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NBC Investigation

The Work Number is a site that HR departments use to confirm employment data, assuring employees that the data cannot be shared w/o permission.
It looks like all it takes is a "permissible purpose", and the bank/credit card/debt collector can see:

  • How much you make
  • When you leave your employment
  • What health insurance you have
  • Payroll Deductions (401k contributions/loans?)

Member Summary
Most Recent Posts
My current employer uses ADP and doesn't show in the listing. So there must be an additional step required from the empl... (more)

SUB (Feb. 07, 2013 @ 10:28a) |

In my case, my severance was a lump sum payment that was paid a few weeks after my last regular employment payroll.

The b... (more)

civ2k1 (Feb. 07, 2013 @ 3:50p) |

This is how I got my pin

Call 1-800-367-2884 (This was the number showing when I clicked "forgot my pin")
Push 1 for engli... (more)

Table83 (Feb. 07, 2013 @ 11:17p) |

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Does this surprise anyone? Privacy is gone now, don't expect it.

I know I go to a lot of effort to keep my salary a secret (I don't make much, but gosh the workplace is full of drama queens!) So any agency that is reporting my salary has got to go.

wateristasty said:   Does this surprise anyone? Privacy is gone now, don't expect it.It will surprise me when we become like the UAE and your insurers/credit card issuer decide to cut your credit lines the day you're laid off/fired/quit.

soundtechie said:   I know I go to a lot of effort to keep my salary a secret (I don't make much, but gosh the workplace is full of drama queens!) So any agency that is reporting my salary has got to go.

many companies have policies that you are not to share your salary/compensation -- shocking how freely the companies share this info with an outside company and they might be violating their own policy

So I attempted to access the site referenced in the article:

http://www.theworknumber.com/Employees/

They appear to initiate the login process with your employer code, which can be looked up via a pop-up.

I could not find my last 4 employers listed there.

It appears you might be more at risk if you are working for larger companies (I saw many well known retailers listed).
What I am curious about is how these collectors and others access this data. I can only look myself up with an employer code - but do they have historical information on me (of course they do!).
I'm sure that the companies can look me up via name or SSN and find out all the info they might have on me.

I acknowledge that those who are offering you credit have the right to find this data out (after all if you tell them you make $75K, they should have a way to legally verify it). However they should have to get this information directly from an employer after you release it. I don't like the idea of these private companies collecting this data, because they obviously aren't playing by the rules if people are getting this data without authorization. We need way more oversight of these CRAs and heavy fines for breaches of personal data.

Anyone ever seen their report? I tried to get one online but no luck. I'm going to request via mail.


My company's listed, but when I try to login it asks for a user id. I tried typing in some random ones and each time it led to a screen where it showed you a "security image" (like at banks, which you're supposed to recognize) and asked for a PIN (which I obviously didn't have).

I'm not terribly concerned about this idea in theory, but this implementation seems entirely haphazard and that's what makes me very uncomfortable with it.

Edit: Here's their demo on how to login: http://www.theworknumber.com/demos/employees/employmentdatarepor... I love how they don't even attempt to tell you where you're supposed to get the user id and PIN from.

aadam101 said:   Here is the response from Equifax.

http://blog.talx.com/2013/01/31/ImportantClarityRegardingTheWork...


Yeah, the two most important sentences:
Equifax Workforce Solutions through its service, The Work Number, does not permit debt collectors to access salary/pay-rate/income information.
Information can only be provided to debt collectors who have been verified through a detailed credentialing process and they must have a permissible purpose to request employment information.

gotta love that it appears the CIA outsources this payroll data.... didn't check but then probably FBI, NSA, etc do too...

Andri77 said:   gotta love that it appears the CIA outsources this payroll data.... didn't check but then probably FBI, NSA, etc do too...It's always been public information.

Finally figured out how to login. Company intranet had some info. Apparently my user id was my SS and my PIN was the last 4 of my SS, but obviously YMMV. Glad that was secure...

As far as it only being accessed with my permission... Well, my former employer (of over a year ago) apparently accessed it just this month. And something called "Personal Solutions - Equifax" accessed it twice in the past 2 years. I think the equifax ones might correspond to the last two times I checked my credit reports, but seems odd that they'd go here for that.

The report does have all the paycheck data from my current employer.

Mine is on it, but pin didn't work for me. My ss number was accepted though.

suderduperloo00p said:   Mine is on it, but pin didn't work for me. My ss number was accepted though.

SSN was accepted for what? The username or the pin?

suderduperloo00p said:   Mine is on it, but pin didn't work for me. My ss number was accepted though.
Did it show you an image and ask for your PIN, or just ask for your PIN? When I entered totally random user ids (mashing on the keyboard) it came up with some equally-random security image and asked for a PIN. When I actually entered my correct user id for the first time, it just asked for the PIN and didn't show any image. Probably a way to tell if you at least got the user id right or not.

I used this service before for a mortgage application, used my employee ID and previously-set PIN to log in. Found that Discover and Equifax had also requested information. My report contains surprisingly detailed earnings information from my current and a past company as well as health insurance information including the names and DOBs of my covered family members.

