update: someone with my name has stolen my work history

Remember the letter from the person whose work history had been stolen by someone using her same name (#3 at the link)? Someone was using her references, claiming to be her. Here’s the update.

A big thanks to all the readers in the comments. You guys came with such fantastic suggestions. I contacted a lawyer as Alison recommended (my brother-in-law, who specializes in real estate law but still) and he was helpful in getting me to understand my rights.

As per the reader suggestions, I did the following: froze and checked my credit. There wasn’t anything suspicious there, but fake-me might have had more devious plans. I also added my middle name to my LinkedIn. My wife likes to joke that my name sounds like a made up alias because it’s so average, but I can at least hope that fake-me isn’t also “Jennifer Ann Johnson.” I also added a new picture, and we can hope that helps.

I contacted my previous boss, who is my usual go-to reference, and asked him if anyone had contacted him about me recently. In the past six months, he had been contacted as a reference eleven times. Only one of these was actually for me, as part of the job offer I didn’t accept. The only people working there were me (and now my replacement), my old boss and a few support staff, so I’m sure he knew about all contacts. He admitted he thought it was strange I only reached out once when he had been contacted multiple times, but assumed that the time I informed him I was listing him as a reference was more a blanket request. The positions he was contacted about were also very junior to my current role, which he also found odd but never asked me about. I asked him to inform me if anyone else tries to verify my employment and explained what was happening.

I also spoke to my current boss, who found the whole thing disturbing/a bit funny. He isn’t a bad guy, and he told me that if I want to leave he understands but his initial confrontational response was because he was worried that I was going to leave in the middle of a huge project we were working on, something I would never do. We spoke to HR together, and they now require the last 4 digits of the SSN to verify employment, which I think is a good step.

I still don’t know who the other Jennifer Johnson is, and it’s so creepy that she almost got a job using my resume. The only reason I can think of is that my name is very common and most people think my job must be very easy (it’s not). I work in corporate communications consulting on and creating social media campaigns, which people assume is just tweeting or posting on Instagram all day. I get almost daily LinkedIn requests from influencers who are all trying to “break into the industry.” I think the other me just assumed she would do an easy job for a lot of pay. I’ve also selectively reached out to my network and shared the story with them, so they’re on the alert.

I contacted the other company who was verifying employment and explained everything, and they still wouldn’t release the resume, but indicated that they would not offer this person a job.

Work is going fine, and I’ve actually paused the job search for now because I was given a mini-promotion including a big pay raise and a lot more responsibilities. My boss told me that after this incident he realized how invaluable I am and how much he wanted to keep me! I guess that’s one good thing to come out of it. Enough time has passed that it’s become a bit of an office joke. Whenever I mess something up we all blame “Jennifer 2.” I still think it’s creepy, but hopefully I’ve made it harder for her in future.

{ 253 comments… read them below }

  1. Ali G*

    Wow. I can’t believe someone would do this! I’m sorry you had to deal with all that. I hope she gets caught.

    1. also a Jennifer*

      I am also a Jennifer Commonlastname and the mix ups at my optometrist, doctors, and hospital have been weird but to have someone deliberately steal your identity is another fresh level of hell.

      1. AKchic*

        Jessica [Commonlastname] here, born with a [CommonMaidenname].

        I have been seeing a specialist for over a decade. When I first started seeing the clinic, another woman with my name started at the same time. For a year we had the same file. It only came to light because we needed to pull my file for my attorney because we were suing a company for the damage to my spine after the car accident (which was the whole reason for needing the specialist). We are two differing races and sizes. This was before electronic medical records. It was a mess to clean up. I have no idea how they didn’t notice.

        1. Emma*

          My mother and I share the same first three letters of our first name, and we see the same doctor. We’ve both been going there for years and the staff rarely changes so everyone knows us. Yet when I faxed them my new insurance card a while back, they applied it to my mother’s profile. I even went so far as to include my DOB AND SSN on the fax, but they still mixed it up. I actually caught it because I worked for my insurance company at the time, and the doctors office submitted a request to us for my mother. My mother was not covered by my company. Thankfully there was never any indication that they mixed up our actual charts, just the insurance info.

