Identity Theft

The Worst Co-Workers Ever?

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Plenty of people dislike their co-workers, but not enough to steal their retirement funds. Apparently, the same cannot be said for a couple of workers in Chicago.

Donella Anderson Watkins and Sammie Watkins, former employees of the Chicago Transit Authority, have been accused of filing false documentation with administrators of the CTA retirement program requesting withdrawals from unsuspecting co-workers’ accounts. At least one attempt was successful, according to a news release from the office of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, saying Donella Watkins withdrew $18,000 using a co-worker’s identity.

She was charged with wire fraud, identity theft and continuing a financial crimes enterprise, and her husband was charged with wire fraud and attempted identity theft (he was caught allegedly attempting to secure another co-worker’s money). An investigation started in 2012, the CTA fired the couple in July 2013 and they were charged June 11.

The alleged crimes against their co-workers are only part of the couple’s apparent quest for cash: They attempted to withdraw emergency funds from their retirement accounts without tax penalty, saying the death of their children and impending funeral costs caused them to need the emergency money. They allegedly filed fake death certificates with the requests — their kids are alive.

In some ways, it’s not exactly an uncommon story: There are plenty of people out there who have stolen money or identities through their jobs, because perhaps no one was checking their work or their jobs gave them access to others’ sensitive information. Stealing co-workers’ pensions seems especially harsh, considering about a third of workers have less than $1,000 saved for retirement (not including company-run retirement plans), according to a study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

Employer-related identity theft is largely beyond employees’ control, and while you’d hope the bosses would quickly get to the bottom of any thievery, you should prioritize monitoring your own privacy. Social Security numbers are a common victim of workplace identity theft, but you’d notice any fraudulent accounts opened on your behalf if you regularly check your credit reports and credit scores using free tools like the Credit Report Card. If you find something suspicious and think you’re a victim of identity theft, take action immediately.

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