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Is Your Income Information for Sale?

by Miranda Marquit

Big data is big business. The more information financial companies have about consumers, the more money they can make, and the more effective they can be.

Consumer profiling is increasingly popular as companies look to target specific demographics. However, while many of us have become resigned to the fact that our spending and credit behaviors are likely fair game, it’s a different story when it comes to income.

Credit bureaus can already, if they wish, use the information in your report to estimate your income, but there is actually a credit reporting agency that specializes in your employment information — including your salary.

The Work Number: Pay Stub Information and More

income information for sale

Vendors are buying and selling your salary information.

I recently read a piece from the Red Tape Chronicles on NBCNews.com that looks into an Equifax-owned company called The Work Number. Apparently, employers enter information about you into the database, and then others can access it to see where you stand.

One of the purposes for such a database is for verification purposes. Do you really have the income you are claiming on your credit application? Are you telling the truth about your last job title? These are reasons that employers or creditors might want to access your income information from The Work Number.

However, the financial privacy really being raised is the process of selling information about your income to debt collectors and others. While The Work Number insists that it complies with the requirements of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, and the “permissible purposes” rule, it’s still one more credit report that others can access. And it is all about your income — which is information that many of us hold sacred.

Can You See Your Employment Profile?

Since The Work Number’s data is considered a credit report, you have access to a free copy of it every year. And it might be a good idea to check into it. Is your income being accurately reported? Has your latest promotion been included in your job title? If you find errors, you can dispute the mistake, and it has to be corrected.

However, the fact that you an see the employment profile is probably small consolation if you are worried that your salary information is going to be sold to a third party. We’re used to knowing that credit card companies inquire into our history to see whether we are good prospects. What we’re not used, NBC points out, is having income information for sale to debt collectors.

Dwindling Financial Privacy

This is just more evidence of dwindling financial privacy. One of the realities of our digital age is that there is a trail of ones and zeroes following our financial transactions around. I recently reviewed my credit report from a major credit bureau, and was, once again, struck by how much information is contained in that document. They know where I live — and where I have lived. Each month is represented in my payment history, going back three years. Accounts I haven’t even thought about in years (and that are long closed) are listed.

Even sites that offer you access to your free credit score have a great deal of information on you. And now it seems that The Work Number knows about your employment history if your employer is part of the program (not every employer is, so if your employer doesn’t use The Work Number, your information shouldn’t be in the database).

At any rate, this is one more consumer profile to be aware of. And realize that your income information might be for sale if it is part of an employment database.

What do you think? Is there too much financial information about consumers floating around?


Published or updated February 6, 2013.
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1 krantcents

I don’t know if it is a question of too much or who has it. I don’t want the information accessed by anybody and I definitely do not want it available publically. I am amazed how I can find my address, phone number and other information by just Googling it . I do not have a home phone so why is it so available? It is due to someone putting together information on me and everyone else.

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