Web site tracks employment history

"They were asking me really personal information that I hadn't given them. They asked me my social security number, they had that. They asked me my home phone number, they had that. They asked me my birth date, they had that," said Alisa Garrett, from Oakland.

Garrett told ABC7 about a company she first heard about when she was gearing up for a job hunt.

"I was trying to get some of my past work experience, so I called my old employer and they directed me to a place called 'The Work Number,'" said Garrett.

The Work Number is based in St. Louis. It says you can "verify someone's employment and income," but that someone may be you.

"The majority of consumers' whose information is in The Work Number data base, it is fairly likely those consumers don't know their information is there," said Pam Dixon, from the World Privacy Forum.

Dixon says The Work Number is owned by credit reporting giant, Equifax, and knows the name, social security number, job title, and salary of about a third of the American work force. And where does it get that information? From employers who hand it over, she says, so they don't have to answer job verification calls.

"In other words, your employer doesn't have to hassle with taking 50 phone calls a day to verify this information, and doesn't have to take the liability. Instead of doing that, they outsource that to the third party, in this case The Work Number," said Dixon.

So The Work Number addresses employer concerns, but it leaves plenty of unanswered questions from consumer advocates.

"How do you get in touch with something like The Work Number in case they have your salary wrong, or if they have your job title wrong? How do they respond to consumer complaints? How do they correct inaccuracies in these reports?" said Joe Ridout with Consumer Action.

In short, do they have to follow the Fair Credit Reporting Act? Consumer activists say they should, but there has never been a ruling either way.

"There are a lot of questions here and unfortunately consumers are not given a lot of answers," said

And it's not just consumers, 7 On Your Side wasn't given any answers either. ABC7 requested an interview with The Work Number and the company declined saying, "Will have to respectfully decline this opportunity."

Then ABC7's Michael Finney emailed asking how consumers check their information for accuracy. To that question, there was no response at all.

Is it legal for your employer to turn over the information? Many times, the answer is yes because you've agreed to it. Again there's a grey area, but it appears they generally do. To find out what The Work Number has on you, you can go to their website, but you have to give up a lot of personal information and then wait weeks to get results.


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