Credit reporting agency Equifax is selling your salary information to debt collectors
NBC News recently exposed credit reporting agency Equifax’s practice of selling 190 million employment and salary records, covering more than one-third of U.S. adults, to debt collectors, financial service companies and other entities under its subsidiary, The Work Number. Odds are you are among the unsuspecting victims, which can result in debt harassment.
Here is how they do it…
Equifax obtains your personal information with the active participation of thousands of U.S. businesses, including several Fortune 500 companies, for the purpose of being a service provider for human resources departments to verify the employment history of a potential hire or offer a convenient way for prospective landlords to confirm an applicant’s level of income.
Some of its clients include government agencies — representing 85 percent of the federal civilian population, including workers at the Department of Defense, according to Equifax — and schools also work with The Work Number. Many of these groups let Equifax directly access their data so the credit bureau can always have the latest employment information. What’s even more disturbing is that these organizations actually pay Equifax for the privilege of giving away their employees’ personal information.
“It’s the biggest privacy breach in our time, and it’s legal and no one knows it’s going on,” said Robert Mather, who runs a small employment background company named Pre-Employ.com.
The Work Number database is so exhaustive that it contains week-by-week paystub information, and a variety of human resources-related information including health care providers over the past several years, whether someone has dental insurance and if they’ve ever filed an unemployment claim. This is something Equifax CEO Richard Smith is very proud of.
“With FirstSearch and TALX we can provide information about a debtor’s location, income and employment,” said Smith in an interview published on NYSE Magazine’s website, referring to The Work Number’s former parent company. “That can help prioritize which accounts to pursue first. If they’re employed, that business has a better shot at collecting what is owed to them.”
In 2009, Equifax said the data they procure and sell covered 30 percent of the U.S. working population, and it now says The Work Number is adding 12 million records annually.
Consumers who want to see what information The Work Number has on their employment history can visit this page on the TheWorkNumber.com. While reports are available online, consumers may have to fill out a form and mail it to The Work Number in some cases.