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Employee Identity Theft

Identity theft is a crime that can have devastating effects on victims. Read more to learn how identity theft relates to workers, how to avoid it, and how to deal with it.

Employment identity theft is a crime that occurs when someone takes and uses another person’s identifying information to apply for jobs in their name. Typically, the identity thief is someone who legally cannot work or who is unattractive to employers due to a criminal background or other reasons. 

If someone steals a social security number or other identifying information to apply for work, there may be devastating consequences for the victim whose identity was stolen. The thief’s wages may be reported in the victim’s name, such as to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The victim would then be expected to pay the thief’s taxes. If the thief commits other fraud or crime in the victim’s name, it could be attributed to the victim by mistake.

A variety of federal and state laws make identity theft of any kind illegal, including employment identity theft. The federal Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act makes it illegal to share or use another person’s identifying information without their permission with intent to commit or aid a crime (18 USC § 1028(a)(7)). Under the Act, identity theft is punishable by fines, criminal forfeiture of property used or intended for use in committing the offense, and up to 20 years imprisonment (§ 1028(b)). Visit the Department of Justice’s page on identity theft for information on other relevant federal laws. 

Many states also have laws against identity theft.

Identity theft is a crime that often goes undetected. However, there are ways you can learn that you have become a victim of it. 

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) may send you a notice. IRS notice CP01E warns recipients that they may be victims of employment identity theft. Alternatively, you may receive a notice that asks you to verify income that you did not report on your tax return or one that asks you to confirm your received income where there is a discrepancy in your reported wages. If you receive one of these notices, it could mean that another person is reporting their wages to the IRS in your name. 

You may be contacted by an employer whom you do not work for. This could happen if the employer hired the identity thief in your name and contacts you in confusion.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) may send you a notice or rejection letter because of income information it received from another person.

There are actions you may take if you believe your identity was stolen. The Department of Justice that you:

Contact companies or employers where you know or believe fraud occurred.Place a fraud alert and get your credit reports. You can place a one-year fraud alert on your credit reports for free by contacting Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion. These are nationwide credit reporting companies. If you place an alert with one, it must communicate the alert to the other two as well.Report identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission. (FTC)Consider filing a report with local police.The IRS offers further guidance, explaining what you should do if you receive certain notices, such as a CP01E notice that you may be a victim of employment identity theft.

The best way to prevent yourself from becoming a victim of identity theft is to secure your identifying information so that it does not end up in the wrong hands. Examples of how you can protect your information include:

Keep your sensitive documents at home rather than on your person so that you are not likely to accidentally drop them or forget them somewhere public.Avoid storing your passwords or other personal information on public computers or on work computers.Be cautious online. Be wary of clicking any suspicious links or sharing sensitive information with strangers. Use a VPN and / or security software to protect your data online.Be on the lookout for scams. Phone calls and email scams are becoming more convincing, so be careful not to share your personal information with someone unless you are sure that they are who they claim and that they need your information.Visit Equifax, one of the major credit reporting bureaus, for more advice.

Here are some steps that employers can take to protect against employment identity theft:

Conduct background checks on job applicants to ensure that the person they are hiring is who they say they are.Educate employees on how to identify and avoid scams.Use security software to protect employees’ sensitive information, such as by encrypting it.Consider offering identity theft protection services as a benefit to your employees. Visit Equifax, one of the major credit reporting bureaus, for more advice.

Unfortunately, yes. Identity theft can cause a lot of confusion. The victim may not even know their identity was stolen, and the thief’s employer has hired someone other than who they thought. Further, the victim may encounter difficulties with their boss or with prospective employers. 

For example, a background check on the victim could return misleading information that is attributable to the identity thief instead. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) offers job candidates protection to help ameliorate this. 

If a job candidate knows that their identity was stolen, they should inform their prospective employers. This way, the employer has notice that there may be something off in a background check so that they are more likely to follow up with the job candidate about it to clarify. 

This CNBC article provides helpful advice and resources for job candidates and employees who are victims of identity theft.

Visit Workplace Fairness’ page on credit checks for more information.

The post Employee Identity Theft appeared first on Workplace Fairness.

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