verification Error Report should be investigated and resolved in a timely manner.

Auditee’s Response: The Information Services Division of the Hospitals has completed the work needed to systematically utilize the SSA Business Service Online. The verification of all current employee SSNs is scheduled to be performed on a quarterly basis and exceptions, if any, will be investigated and resolved in a timely manner according to approved policies and procedures.


The report can be found online at

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