Identity Theft a Prevalent Crime; Shows Up on Background Checks

What if you applied to a job and, knowing that you have a clean history, submitted to a background check, only to find out that you in fact have a criminal history or large amount of outstanding debt? Although a frightening scenario, many find out about identity thefts the first time in criminal background checks for employment.

John Shelby is one such individual. Background checks essentially prevent him from gainful employment as a man in El Paso, Texas has repeatedly been using his identity. As the KTSM story reports, Shelby had committed a minor crime in El Paso and had his record expunged. Later, however, a background check revealed he had been incarcerated in the El Paso County Jail, which resulted from another man using Shelby’s name during an arrest. As Shelby was entered with fingerprints into the county database from the previous crime, this charge – from a stranger – went on his record. The man continues to use Shelby’s identity to commit crimes, and Shelby, basically barred from meaningful employment because he can’t pass a background check, keeps chasing him down.

Although Shelby’s case appears extreme, a significant amount of Americans experience identity theft. An article from MSNBC states that there’s a one in seven chance someone else has your social security number (SSN). The piece explains further that 70 million Americans use more than one SSN, and 40 million SSNs have more than one name attached. These figures, however, do not factor in undocumented immigrants.

Although these figures are large, not every instance is the result of identity theft. Instead, as mentioned in a press release by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 11.7 million people were victims of identity theft from 2006 to 2008, with media including attempted or successful misuse of credit card and banking accounts, of medical insurance, of government benefits, and with law enforcement.

How easy is it for someone to find your SSN or account information? Not difficult. As a story from KXXV in Texas shows, employees handling accounts and background information can find an identity easily and start using it, opening up accounts and using existing credit cards.