        2. fposte*

          I have somebody at my clinic with my same first and last and *birthdate*. I can only assume she’s learned at least as much about me as I have about her.

          1. Bonky*

            My grandmother was in hospital during her final illness with someone with the same first and last name and birthdate too, about 20 years ago in the UK, before computerised records. They only realised when the other lady went to the operating theatre and they noticed that she didn’t have the body part they were meant to be operating on!

            I had to remind someone I work with recently that firstnamelastnamebirthdate is NOT a unique identifier. Most instances won’t have such potentially devastating results as my grandma’s case, but it’s an awful way to try to differentiate people.

            1. Jennifer*

              Oh my! Yes, this is why unique identifiers are so important. Hundreds of thousands of people are born everyday. It’s not a stretch to think a few of them are going to end up with the same first and last name.

        3. WS*

          I work in healthcare, in a rural area where it’s common for three or more generations to live on the same farm (different houses but same address) AND common to name your son after his father, which is generally unusual in Australia. So you can have four Timothy John Smiths with the same name, same address and (if one of them is a child) same Medicare number as his dad with a single number difference. Nobody will get them mixed up in person because they’ll have four different nicknames, but that doesn’t help when you get a prescription in…

          (Though worse was two cousins born on the same day, both named after their shared paternal grandfather! There’s only one class per grade so they are spending their entire school experience with nicknames.)

          1. Kumajiro*

            I work with a guy who’s name is like Michael Robert Lastname and his sister’s is like Michaela Roberta Lastname. They were born on the same day but three years apart, and their parents didn’t bother applying for an SSN for the older one until the younger one was born, so their numbers are only one off from another. They have had issues with any sort of paperwork their entire lives.

            1. JessaB*

              I had a set of twin cousins named Philip and Philippa and they were Pip and Pippa to everyone, such a pain in the keester.

              My grandfather’s family has two last name spellings because of how each side anglicised the name when they came to America about ten years apart – one ends in feld and the other in field. The cemetery where the family is laid to rest has a gravestone with two sides and eight plots on each side – one side says xxxfeld and the other says xxxfield.

              So yeh names are so not unique.

        4. Copenhagen*

          I got a fine on public transport maaaaaany years ago. It was only partly my fault (the ticket machine was broken, it was in the middle of the night in a new to me city and I might have been a bit… Tipsy…), and I sent in a formal complaint about it. A year or so passed, and suddenly I got a letter that I never paid the fine and now they wanted the fine + an extra added fine for not paying. I wrote them again, pointing out, that since I never heard back when I filed a complaint, technically the fine was “frozen”, and they couldn’t ask me to pay it before the complaint was handled and closed. A year or so passed and I got another letter, asking me to pay the fine + an added fine for not paying.

          When I got in contact with them it turned out, that it wasn’t my fine. It was the fine of a girl with the same full name as me, and it turned out that we did temporarily live within the same postal code. And somehow that was enough to get the tickets mixed up in their system, which had now made a sort of Franken-fine by combining our two cases. Luckily the woman I spoke to agreed, that I shouldn’t have to pay the original fine since my case had been such a mess (at this point, it was 3+ years since I had gotten the original fine). So she closed my case.

          A year or so passed, and I got a letter asking me to pay the fine + an extra added fine for not paying. Luckily I could prove that the case had originally been closed, since I had saved the e-mails. But oh my god, at this point I wouldn’t be surprised if another letter showed up in my mail box, even though it has been 12 years since I got fined in the first place.

        1. This is She*

          See, I have the opposite problem — I am the only person in the world with my name! Combo of a somewhat unusual first name and an exceedingly unusual last name. It’s cool to be unique, but the price is that I have to very careful about how very *very* googleable I am.

          1. Dina*

            Yup, same. (Well, there’s another one, but she took her husband’s name when she married and uses our unusual family name as a middle name.)

            Also, I’m likely one of two people in my entire country with my surname, so that’s fun.

