It might not seem like a big deal to some, but there’s actually a very serious problem with people working under a false identity. While it might not seem to most people like as big a problem as someone having a credit card or loan in your name, it’s actually a serious problem. Identity thieves who steal your employment identity can actually do further long-term damage to you and your family than if they’d simply gotten a credit card.
A lot of the problem that arises with employment identity comes from not noticing the problem when the information is in front of you. A lot of people receive their annual W-2 forms and hand them directly to their income tax preparer without even opening them. The victim ends up paying income tax and Social Security taxes on a job that someone else received the pay for. If you aren’t aware that you are associated with a job you don’t have (possibly in a state you don’t even live in!), then you’re footing the bill for taxes associated with that position and you don’t even know it.
A more serious problem comes from government benefits associated with the workplace. These can include things like disability and worker’s compensation. If the identity thief gets hurt on the job and applies for these benefits, not only is he maxing out your lifetime benefits—meaning that those benefits will no longer be in place when the day comes that you need them—but you can also unwittingly end up facing fraud charges.
Look at it this way: if you work in construction in your actual job but the thief is receiving disability benefits in your name from his job, the government is going to wonder why you’re still going to work (and your employer is still reporting income) from your construction job. Until the matter of your identity theft can be resolved, you’re the criminal for falsely receiving disability benefits that you didn’t even know you were receiving!
Always check your yearly W-2s thoroughly; you can also request a free Social Security Statement by signing up at ssa.gov/account. Remember, there is more detailed report called the Social Security Earnings Statement, but there’s a fee for that. It’s much more detailed, though, so if you do have reason to believe you’re a victim of employment fraud, you can request that report.
As with any case of identity theft, you must file a police report. Call the Social Security Administration in your area and explain that you’re a victim of employment fraud, and let them know that you’ve filed the report. At their office, there are forms you can fill out to correct any fraudulent activity associated with your employment identity.
Keep in mind that you will also need to inform the IRS. I know, no one likes talking to the IRS, but it’s pretty important, especially in a case of employment fraud. It’s important to inform your state’s internal revenue department as well, since state income taxes may have been reported if you live in a state that does so.
Logic would dictate that if a criminal is pretending to be you for the purpose of holding down a job, then he’s probably pretending to be you when he does his shopping, too. Be sure to request a copy of your credit report and examine it carefully to make sure there are no surprises there, either. If you do find fraudulent activity on your credit report, take the steps to handle that form of identity theft as well.
Anyone can be a victim of identity theft, anyone can use our services, and anyone can help us help others. If you found this information useful, please consider donating to the Identity Theft Resource Center to help us keep our services free to the public.