Does the report show you what information was shared? The claim not to share salary information with debt collectors. How do we verify this based on what is shown in the report?

Annghhh... rules are for the OTHER guys, not the ruleMAKERS. They're a special class.
Just ask Congress.

xit said:   soundtechie said:   I know I go to a lot of effort to keep my salary a secret (I don't make much, but gosh the workplace is full of drama queens!) So any agency that is reporting my salary has got to go.

many companies have policies that you are not to share your salary/compensation -- shocking how freely the companies share this info with an outside company and they might be violating their own policy

aadam101 said:   Does the report show you what information was shared? The claim not to share salary information with debt collectors. How do we verify this based on what is shown in the report?

Doesn't say. Doesn't even clearly say that they were given a report, just that they "requested" one.

I work for a mortgage company and we use the work number all the time. We have to pay for the service but it basically speeds up the employment verification process. We dont choose to use this service when we call an employer to verify someone is employed they tell us to verify thru the work number. Not all companies use it, mostly the larger ones. If you could imagine how many calls a day WalMart would get everytime someone needed to verify employment. Thats all I have to share on this topic.

All this stuff was easily available to debt collectors before, this just makes it easier for them.

Best way to protect yourself... don't give them a reason to look for you.

genesat said:   aadam101 said:   Here is the response from Equifax.

http://blog.talx.com/2013/01/31/ImportantClarityRegardingTheWork...


Yeah, the two most important sentences:
Equifax Workforce Solutions through its service, The Work Number, does not permit debt collectors to access salary/pay-rate/income information.
Information can only be provided to debt collectors who have been verified through a detailed credentialing process and they must have a permissible purpose to request employment information.


so Equifax can make statements but where is the proof?
I know NBC has done some questionable things in the past in terms of editing video and audio to spin a different story. I think Equifax must do more than make a statement -- show some evidence.

how does a debt collector prove they have a permissible purpose to request employment verification? is this done based on their word alone without checking with the person?

I viewed/saved my report. Very interesting. As another poster mentioned, the report has very detailed earnings information for my current employer (each pay period gross and net, and annual summary broken down by base pay, commission, bonus, and other income). Data goes back the past 5 years since I've been with this employer up through my most recent payroll 1.5 weeks ago).

It even shows the date and amount of my last pay increase.

It also shows 2 prior employers. One I left in 2002, and the other I left in 1998. Both of those jobs have no detailed or summary earnings information. They only list the pay rate.

I'm surprised they retain information back to 2002 and 1998 (or even further). I assume this is considered a consumer report, and aren't consumer reports supposed to drop off data older than 7 years?

Interesting data point, however: I worked for an employer that referred us to The Work Number if we needed employment verification for mortgage, etc. That employed eventually filed for bankruptcy and liquidated, and the employment data from that employer does not show on the report any longer (even though I worked there more recently than the 2002 company).

mikemagik said:   And something called "Personal Solutions - Equifax" accessed it twice in the past 2 years. I think the equifax ones might correspond to the last two times I checked my credit reports, but seems odd that they'd go here for that.

I also had the equifax inquiries show up on mine.

Organization Name: Personal Solutions - Equifax (eID)
Date of Request:12/21/2012


I checked my records, and it is the exact same day I requested my Equifax credit report. So there is some linkage there (maybe for the employer section of the Equifax report, or some sort of data verification).

xit said:   soundtechie said:   I know I go to a lot of effort to keep my salary a secret (I don't make much, but gosh the workplace is full of drama queens!) So any agency that is reporting my salary has got to go.

many companies have policies that you are not to share your salary/compensation -- shocking how freely the companies share this info with an outside company and they might be violating their own policy


I'm not surprised by this, but I do work for a large company and I remember them switching to this service with a very special note and announcement that nobody would have access to this information without our express consent. I will be very curious what the response is tomorrow.

As part of a 7 year employment background check for my current job, I was pointed to this site from a former employer. Many of the companies I worked for, some big and some small were all on my record there. It's a little scary knowing all my infomation is out there. I haven't checked it in awhile, maybe I should do so now to see if anything changed.

xit said:   genesat said:   aadam101 said:   Here is the response from Equifax.

http://blog.talx.com/2013/01/31/ImportantClarityRegardingTheWork...


Yeah, the two most important sentences:
Equifax Workforce Solutions through its service, The Work Number, does not permit debt collectors to access salary/pay-rate/income information.
Information can only be provided to debt collectors who have been verified through a detailed credentialing process and they must have a permissible purpose to request employment information.


so Equifax can make statements but where is the proof?
I know NBC has done some questionable things in the past in terms of editing video and audio to spin a different story. I think Equifax must do more than make a statement -- show some evidence.

how does a debt collector prove they have a permissible purpose to request employment verification? is this done based on their word alone without checking with the person?
Companies that have access to the Work Number can pull any report they want using a Social Security number. The person pulling the report just checks a box saying that they have a permissible purpose. As far as I know, they do not verify whether it's actually true but you can sue people who do not have a permissible purpose under the FCRA.

damn.. that is bad.. my company uses the worknumber..