          2. Jiya*

            There is, as far as I can tell, one other me, and she’s a prominent Scientologist. It hasn’t bitten me in the ass yet, though.

            1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              I have a homonym in the US, a proud member of some Obama haters society. I found this out when I kept getting added on fB by people with stars and stripes and weapons in their profile pix. I had intended to have a profile with no identifying info visible to anyone but my friends, but this prompted me to put a few peace-and-love quotes there so only like-minded people would want to add me.

            2. Magpie*

              I have a fairly uncommon combination of names for a woman (first & middle are typically masculine, and my last is unusual)

              Right after me, my ex started dating & then married someone with the same last name…. who’s first name is my middle. She looks nothing like me but it’s still WEIRD.

          3. Vichyssuave*

            My last name got completely butchered at Ellis Island so my family is the only one to exist with the made up name they gave us. And the entire family had very few kids so we’re down to the last generation that will have it. 3 women. Two of whom, in a completely coincidence (we’re not close to those cousins), have the same first name.

            I’m the extra unlucky one with the privilege of being the only one ever with my name, despite having a VERY common first name.

          4. Amethyst Anne*

            I have almost the same thing. There will be 3 results if a Google search is done of “MyRealFirstname MyMaidenName”….. me, my mother, and my Dad’s grandmother.

          5. Selene*

            I have almost this problem, but with a very handy exception. The one person who shares my exact combo of name is someone well known and famous in their particular area. Which means that you’ve got to go a looooooooooong way to find me

            1. Helena1*

              The person who shares my name isn’t particularly famous, but they do seem to be particularly lax about locking down their privacy settings on FB etc. So I don’t even make p2 on the search results, swamped by pictures of this woman’s family gatherings.

          6. not that kind of Doctor*

            Same here: unusual spelling of somewhat common first name + uncommon last name. Hilariously, a google search for me turns up #1 my IMDB page, though I haven’t worked in film/tv in 20 years; #2 a hobby page; #3 my LinkedIn page. The rest of the return page is filled with hobby-related stuff.

            After leaving my last job I found out that a coworker there had googled all of us before coming on board. Her takeaway from mine is that I’m much older than she thought I was. Could be worse I guess? :D

          7. Nina*

            I’m the only person *currently* in the world with my name. The other one was a cousin who died about ten years before I was born.
            I’m virtually ungoogleable, though, because although both my names are unusual *as names*, my surname is a *very* common English verb, I don’t really have a middle name, and my first name is more often seen in garden centers than in baby name books, and has a diminutive form that is *another* very common English verb. You get approximately two results of me before it gets into ‘Firstname (famous person) Surname-verbs at paparazzi’ headlines.

        2. Rebecca Generic-Lastname*

          So here in the UK, in my year group, there were five other Rebeccas plus me, and two other people with my VERY common last name. Also, my middle name is the single most common middle name for my age group. At my last doctors surgery I was one of three people with my first and last name – luckily the only one with my birthday.

          I couldn’t be Googled. It was AMAZING.

          Then I got married, hyphenated my super common last name with my husband’s super unusual last name, and now we his and my Linked In pages are the only things that come up on Google for our name. It’s very unnerving…

      2. crookedfinger*

        Once, I had a new doctor come back into the exam room and angrily ask me “Why didn’t you tell me you had diabetes and smoked?!” I was confused, since neither of those applied to me. Turns out there was another patient with the same first name, last name, and middle initial as me. We figured it out once he pulled up her profile and realized we had different middle names and birth dates.

    2. Actually Jennifer Johnson*

      I know the name given was just a made-up example for the letter, but it was still a little jarring to see in both the original and the update! I’m in the NY metro area, but I swear it wasn’t me, as I have zero intentions of leaving my current job (which isn’t remotely close to the field mentioned here, anyway).

    3. SK*

      A few years back I was on a flight with a friend with a common name. Turns out there was someone else on the small flight with her exact same name and the airline somehow managed to issue them both tickets for the same seat. Fortunately it was not a packed plane so they managed to reseat her, but it definitely made me question all the ‘security theatre’ around flying. (How was that not caught in all the steps leading up to actually boarding the plane?)

