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Human Resources

What is a Salary Key

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Table of Contents

There are numerous companies that require a salary key during the income verification process. On paper, this key is supposed to ensure an applicant’s sensitive personal information stays private, allowing only approved lenders or employers to view salary and employment info.

But this tool, originally created to help ensure privacy, is outdated and doesn’t always keep all your information secure. To help you understand why it makes sense to explore more modern options, let’s establish where a salary key falls short.

So, what exactly are salary keys and why do you need them in the first place?

What is a salary key?

The 1970 Fair Credit Reporting Act gave consumers more power over their information as it pertains to credit reporting. The act’s primary objective is to limit who can access a consumer’s personal info, and for what purposes. Many industries still follow this legislation today, and it played a big role in the creation of the salary key.

A salary key is typically a randomly generated six-digit number that an applicant gives to lenders, government agencies, or employers. This key acts as consent, giving the receiving party the ability to view the applicant’s salary and employment info. Because consent is involved, the salary key is still within compliance of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

While the term “salary key” is basically the branding of The Work Number, an employment verification company operated by Equifax, other companies have similar functionality with different names. For example, InVerify gives customers an Income Key for verification purposes.

How to get a salary key

The process for getting a salary key, or the equivalent, can vary slightly depending on: why it’s needed; the company providing the key; and any middlemen involved. Typically, the process looks similar to the following:

  1. Navigate to the site of the company providing the key.
  2. Enter the employer code/company identifier, or search for your company on the site.
  3. Log in with your User ID or create an account, generally requiring a work email.
  4. Request a key or generate one directly on the site.
  5. Provide the following to the requesting party:
  6. Employer Code
  7. Social Security Number
  8. Salary Key

Again, the process may vary depending on your employer. But the process will be similar to the one outlined above, with the exception that you may have a school code in place of an employer code if you’re a student.

Are salary keys necessary?

There was a time when salary keys and similar functions were the best way to give permission for verification. Now, it’s largely possible to verify salaries and employment without keys and similar methods. For example, Truework doesn’t require any key during the verification process. Instead, we use encryption to ensure data is safe.

Salary keys also present some risks and additional hurdles for applicants. Although salary keys and other similar types of verifications are supposed to be random, that’s not guaranteed. There’s always a minute chance you’ll get a previously generated key. While there are still certain safeguards in place, such as requiring a person’s Social Security number for verification, the possibility of a reused code does present some risk. More importantly, it’s not as safe as general encryption.

The key process can also be time-consuming and a headache for applicants. The process requires that applicants make an account, generate a key, and send certain information to the receiving party. Additionally, if anything goes wrong during this process or the other party has any issues with the key, the applicant sometimes has to start over from square one.

Fortunately, it’s possible to verify employment without a salary key.

Verification without a salary key

Truework enables employers, government agencies, and lenders to securely verify salary and employment without any key generation:

  1. When a company requires verification, they submit a request using Truework’s online form. Each form is unique to the applicant’s company.
  2. The verifier completes the form and submits it, at which point it’s sent to the applicant.
  3. The applicant gets an email from Truework, asking if they authorize the verification. If they accept, the verification goes through, no salary key or input from HR required. Any sent data is transmitted over secure HTTPS using TLS 1.2, the same encryption many financial institutions use.

It’s worth reiterating that the process is entirely secure, uses encryption, and only moves forward when the applicant provides consent.

Salary keys: Not required

Salary keys were once a requirement, but like many facets of business, they have become obsolete. Employment verification doesn’t have to be complicated. Take salary keys out of the equation, simplify the process, and free up more of your valuable time.

Learn more about Truework

Request a demo to learn how Truework can simplify your income verifications through a unified platform.

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