Tens of thousands of foreigners are illegally obtaining Social Security numbers by using fake documents, a typical first step to identity theft and other crimes, but federal officials still have not found a way to search immigration records to prevent the practice, federal investigators say.

In a new report, the inspector general of the Social Security Administration, James G. Huse Jr., said that 1 in 12 foreigners receiving new Social Security numbers had done so using fake documents. Preliminary results from an investigation still under way show that 100,000 Social Security numbers were wrongly issued to noncitizens in 2000, Mr. Huse said.

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