    4. NotJennifer*

      I am not a Jennifer, but of the Jennifer generation. (Jennifer Jeneration?) I once had a Blockbuster membership card with the name Jennifer MyLastName on it, and didn’t notice for months. My first name is kind of common, but not as common as Jennifer. I never even thought to look.

      I guess my first name is common enough, though, that I have ended up in a situation where someone with the same first name as me had my cell number before me. When I first got assigned the number, I got calls for her all the time, often collections calls, and it was so confusing. We also had our student loans through the same loan provider, and let me tell you I nearly had a heart attack when I started to get calls about my late payments and defaulted loans. Other FirstName also had the same last initial as me. I ended up giving the last 4 of my SSN to them, and we figured out that they were not calling about my account.

  2. Detective Amy Santiago*

    I can sort of see why the other company wouldn’t give you the resume, especially since it presumably had the other person’s contact info, but at the same time, you should be able to confront that person. Stealing someone’s work history *and* references takes some serious audacity.

    Congrats on your promotion though!

    1. EvilQueenRegina*

      I certainly doubt in Europe that GDPR would allow the other company to release the resume, although I don’t know how the law stands where OP is.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I can’t imagine that GDPR or any other law is designed to protect forgers. I would hope that if OP sent them HER version of her resume, they would agree to forward both to law enforcement.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Of course it’s not to protect criminals!

          However, if someone calls me up, gives me this story and then requests the resume, I’m not sending it to anyone. I’m going to do my research and of course flag the heck out of that applicant. However everyone is a stranger here, you don’t just give up documents when a stranger comes to you with a fantastic con story like our beloved OP has found themselves tangled up in.

          Identity theft is awful and requires a lot of hoops to jump through in the end. I need to have it requested by the legal system before we can simply just release secure documents with people’s contact information.

          What if this was a ploy to get the applicants contact information to stalk or harass them? That’s a leap, right? But so is stealing someone’s identity to this magnitude.

          It goes to the case that it’s better to let criminals roam free than to harm the innocent.

          1. Bostonian*

            Yeah, I’m with you. This week’s earlier letter about the ex-boyfriend who set up a job interview so that he could confront his ex at another company in the same building only goes to show the level of deceit some people are willing to go to out there.

          2. hbc*

            Yeah, all they have is someone on the phone saying, “I’m Jennifer Johnson and that is my work history, but not my contact information. Please send all the info you have on your Jennifer Johnson to this alternate email address.” They don’t know that she’s actually a Jennifer Johnson or if that is actually her work history or contacts. They’d basically be sending someone else’s contact info because a strange voice told them to.

            1. TechWorker*

              Would it be out of order to forward the resume to the person who’s been asked to give a reference though? Presumably there are cases where reference checking might include accuracy of the statements on the resume? (And one would generally assume that if you’re listing someone as a reference they already have your contact details…)

              1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

                No, that’s not something that should be done. You only share resumes with the people who are directly doing the hiring procedures in your company. It’s treated like a confidential document.

                You’re supposed to ask references things to suss out if the resume is true, you don’t just send them and have them look it over!

          3. Watry*

            I work with police records and have had multiple stalkers and abusers trying to get records on their victims. I take privacy seriously, even aside from the state law I have to follow.

      2. Koala dreams*

        Actually, in Europe there are often laws saying that companies have to release information they have about an individual to that person. It sounds very strange to me that you can ask for a copy of your personal data from a company, and they would refuse to give it to you because the data might be falsified, but I guess besides talking to a lawyer there would be nothing more to do. The same name issue of course makes it more difficult, and that’s what the forger took advantage of.

        1. A*

          “It sounds very strange to me that you can ask for a copy of your personal data from a company, and they would refuse to give it to you because the data might be falsified, ”

          Maybe I’m misunderstanding your comment, but it sounds like something might have gotten lost in translation here. The resume the company is refusing the release, is NOT the OP’s information – it is the fake OP’s resume. Even though fake OP used some of OP’s background and it’s known that info is falsified – there is other info on the resume. It would be releasing someone else’s info to OP – which is a privacy concern. Regardless, this isn’t an issue of OP not being to access their own personal ifnormation.

