Juan here, from the AllClear ID Investigations Team. As an investigator I work our customers’ cases and look out for identity theft scams that may be affecting a wide number of people.

Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer and biggest private employer, is performing background and credit checks on some of their new and existing employees in the U.S. without fully explaining to them what it entails or how it’s being done.

We’ve noticed that Wal-Mart has performed recent credit checks on management personnel, specifically those working in the sporting goods department, because the company is making changes to their gun sales policies.

Most employees are not aware that credit checks are being done on them. Some have said they were told that only background checks, not credit checks, would be done. The credit check information that Wal-Mart is pulling looks exactly like the information that is returned when someone applies for the Wal-Mart Dual Card (a rebranded Discover credit card that offers cashback rewards, gasoline discounts and special rates to Wal-Mart shoppers).  So while the Wal-Mart employee thinks new credit is being opened fraudulently, the real case is his employer is running a credit check on him.

Though this looks fishy, according to the Bureau of Consumer Protection, Wal-Mart may be doing nothing wrong. Employers may run a credit check when they hire new employees, and when they evaluate current ones for promotion, reassignment, and retention  –  as long as they comply with certain specific procedures at every phase of the credit-checking process.

Before running a credit check, the employer must notify the individual in writing that a report may be used. The employer must also get the person’s written authorization before pulling a credit report.

Before taking action, such as firing or demoting an employee, an employer must give that person a pre-adverse action disclosure that includes a copy of his consumer report and a copy of “A Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.” Then the employer must give him notice – orally, writing or by email – about their actions.

As the job-hunting website CareerBuilder states, more employers are checking new and current employees’ credit looking for a snapshot of a person’s economic life that may confirm or contradict the résumé. Whether you work at Wal-Mart or a company that’s miniscule in comparison, be prepared for your employer to inform you of background checks or credit checks, which can essentially be the same. As always, check your credit regularly so you can know if your boss is checking you out with or without your permission.

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