Identity Theft Can Lead to Career Theft

Over a year ago, I wrote about a career theft that happened to a nephew. A theft that didn’t surface until after he experienced rejection after rejection for a position that he had coveted. 

Only after some serious probing did we discover the culprit behind the rejects—his Social Security number had been inverted by an employer and over ten years of garbage from someone else’s deadbeat credit history had been heaped into his report. It had never occurred to him to check his own report—he paid his bills off each month and had a comfortable savings account.

Eventually, he got his records sorted out—it took over six months . . . and by that time, his dream job was history. What we found was and is a lesson for all of us—whether you are seeking employment, applying for credit of any type, or even buying life insurance. It is quite common to be asked for your Social Security number and some form of a credit check is processed.

A Cash Cow Business
Identity theft is one of the fastest and hottest ways to get money. Not for you, for the thieves out there. Your career could be compromised, your bank account raided, and your credit cards maxed. Your good name is now mud. The time, and money, it takes to counter the damage is overwhelming for most.

Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information without your permission to commit theft or fraud. Computers and the Internet have made it easier for the bad dudes and dudettes to hit their mark. 

The pros who track identify theft estimate that there will be over 700,000 hits this year alone. Very few are caught, much less prosecuted. The Federal Trade Commission received over 160,000 complaints last year and 40 percent of the American Bankers Association members rank it as the industry’s #1 concern. You don’t want this problem.

Any time that there is identify theft, not only has money been taken . . . the victims often have to dig into their pockets and spend money to clear their names. The countless hours that are spent unraveling the mess, including time away from work, that anyone who has been victimized hits them emotionally and financially. What a lose-lose situation.

In 2002, Marci Hamilton sued Microsoft for damages caused by security flaws in its software that led to her identify theft. Her Social Security number had been stolen, her bank accounts depleted and credit cards hit their limits when a hacker allegedly hacked through Microsoft’s security. A year later, she is still fighting the system to get her life back in order. And spending money doing it. 

Over lunch, I chatted with Shari Peterson, an independent associate with Pre-Paid Legal Services®, Inc. (sharipeterson@prepaidlegal.com) about these issues. I asked, “What’s the average person to do when faced with this kind of mess?” 

She responded that PPL is tuned into the growing problem and has partnered with Kroll, a leading company in risk prevention to help restore their clients’ credit worthiness. Once activated, your credit is continuously monitored for activity watching for credit inquiries. 

As a subscriber, you can elect to receive daily email updates or monthly mailed ones. It also includes up to $25,000 of insurance to reimburse the policyholder for out of pocket expenses—including lawyers, court filing fees, long distance calls, postage, even $500 per week for lost wages. 

The PPL team has found that victims spend a minimum of 175 hours trying to bring sanity back to their lives. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have mega hours to kiss-off fighting any type of thief. Having something that might be a nest egg to dip into if one has to deal with identity theft sounds like a smart money move to me.

Meanwhile, Petersons’ advice to you if you do feel that you have been bilked is—

• Contact your bank immediately and tell them that a credit card or account 
may have been compromised.
• Notify the credit bureaus (www.tuc.com, www.experian.com, and www.equifax.com are the three major ones) of same and ask them to put a 
“fraud alert” to your report.
• Contact your local post office and ask if an address change has been filed.
• Immediately change your passwords or all accounts, including Internet.
• If the theft was through the Internet, change your email address.
• Notify the police and get a copy of the report.
• Get Identify Theft coverage.

It’s not a guarantee as a fool-proof prevention, but it is wise to get copies of your credit report twice a year. It gives you the opportunity to see who is checking in on you, determine if what is being reported is accurate and assess if there is any type of misuse. 

In many states, 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. Make it a permanent habit—no exceptions allowed. Your bank account, your family and your career count on it.

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