Identity theft is an unfortunate experience that can disrupt your life in many ways. The thought of someone using your personal information for fraudulent purposes is unsettling, to say the least. While most of us are aware of identity theft in general, there’s a lesser-known but equally alarming form called employment identity theft. In this article, we’ll delve into how does employment identity theft occur and what you can do if it happens to you.
What is Employment Identity Theft?
Employment identity theft transpires when an individual utilizes your personal details, such as your name, Social Security number, and additional identifying information, to seek employment or clear a background screening. In most cases, these perpetrators resort to such measures when they are unable to secure employment using their information. While it may seem like a desperate act, employment identity theft is not only illegal but also a severe form of identity theft, as it involves using your data for personal gain when applying for a job.
Additionally, a troubling and increasingly common variation of employment identity theft is unemployment fraud. This involves an individual deceitfully using your personal data to make illegitimate claims for unemployment benefits. Alarmingly, identity theft related to government benefits, including unemployment fraud, witnessed a staggering increase of nearly 3,000% in the year 2020.
The ramifications of employment identity theft can be profoundly distressing. This form of identity theft allows the perpetrator to work under your identity, impacting various aspects of your life, including tax returns, Social Security benefits, and medical benefits. It may also lead to complications such as lost tax returns, tax audits, and incorrect information on government records and credit reports.
How Does it Occur?
Understanding how employment identity theft occurs is essential in protecting yourself from this deceitful act. Individuals responsible for employment identity theft can obtain your personal information through diverse methods:
- Data Breaches – Identity thieves might breach a corporation’s database housing sensitive employee data. If this information is not appropriately safeguarded, it can be pilfered and exploited for deceptive objectives.
- Insider Access – On occasion, personnel with authorized entry to personal data may misuse their permissions, employing this information for deceitful aims, like fabricating counterfeit identities for employment.
- Phishing – Identity thieves employ phishing emails, phone calls, or other scam tactics to deceive you into revealing personal or financial information. These scammers might pose as potential employers or human resources representatives, soliciting sensitive information for malicious use.
- Document Theft – In cases where your identification documents, such as a driver’s license, birth certificate, or Social Security card, go missing or are stolen, malevolent individuals can employ them to create fraudulent identities and secure employment.
- Fraudulent Applications – Perpetrators of identity theft might present job applications under your name, inventing personal details to create the illusion of authenticity.
Once an imposter successfully gains employment under someone else’s identity, they can receive paychecks and benefits meant for the legitimate person, further exacerbating the financial and legal complications that victims face.
Can Employment Identity Theft Happen to Anyone?
Employment identity theft is a crime that can potentially impact anyone. The motive behind this act can vary, but it typically involves individuals who are disqualified from employment in legitimate ways. This might be due to a criminal record, a patchy employment history, or a lack of required work permits. Others may resort to employment identity theft to gain unauthorized access to an employer’s systems for malicious purposes or corporate espionage.
Furthermore, certain individuals may aim to engage in illegal employment activities, including the submission of counterfeit tax returns or fraudulent claims for unemployment benefits under your identity. The ramifications of employment identity theft extend widely, impacting both the individuals who fall victim to it and the unwitting employers who hire these deceptive candidates.
What Can You Do When It Happens To You?
Detecting employment identity theft can be challenging, making swift action essential. If you become a victim of this form of identity theft, you may notice certain red flags:
- Receiving W-2 or 1099 forms from an employer you have never worked for.
- Notifications from the Social Security Administration regarding adjusted or denied benefits due to unearned wages.
- Confirmation of unemployment benefits that you did not apply for.
- Receipt of various documents from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) related to employment identity theft, such as Form CP01E, Form CP2057, or Form CP2000.
Identifying these signs is crucial. Once you suspect employment identity theft, it’s important to understand how to address the situation effectively.
What Can You Do to Prevent Employment Identity Theft?
Although it’s difficult to entirely eradicate the threat of employment identity theft, there are multiple tactics you can utilize to protect your personal and financial data:
- Keep Personal Information Confidential – Protect your personal identification details, particularly your Social Security number. Refrain from carrying your Social Security card with you, and refrain from openly disclosing your SSN in public.
- Secure Work Computers – Data stored on work computers is not always private. Protect your SSN, passwords, and other identity-related information from unauthorized access.
- Use Caution with Public Wi-Fi – When divulging personal details on public Wi-Fi networks, utilize a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to encode data transmission and obscure your IP address, increasing the difficulty for identity thieves to breach your information.
- Beware of Phishing Scams – Be vigilant about phishing emails, phone calls, or other deceptive tactics. Authenticate the legitimacy of any requests for personal information originating from prospective employers or organizations purporting to act on their behalf.
- Limit Sharing on Work Computers – Minimize the personal information you store or share on work and public computers to reduce the risk of unauthorized access.
- Use IRS Identity Protection PIN – The IRS provides an Identity Protection PIN, which is a six-digit code that introduces an additional level of security to your Social Security number. Sign up for this on the IRS website to protect your SSN from unauthorized use.
- Consider Identity Theft Protection Services – Many third-party identity theft protection services offer real-time alerts and identity theft insurance, providing an added layer of security and peace of mind.
Understanding Employment Identity Theft
In conclusion, employment identity theft is a serious and growing concern, with far-reaching consequences for victims. By comprehending the mechanisms behind its occurrence and implementing preventive steps, you can substantially diminish the likelihood of becoming a target of this fraudulent action.
In case you have concerns about employment identity theft, prompt action is imperative. Monitoring your financial records, notifying relevant authorities, and maintaining meticulous records of the incident are key steps in resolving the situation. In certain situations, seeking legal advice from an identity theft attorney might be essential to safeguard your rights and recover any financial losses.
Employment identity theft may be a covert crime, but with vigilance and the right preventive measures, you can minimize the risk of becoming a victim. Stay informed, stay cautious, and protect your identity from those seeking to misuse it for their gain. Your vigilance is your best defense against this insidious threat.