“If your house was burning down, what three items would you take with you?”
This hypothetical question has probably crossed your mind at some point with varying scenarios, and everyone always questions what they would find most important. Usually, responses reflect sentimental items such as photos or videos. However, when faced with an evacuation in real life, there usually isn’t time to think of what you would ideally take. Recently, we saw the devastation caused by hurricanes Harvey and Irma as well as multiple wildfires in California. As thousands of people left their workplaces and homes, they were faced with making split second decisions on what they needed to grab before they left. Many of these victims lost their personal identification documents.
Recent Sources of Identity Theft
We don’t often think of the security of our personal information until we are forced to deal with it being compromised. After the disaster of Hurricane Katrina, the subject of identity theft became a growing topic of concern with natural disasters. Thousands of SSNs and other sensitive information were left open to thieves in abandoned homes and workplaces. Following recent Hurricane Harvey, police found an identity thief had rummaged through debris piles and broken into homes to steal social security cards, credit cards, drivers licenses, and checks. This instantly converted flood victims into crime victims. In addition to recent natural disasters, this summer over 143 million people had their identities put at risk with a massive data breach at Equifax. Criminals gained access to sensitive information such as social security numbers (SSN) and credit cards, opening the door for significant financial damage. With the data breach at Equifax, many are left wondering how can we ensure our personal details remain personal and where the next source of identity theft may occur.
Identity Theft for Employment Purposes
One of the most alarming realities regarding identify theft resides in the fact that the information can be purchased on the black market for as little as $30. The amount of damage this may cause the victim can very well exceed the price paid by the thief to obtain the information. While most criminals are stealing identities for financial gain, some are only looking to gain employment. The New York Times reported on a family who found their 3-year-old daughter’s identity had been used by an undocumented worker. They soon were informed the thief wasn’t pursuing a financial crime, but needed a job to support his family.
The Federal Trade Commission doesn’t distinguish which identify thefts are used to steal money versus those who are looking to find employment. It is estimated 10 million Americans have their identities stolen each year, leaving natural disasters and data breaches as a door open for that number to grow.
Reduced Risk with Comprehensive Background Checks
As a leader in the pre-employment background check industry, we know how much of an impact a bad hire can have on a company and its culture. Hiring an employee with a false identity can open your organization and employees up to considerable financial and safety risks. Running comprehensive pre-employment background checks can help reduce the possibility of adding a member to your team who may have taken advantage of a natural disaster or purchased information on the black market.
We previously communicated What Does Your Social Security Number Say About You?, in which we discussed how a Social Security Trace and Address History Search can help find previous address information, whether the owner of the SSN is deceased, and more. These searches provide valuable information that can help uncover identity discrepancies as well as criminal history. Additionally, having a compliant and efficient employment eligibility program, such as a digital Form I-9 process that collects information directly from candidates, can help reduce errors in hiring individuals who may be using false information.
As there continues to be new ways that identity theft occurs and more people begin using identity theft to look for employment, it will continue to be important to establish a comprehensive recruitment and background check process.
Below you can find resources for those who may believe their identity has been compromised: