The Work Number

Guest: Bob Sullivan

Guest: Bob Sullivan

It's a database most people have never heard of. Yet it may have information about your job and salary history - and that information is for sale to employers, lenders, debt collectors and more. Learn about The Work Number - what type of information it contains, who has access to it and how you can find out what it knows about you. Bob Sullivan from's Red Tape Chronicles shares how it works and what you need to know to protect yourself. This episode aired live February 11, 2013.

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Excerpt from this interview:

It is “perhaps one of the most powerful and private databases of American’s personal information ever created, containing 190 million employment and salary records, covering more than one-third of US adults.” That comes from the opening paragraph of a recent story by Bob Sullivan, author of the very popular blog The Red Tape Chronicles.

I interviewed him recently about what he learned while researching this largely unknown database. He really got my attention when he started talking about how debt collectors use this information. At we’ve received numerous complaints from consumers who are being called at work by debt collectors, and this may be the way they are tracking down debtors on the job. Following is an excerpt from that interview, edited slightly for clarity.

Gerri: That’s definitely an attention-getter, this database that’s collecting all this information. Tell us about what it is and what consumers need to know about it.

Bob: It’s called The Work Number and you can see that at Despite the fact that it contains information on at least one-third of U.S. adults and probably more, virtually no one has heard of it, even though you have heard of the company who owns it. It’s Equifax, which is one of the nation’s major credit reporting agencies.

The way The Work Number works is that tens of thousands of companies — 20,000 to be exact — sign up with The Work Number and they use (it for) employment verification. When you had a job at a big company and you apply for job at a new company, you put on your resume that you used to work at Company A. Company A hates getting those phone calls where they say, “Hey, can you talk to us about Bob Sullivan? Was he a good worker or did he show up on time?” And so now they outsource that employment verification to The Work Number.

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