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Your salary information for sale

By Janna Herron · Bankrate.com
Friday, February 8, 2013
Posted: 12 pm ET

Professional etiquette dictates that co-workers shouldn't share their salaries, but one credit reporting agency -- Equifax -- is making big bucks from selling how much you make to third parties.

The practice has raised concerns from seven members of Congress who on Wednesday sent a letter to the head of Equifax requesting more information about its employment and income verification business, called The Work Number, and its consumer protections. The big worry was if Equifax was sharing salary information with debt collectors, as was suggested last week in a media report.

The answer is no, according to company spokeswoman Pamela Stevens. She explained that debt collectors can only verify an individual's place of employment through The Work Number, and only under circumstances dictated by the Fair Credit Reporting Act, or FCRA.

So who gets to see your income details?

Lenders and prospective employers, in accordance with the FCRA, says Stevens. Lenders typically get a consumer's OK to confirm their employment status and income during the application process for credit, such as a mortgage or car loan. Employers also must get signed consent from job applicants before The Work Number will release income information on that individual, Steven says.

Employers are also the ones who supply payroll data to The Work Number for its verification process. In return, The Work Number fills employment verification requests from employees on behalf of the employer. Consumers typically need to verify their employment when applying for a mortgage or renting an apartment.

Workers usually sign away their rights to keep their salary private as soon as they are hired. Companies have new employees sign a release that gives the employer permission to share employment information, including salary, to a third party, says Kate Kennedy, a spokeswoman for the Society for Human Resource Management.

The Work Number maintains more than 210 million employment records and provides the information to more than 70,000 different companies, including Bank of America, Chase, Citigroup, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and other government agencies. The division raked in $258.5 million in revenue last year, a third more than in 2011, Equifax reported Wednesday. And it's all legal.

But that doesn't necessarily make it fair, says John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education at SmartCredit.com, who says it's "another step closer to having no financial privacy." He also worries that employers could possibly lowball salary offers to job applicants if they know the applicant's income history.

"The job application should be updated to read: 'We already know if you're employed and what you're making but feel free to tell us anyway,'" Ulzheimer says. "If employers are getting data about what we make then it's only fair that employers tell us, truthfully, what they're paying others in our position. That's an even playing field."

What do you think?

Follow me on Twitter: @JannaHerron

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14 Comments
Jessica
February 13, 2013 at 10:52 am

This is not right or proper. These credit agencies are supposed to keep your score, not PROFIT HUGELY from THE SALE OF YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION.

VL Dehlbom
February 13, 2013 at 10:38 am

LT, if you do not have a bunch of credit cards and especially aren't carrying much debt you can have an 850 credit score and still be declined for loans and other low interest credit cards. Companies find you a bad risk because you pay everything off quickly so they can't make money off you. It is definitely a racket!

Jack Bolly
February 13, 2013 at 9:28 am

The whole area of credit rating agencies and how they interface with collection agencies, banks, employers, etc needs to be reveiwed- it is rife with improper practice.

Dennis Hunt
February 11, 2013 at 5:53 pm

I'm all about fairness. All salaries should be open to all are kept from all. If you think companies are not taking advantage in htis situation are are naive

Viaramb
February 11, 2013 at 3:03 pm

Credit score is more than how much u made is about how good you are paying, how much debt you can handle and what type of debt you have (loan, morgage and revolving) if you have this 3 in good state is very likely you will get any credit approved even if you make 40K a year, there are other details as credit history, time with credit, but still selling my salary info, doesnt sound god.

rasikara
February 11, 2013 at 12:43 pm

see Sixty Minutes recent report on the unfair practice of these reporting firms

sjnewport
February 08, 2013 at 5:09 pm

Last year, with a salary of $140k, 33 years service with the same employer, less then $20k in unsecured debt, $16k on a Honda CRV car loan, no mortgage, not late on 1 single payment in over 5 years, and I was declined a replacement CRV auto loan by 6 Honda Dealer Banks. Number 7 said they would give me a new car loan at 19%. I would rather walk or buy a junker at auction then get raped by another bank. My trade-in 2010 Honda CRV is at 5%. Enough is absolutely enough!

Gret
February 08, 2013 at 4:55 pm

Equifax publishes false information and hides behind anything they can. They are the biggest joke.

LT
February 08, 2013 at 3:47 pm

You Clown if you are getting mail for high interest credit cards your score is loser to a 480 than an 840. Maybe your DYSLEXIC.

d.j. chambers
February 08, 2013 at 3:29 pm

What's so surprising? The credit agencies, the banks, and all the government agencies that oversee them are as corrupt as you can get. One big cabal of lunacy that gave us the 2008 meltdown and the stimulus boondoggle that stimulated nothing but buyouts by bankers and government agencies of all sizes a fresh source of cash. I had a credit score of 840 out of a possible 850 and couldn't borrow a dime, but all five banks sent me applications for high interest credit cards, a great system isn't it.