Getting a new job is pretty exciting—new opportunities, more money, and a brighter future. But that new job could also mean bill collectors call your workplace and demand that you hand over all that extra money to them. You might be shocked that bill collectors know about your new job even though you haven’t told them. Below are a few ways that debt collectors find out about a new job and a few tips on how you can protect your new income.
A Secret Database
There’s a massive database that contains all (or almost all) of your work history and salary information that you probably don’t know about—The Work Number. This company collects and shares data on workers all over the country and it’s owned by Equifax. Over 20,000 employers use The Work Number as an employment verification system so that they don’t have to field calls from businesses, landlords, and lenders trying to verify your work history. All they need to do is contact The Work Number and the information is provided to them. However, the dark side of all of this is that if your employer uses The Work Number (and many large employers do) your information will be added to this database and debt collectors can use it to find out where you work. But don’t despair, if a debt collector finds out where you work and they call you, you can stop them. Simply send the debt collector a letter stating that you do not want to be contacted at work. And don’t worry, the debt collector can’t automatically garnish your wages just because they know where you work, they need a court order to do that.
LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms are a great way to connect to friends and family, and meet new people. It’s also a great way for debt collectors to watch you and collect information about your life. Some debt collectors are using social media in their strategy to collect debts. They may search for, watch, and even follow debtors on social media looking out for signs that the debtor has the money to pay their bills. So when you tweet or post about your new job, you can expect that some debt collector will see it and will do the necessary legwork to find out exactly where you work.
Some debt collectors will connect with your friends, family, and neighbors via social media to get information about you. They may not tell the person that they’re a debt collector; instead they may pretend to be an old friend or classmate. Many large lenders have made it clear that they don’t find these practices to be ethical, but some debt collectors use the tactics anyway.
While modern debt collectors have many clever schemes designed to find out where you work and get your money, there are some things you can do to protect yourself.
- Order your Work Number report. The Work Number is similar to a credit report, but it collects your employment information instead. You have a right to receive a free annual report from the Work Number, all you need to do is request it. Take a look at the report and see if your new job is listed there. You should probably also look to see if the other employment information on the report is accurate.
- Don’t announce your new job on social media. Tell friends and family about your new job in person or over the phone. Avoid talking about your job and/or salary online. You should also avoid discussing the purchase of a new home, new car or vacation—all these things signal to the bill collector that you’ve got money.
- Tell your family and friends to stay silent. Tell your loved ones to avoid sharing any of your personal information with strangers no matter who they say they are.
- File bankruptcy. Filing a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy will stop debtors from attempting to collect on a debt you owe. And if your circumstances warrant it, you may be eligible to discharge many (if not all) of your unsecured debt in bankruptcy.
To protect yourself from creditors trying to find out where you work, it’s best to keep silent about your new employment and tell your friends and family to do the same.