Tag Archives: Identity Theft Prevention

How to avoid employment identity theft.

I’ve said many times before that not all identity theft is strictly financial, although other types of theft may have financial implications.

Medical identity theft is used to obtain services or to bilk insurance companies out of money for services that were never given. It can lead to collections activity against the victim, and at worse, false medical records that could be hazardous to the victim’s life.

Criminal identity theft can lead to victims being incarcerated and stuck with false arrest records that are difficult to expunge. It can lead to loss of job opportunities, and in some cases the victim has to hire a criminal defense attorney to get the situation under control.

Employment identity theft can, on the surface, seem like an almost victimless crime. When someone simply uses your personal information to obtain a job, you might not necessarily even find out unless you happen to apply for a position with the same employer (which has happened before). In fact, I’m sure that a lot of the people who actually use stolen information to get jobs think of it as a victimless crime.

However, what happens if the person using your identity to get a job doesn’t pay taxes on their earnings? The IRS will come looking for you.

One of the enduring myths of identity theft is that the person who steals your information is going to be the same person who uses it. This used to be more or less true, in the days before the Internet made things easier for criminals. These days, a more likely scenario for employment identity theft is that one entity steals information from a lot of different people, then sells it to those who need it. As I’ve often said, this is the realm of organized crime. The person who snags your Social Security Number through illicit means is just a middleman.

In other words, the standard rules apply; guard your SSN and be cautious about who you give it to.

Fraudulent job listings are a major source for this form of “retail” identity theft. You have to be extremely careful when applying for jobs online, especially during these times of high unemployment. However, don’t let your guard down when the economy recovers. This stuff is always out there.

First, never give your Social Security Number before a job interview. Any employer talking about a “preliminary background check” is already breaking the law, so you know right away that something is wrong. The second they speak of a preliminary check, refuse and move on.

Second, never provide financial information. If it’s a job that requires a credit check before hiring, they don’t need account numbers for that. They’ll need your Social Security Number, but by the time you’re actually sitting in an office with an interviewer, surrounded by employees, you’re a little safer in giving them the information. Thieves don’t often set up actual office premises—it’s too much work.

Third, be extremely vigilant when applying for jobs online. Do your homework, check up on the company, make sure any emails are from company accounts (like [nameofcompany].[com/org/net]), not free personal addresses (live.com, gmail.com, yahoo.com, etc.). Online application forms are an easy way for fraudulent web sites to harvest personal information. If they’re asking for your Social Security Number, STOP.

Finally, these are far more “work at home” scams on the Internet (and in the Classifieds, in your Inbox and stapled to telephone poles) than there are legitimate home-based job opportunities—the ratio is 54-to-1, according to one source. This means that if you’re looking at an online work-at-home offer, there is a 98% chance that it’s a scam and possibly a front for an identity theft ring. In other words, don’t even bother.

If you’re serious about working from home, your best bet is to contact a staffing agency (preferably a local one with an actual, physical office) and see if they have any leads. Or, you can start your own business and create your own income model. You either have to telecommute (traditional job, only you don’t go to the office much) or create something that people want (whether a product, information, or entertainment content) on your own, and figure out how to monetize it.

Child Identity Theft: protect your children from yourself

Child identity theft is a very real problem. Children are attractive targets for this crime, since their credit, employment and criminal histories are clean.

There is definitely a threat from other people stealing your child’s identity; your new baby arrives and a few days later someone who claims to be from the hospital calls, asking for the child’s Social Security number because you forgot to give them this information in your excitement.

The problem, of course, is that the call wasn’t from the hospital; it was from somebody who saw the birth announcement in the newspaper and saw an opportunity.

However, the biggest risk to your child’s identity isn’t strangers. Most child identity theft is committed by parents and family members who have easy access to the child’s personal information.

Most of the time, these parents are facing unemployment, poverty and generally stacked odds. They figure they’ll just use the child’s information to qualify for an apartment or telephone service—just this one time—and they’ll make it all better by the time the kid grows up.

Of course, that’s not how it usually plays out. The parent gets an apartment or automobile they can’t actually afford and starts to fall behind. They apply for a few credit cards in the child’s name, just to make purchases for essentials until they get back on their feet, which never happens. By the time a few years have passed, the situation has snowballed and the child’s credit is ruined, along with any trust the child ever felt for his or her parent.

It’s a fact: on this day in 2009, a lot of people are struggling to make ends meet. In fact, no matter when you’re reading this, a lot of people are having a hard time getting by, and you might be one of them. It can be very tempting to use your child’s personal information in times like this.

However, please remember these points:

  1. Any use of your child’s information to obtain credit, services or employment for yourself is identity theft
  2. Stealing your child’s identity is a crime; plenty of parents have gone to jail for it
  3. Don’t think you’re going to “make it all better” before the child gets older—it never really works out that way (and it’s a crime, too, remember?)
  4. You do not own your children, they are not your property to do with as you please, and their future creditworthiness is theirs, not yours
  5. Don’t think your child won’t press charges when they find out about your crime. How do you think those parents in #2 above ended up in prison?
  6. Yes, they’re going to find out. They always find out.

I’m being pretty blunt here—I don’t even like to see greedy adults get swindled when they should know better; I really hate to see children being victimized by the people they should be able to trust above all others.

Your situation might be tough right now, but time is going to pass and life is going to move forward, and what is happening now will one day be what happened years ago. You will only make things worse by committing identity crime against your own child—financially, and by making sure your child never wants to see you again once he or she is grown.

I’m sure some would protest my harsh words here, “You’ve never been broke,” someone might say. “You don’t know what it’s like. You do what you have to do in order to survive.”

And they would be right. I’ve never been truly destitute before. I still don’t buy the excuse, though. There are ways to get by without stealing your own child’s identity. You’re being lazy and not thinking if that’s the only route you can fathom.

When do you have to give your Social Security Number?

You hear a lot of information about when not to give out your Social Security number, but when are you required to reveal it?

The short (and incomplete) answer is: any time you’re doing something that involves taxable income.

A little more specifically, you’re probably going to be required to provide your SSN in the following situations:

  • Opening a new account at a financial institution
  • Taxes
  • When you get a new job
  • When obtaining or renewing your driver’s license or other state-issued identification
  • Conducting business involving government welfare or healthcare (Medicare, for example)

Aside from those situations, be very cautious about sharing your number. Actually, be very cautious anyway, but in other situations you would be wise to ask:

  • Why your number is needed
  • How your number will be used
  • What happens if you refuse
  • What law requires you to give your number

Finally, be extremely cautious (read: don’t do it at all) when it comes to people asking for your Social over the telephone or Internet, especially if they initiated the contact with you. If you can’t verify who the requesting entity is (as well as the answers to the four questions above), refuse to share your number.