Career Theft 101

Do you feel your career is on the slow track? Are you ready for a change? Many are…

Take my nephew who thought the world was his oyster when he left the Navy. He’s a pretty bright guy-did well in college, excelled in the Navy’s officer training school, received excellent evaluations from his superiors and those he supervised and a top rated fighter pilot-yet, he couldn’t land a job with the airlines when he decided that seven years was enough with Uncle Sam in 2000. 

He applied to all the majors, tested and interviewed well over a year’s period of time . . . then, he would get a Dear John type of letter. None of his friends-all pilots who had been hired during the same time he was interviewing and who had fewer hours and less experience-or his family could figure out what in the heck was going on. That was, until his favorite aunt (yours truly) asked, “Mark, have you checked out your credit report?”

Until the string of turn downs, I had never thought about his credit-I knew he was debt free, had investments and $60,000 in his savings (he’s conservative) when he exited the Navy. Why should there be any problem? My gut said it needed to be checked out. Mark was told to pull down reports from all three major bureaus pronto-Experian, TransUnion and Equifax.

My nephew’s timing could have been better . . . as in several months prior to his initial quest for a major airline pilot’s seat. What we found is a lesson for all of us-whether you are seeking employment, applying for credit of any type, or even buying life insurance.

Seek and FindWithin a few weeks, all the reports were in-six of them. Three that were tied to his actual Social Security number and were all rated high and three that were affiliated with another number that had two digits inverted and rated very low. Somewhere along the line, his employer of seven years (the Navy) hit the wrong number and information was now being reported to a credit file that also had Mark’s name on it via the incorrect number that happened to belong to someone else. My nephew looked like he was a deadbeat-not paying bills, bankruptcy, judgments and tax liens-not an ideal employee. No wonder he got Dear John letters.

Mark became an expert in explaining what had happened and challenging file misinformation. Letters were written to the three credit bureaus, former employers and merchants to begin the process of unraveling the mess. Merchants, collections, courts and tax authorities all had to be challenged and requesting them to put in writing that Mark was not the culprit. Meanwhile, he’s still unemployed and the savings account retreated to four digits. 

At the end of six months, it looked like he’s got it straightened out. I told him that solving the problem within the six-month period was actually short term-most take many more months to straighten out, if they succeed. Mark was feeling upbeat and contacted the various airlines to let them know that the credit file confusion had been resolved. It was too late. Two things were now against him-the airlines wanted to wait a year and the economy softened. No one was looking for pilots, it didn’t matter how good their references were or how many hours they had. Just ask Mark.

Don’t Get Caught

Having impeccable credit doesn’t just count when you are seeking money-for a car, new home or a Visa. More and more employers routinely check out your credit when you apply for employment. Typical forms include a statement that you authorize them to do so. 

So, before they find out what is being said about you, you find out what is being said about you. Check with all three by ordering copies online atwww.transunion.com,www.experian.com, andwww.equifax.com for $8. If there are any errors, notify the reporting agency immediately. By law, it must contact the reporting merchant or entity to verify the accuracy. In Colorado, you are routinely notified by mail if a negative item has been added to your file. If so, immediately request a copy-it will be free. Do this every six months and make it a permanent habit. No exceptions allowed.

What’s Mark doing today? Uncle Sam came calling, offered him a significant financial bonus upfront he couldn’t refuse at the end of last summer if he re-signed for a couple of more years. Then September 11th happened. I get emails and he says he’s OK out on the aircraft carrier he’s assigned to. I can only hope so.

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