Identity Theft

How to Know Your Employees Are Who They Say They Are

How to Know Your Employees Are Who They Say They Are
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As a business owner or company decision maker, you should know how to identity proof your employees. It’s super easy for someone to pose as another person and fool the dickens out of an employer. Imposters may be planning on scamming your company from the inside.

If someone applies for a position with your company, your priority may be to check their qualifications or to go ahead with a drug screening. But the first thing you should do is confirm their identity -- even if you’re just hiring someone to make sandwiches for your diner.

This is serious stuff here -- serious enough to grab the attention of the former chief of the Department of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff. He states that “the most important asset that we have to protect as individuals and as part of our nation is the control of our identity, who we are, how we identify ourselves, whether other people are permitted to masquerade and pretend to be us, and thereby damage our livelihood, damage our assets, damage our reputation, damage our standing in our community.”

Related: 5 Fundamentals for Protecting Your Identity and Your Privacy

Identity theft or pretending you’re someone you’re not is incredibly easy these days. For starters, did you know you can buy a Social Security number online? Birth certificates come in numerous versions. There are fake-ID-making kits. College kids in droves make phony IDs. And of course, career criminals do this all the time.

I once received an offer for a store credit card. The offer was for a man who used to live in a neighbor’s unit. Not only did the mailman make a mistake in the delivery, but the store had no idea what his current address was. I could have easily filled out the application, gotten the credit card, then went on a spending spree. The collection agency would never know to hound ME because my name would not have been on the card. This, of course, is identity theft. And that store card is one piece of the identity puzzle a criminal could use to establish a new identity and go to work within your company, intent on embezzling millions.


“Identity proofing” refers to verifying that a person is who he says he is. The first way to do this is to ask the individual questions that only that person -- the authentic version -- can answer. This could be the name of their kindergarten teacher, color of their first bike, mother’s maiden name or some other data that only that person knows the answer to. This is known as knowledge based authentication or KBA, and sometimes referred to as “out of wallet” or “challenge response” identity authentication.

The big players in data aggregation, credit reporting and background checks all offer solutions for proper identity proofing.

Related: What You Need To Know About Small Business Identity Theft

This approach has flaws though, because the imposter can learn the maiden name of the victim’s mother, for example -- though I’m not sure about learning the color of their first bike. If the bike question was a custom question once used and collected by the data aggragator, then that simple question may serve well when proofing a potential hire. Though some of this information, indeed, can be googled, a lot of it can’t. Go ahead, see if you can find information about your very first car online, showing that you owned it.

The next approach is documentation. This could be a birth certificate, mortgage statement, driver’s license or even high school yearbook. Though a con artist might come upon these items in the trash or during a burglary, they can still provide a good degree of ID proofing when coupled with the knowledge-based questions like the name of a high school, its mascot and year of graduation.

Go one step further with biometrics, such as voice recognition and fingerprints.

Another way to help authenticate identity is with identity scoring, a method that’s used by many mortgage brokers. Using the internet, an identity-score system can verify the authenticity of someone’s public identity. Identity scores include a lot of data, such as credit records, corporate and internet data, personal identifiers and more.

Fake identification.

The fake ID, with its ubiquity, is a driving force behind the prevalence of imposter fraud. A person in a position of hiring a new employee can procure various ID checking guides to get help with verifying an employee or applicant’s identification.

Related: What to Do When Good Talent Has Suspicious Social Media

Diligence is key.

If employers blow off the concept of imposters, this can lead to very costly consequences for the company. It’s projected that the detection techniques for phony IDs will become increasingly reliable; a combination of multiple tactics such as biometrics and smart cards will increase card security.

In the meantime, without investing in background checks, knowledge based authentication and identity proofing, it’s frighteningly easy to hire employees who lie about their identity and are bent on stealing from you.