Tales from HR: Identity Theft Whoopsie

The current partial federal government shutdown has made some non-Human Resources people think about subjects they normally take for granted. Paychecks, for example. How does your money make its way to your bank account accurately and on time every two weeks? Answer: Fucking magic. Not even kidding.

Beyond the actual federal payroll issue, I read some hyperbolic nonsense the other day about E-Verify being shut down. People were trying to say if employers can’t use E-Verify, then we’re just letting all these illegals on the payroll! No, E-Verify is only down temporarily and Arizona employers (mandatory E-Verify users) will just submit cases for all new hires once the system is available again. Any tentative non-confirmations will be dealt with at that time using the normal process. It’s a minor annoyance and nothing more.

That made me think about someone at a previous employer in another state who was in the US illegally and had stolen someone’s identity. He was an existing employee when I was hired and there was little I could do without losing my own job. What made the situation truly bizarre was he was paying child support to the State of Texas for someone else’s child via court mandated payroll deductions. I mean that’s an unlucky break, right? But it got crazier.

He was contributing to a 401(k) plan using this stolen social security number. Let that sink in for a moment. Can you imagine how funny (or sad, depending on your perspective) it would have been if the legitimate person had discovered the account and cashed it out? It wasn’t a paltry balance; he had been contributing to it for years. But wait, it got EVEN crazier.

The man decided at one point that he wanted to get legal so he went through the process. He was issued a legitimate social security number, which was obviously different from the one his employer had on file. My boss’s boss wanted me to just change his SSN in our system, like it was no big deal. It’s not really that simple so I tried to explain the I-9 handbook and the E-Verify Memorandum of Understanding but it was no use. They thought I was exaggerating when I would say things like, “I am not going to jail for _____.”

The breaking point was when this boss instructed me to contact the bank administering the 401(k) plan to have them change the social security number on file for him. He didn’t want the guy to lose his money! Who the hell let him participate in a 401(k) under a false identity? Fortunately, the bank wasn’t having any part of it. Because they’re like, you know, smart and stuff.

I’d tell you the rest of the story but I don’t know what happened because I left. My guess is they terminated the false identity and had the guy withdraw his full balance under the old SSN and pay the early withdrawal penalty. They could then re-hire him under his legal identity and then do things properly from that point forward.

I guess the lesson here is if you’re going to steal someone’s identity, you either do the bare minimum or you fully commit. This isn’t a scenario in which you can just half-ass it.


2 thoughts on “Tales from HR: Identity Theft Whoopsie

Add yours

  1. We work in thankless jobs where the only time we hear from our customers or clients is to complain and demand and yell and be assholes at times… ugh


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