If you’ve heard about employment identity theft and you’re wondering if you’re at risk and/or how to protect yourself, you’re in the right place! Keep on reading for all the info you need.
What is employment identity theft?
Employment identity theft occurs when somebody fraudulently uses another person’s personal info (Social Security number, name, DOB, etc.) to secure a job. As you can imagine, just like other types of fraud, employment identity theft is illegal.
Those who commit employment identity theft may do so for a variety of reasons, including:
- Their criminal record prevents them from securing a certain job.
- They’re in the country illegally.
- They don’t have the required work permit.
Because perpetrators of employment identity theft may earn wages, file taxes, and even receive government benefits under victims’ names, the financial difficulties it can cause for victims can be tremendous. Add to that the fact that employment identity theft often goes unnoticed for a significant amount of time, and things can get very complicated to resolve.
How can it affect victims?
Victims of employment identity theft can be affected in a number of ways, including:
- A difficult recovery: Recovery from identity theft can be a lengthy, complicated, and costly process.
- Tax issues: The IRS will think you’ve earned more income than you did, which can lead to tax-related problems.
- Loss of benefits: Your Social Security benefits may be affected by the income earned by the identity thief under your name.
How to spot employment identity theft
We recently posted an article on how to keep an eye out for identity theft, and naturally, most of the advice applies to employment identity theft, too.
- Watch out for unexpected mail from employers you’ve never worked for, such as wage and tax statements or employee benefits information.
- Be wary of unusual tax documents. Employment identity thieves can file fraudulent tax returns in people’s names and steal their tax refunds. If you receive any correspondence about a tax return that you haven’t filed, it could be a sign that this has happened to you.
- Regularly review your credit reports for suspicious activity. You are entitled to one free credit report from the three national credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). Click here to learn how to get a free credit report (it’s easy!).
- Keep an eye on your Social Security Statement for any unexpected changes. Click here to open an online Social Security account.
- Monitor your social media accounts for suspicious activity. Social media accounts contain lots of our personal info — which can potentially be used by criminals to steal our identities. Trend Micro’s new (and 100% free!) tool, ID Protection, can monitor your social media accounts (Facebook, TikTok, Reddit, Google) and alert you if any suspicious activity is detected.
How to protect yourself from employment identity theft
Below are some tips to help keep you safe from employment identity theft:
- Be careful with your Social Security number. Most of the time, simply knowing the number itself is enough, so you can keep the card at home in a safe place.
- Watch out for online job scams. Fake online jobs will try to trick you into entering your personal info. Click here and here for two recent examples of such scams.
- Don’t overshare info on social media. You’d be surprised, but a lot of people aren’t opposed to sharing sensitive info on social media — which can be found and used by identity thieves.
- Get a 30-day free trial of Trend Micro ID Security, which can scan the internet and dark web for your data (Social Security number, driver’s license number, credit card numbers, and lots more). If your data is ever leaked and accessible to cybercriminals, you’ll know about it.
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