BTW, I think they changed it about a year ago, but if you were in the system before then your PIN if the last 4 of your SS# (no one would ever guess that one!).

vipercon said:   BTW, I think they changed it about a year ago, but if you were in the system before then your PIN if the last 4 of your SS# (no one would ever guess that one!).

I tried that. Didn't work for me.

I pulled my report and saw paycheck level detail and a year by year summary for my current employer, a F500 government defense contractor. My previous employer, Big 4 accounting firm, had an annual summary but interestingly it only listed my second year of employment and not my first (total employment spanned 2 years). They also had my teaching assistantship income from grad school annual summary listed from the public university I attended however it was very sparse in detail only having the total pay listed and not breaking it out into any other columns.

The introduction letter indicated that Citi Cards (who I have had a single card with for many years) requested this information.

Some interesting items to note. My current employer has an annual profit sharing payout. This income is not listed as a bonus but as other income. That appears to be lumped in with tuition reimbursement payouts and award payouts. My bonus column is only used for a bonus incentive. My hours per paycheck are listed. If I took off time for vacation or sick time, that is not included in the hours worked or gross pay for the pay period. There is a comment under the Big 4 section and university section indicating where garnishment requests should be sent.

In my case, the information needed to log in and obtain the report was social security number as user ID and birthdate MMDDYY as PIN.

I see my company, but couldn't login. I thought I was getting close, using my SSN, but also entering 000000000 asks me for a PIN. I know my fiance's company uses this, and they actually aren't bad. I'm just surprised they're being accused of giving up information without your consent.

Mine went through with an employer from 10 years ago (fed ex) as SSN for ID and MMDDYYYY for Pin. It seems that you can try with any former employer, since they were 2nd on my list of employment shown.

It also showed 5 pulls for Organization Nameersonal Solutions - Equifax (eID) in the last 24 months, but I'm pretty sure I have only pulled it twice through the annual credit report. Will have to verify if it is also pulled with Credit Karma, or the other one which its name escapes me right now.

Just found out my company is using another similar service:
https://www.bavjs.com/index.aspx

Their default PIN does seem to be a bit more secure, but I was unable to get a sample report of what they provide to requestors without paying.

Edit: My company was recently bought out by another - the old default PINs were much less secure than the new default PINs. Seems like the default PINs are generated by the companies that send their data to these services...

Does anyone know if these services fall under the same "1 free report a year" rules as the credit reporting agencies?

MilleniumBuc said:   Mine went through with an employer from 10 years ago (fed ex) as SSN for ID and MMDDYYYY for Pin.

What date are you using? Date of birth?

the last company I worked for that is in their system was Home Depot, but I couldn't login anyway... I tried calling, but I got into a loop and eventually disconnected...
https://corporate.homedepot.com/Associates/Pay/Pages/EmploymentVerification.aspx

aadam101 said:   MilleniumBuc said:   Mine went through with an employer from 10 years ago (fed ex) as SSN for ID and MMDDYYYY for Pin.

What date are you using? Date of birth?


Yes, date of birth. I think the pin is company dependent, but you can try 3 times, and then another 3 times, with no warning about blocking the service. Most common are probably last 4 of SSN, last 5 of SSN, last 6 of SSN, MMDD, MMDDYY, MMDDYYY and ZIP of company or ZIP of home address.

xit said:   many companies have policies that you are not to share your salary/compensation -- shocking how freely the companies share this info with an outside company and they might be violating their own policy
It is illegal in some states to tell employees they can not discuss their compensation package. However this does not mean it is a good idea to.

Skipping 12 Messages...
This is how I got my pin

Call 1-800-367-2884 (This was the number showing when I clicked "forgot my pin")
Push 1 for english
Wait
Push 2 for not employer
Wait
Push 5 Other
Enter Employer Code
Push 1 saying you entered the correct number
Push 4 "The Work Number"
Enter your SSN
Wait
Don't enter pin and wait until it ask you to say operator. Then say "operator"

They ask you all kinds of questions that make you feel uneasy. SSN, Address, When you first lost your virginity, Birthday, Telephone number (Their betting that you're not willing to give it to them and therefore not able to get your pin.) I just gave them the information, knowing they have it already.

Mine was 12 pages and they didn't have all my employment history on there, but had my most resent job with every paycheck for the last 2.5 years. Though I do believe and understand privacy, personally I believe in free information and feel that the better the information, the better individuals are able to make good decisions. I'm willing to share my salary information for others to be able to make good decisions if they are willing to share with me when I need to make good decisions. I'm making 37k with a family of 4, have 10k in the bank and don't spend more than I make.

The best way to avoid debt collectors is to not go into debt (not even for a car, except in extremely rare circumstances), and when you do be damn sure you're able to pay it on the terms that you are agreeing to.


aadam101 said:   Here is the response from Equifax.

http://blog.talx.com/2013/01/31/ImportantClarityRegardingTheWork...


Looks like they deleted the post. I don't see it anywhere. Does anyone have it cached?



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