          1. EvilQueenRegina*

            Yes, that’s what I was trying to get at with my comment – from the company’s point of view, they’re just getting a call from someone wanting the resume of one of their candidates, they have no way of knowing for sure that the story they’ve been told is true. I would be genuinely surprised if someone here in Europe did provide OP with someone else’s resume.

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          We have some similar laws in the US, pertaining to personnel files. If someone comes in here right now, they can request a copy of their file and I need to turn it over so they can see what’s in it.

          However, the rub is I have to verify their identity. Now if Johnny I’ve known 12 years comes in and asks for his file, I’ll just start printing things off and shuffle it on over to him. No hoops.

          If Bob from before my time calls me up for his file, I’m going to ask for proper identification. Cross reference social security numbers and ask some identifying questions “who were your emergency contacts” kind of thing. And then I’ll turn it over.

          But if Bob calls me up and is all “Just send it over.” that’s not happening. I can get in much deeper shit for releasing someone’s personal information to a stranger than for withholding it from the proper person.

          Go ahead and lawyer up and have the lawyer come collect it with the proper documentation from the courts! It’s not me difficult, it’s me protecting even strangers from their further identity theft or worse, physical harm if an abuser is after them.

        3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          It’s not at all strange. It’s called data protection. If a company has info about you, you have the right to know what info they have and if it’s wrong, you have the right to collect it. You also have the right to require that they delete info. Why should that be strange? If a company has info on you that’s wrong, shouldn’t you be able to correct it?
          This is a prime case of where such laws are needed. If Fake Jennifer Johnson signs up for something and Real Jennifer suddenly finds herself inundated with ads or emails related to that thing, it can be pretty annoying surely?

  3. Blue*

    Wow, the fact that Jennifer 2 was listing your former boss as an actual reference makes this whole thing seem much more devious/nefarious. I’m glad this person wasn’t able to tarnish your reputation by getting hired on your credentials and then being totally incompetent.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      Tarnishing Real Jennifer’s reputation would be especially easy – and damaging- since the job involves social media and corporate communications. I’m shuddering to imagine Jennifer 2 creating a #HasJustineLandedYet-level fiasco.

    2. Momma Bear*

      This is the part I find most creepy. Not only did they steal the OP’s resume, but were actively using references. I’m glad OP brought it out in the light and let everyone know.

    3. Kettricken Farseer*

      And how did this person even know if those references would say something positive?

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        that’s not the sort of thing they’d worry about surely? I mean, a real reference for Fake Jennifer might say she’s a thief, whereas chances are that the Real Jennifer is honest.

  4. Keymaster of Gozer*

    Wow! I hope the other company does go back to this imposter and point out that they’ve been rumbled. I can understand why they don’t give her details out but I hope their recruiting lot go back to her.

  5. Stella70*

    Still confused. Let’s say my name is Miranda Nincompoop and I am using Jennifer Johnson’s resume and applying/interviewing as her. Yay! It worked! I’m hired! But now everything has to be under her name – my benefits (I personally have to produce my benefits card and drivers license at clinics), my income taxes, my payroll autodeposit. On my first day, I even have to cough up my original SSI card.
    How deep down the rabbit hole was the imposter willing to go for a job?

      1. blackcat*

        Right. As a common-name having person, there’s at least one other person out there–with my middle initial!–who I can be mistaken for on the internet if you don’t look closely enough.
        Think, Jane Diana Smith, PhD in Llama grooming (me, academic who uses my middle name b/c mistaken identity)
        Jane D Smith, national reporter on Llama husbandry (her, journalist)

        If you name is common enough, there’s going to be weird overlaps. And if either Jane D or I was nefarious enough, we could totally impersonate the other. As it is, we’ve had a couple of pleasant email exchanges after I got email for her (I have the equivalent of JaneSmith at gmail in addition to my institutional email). But I was a little bit tempted when she was invited to a really cool function via my email address…

        1. starsaphire*

          Yep! I worked with someone at ToxicJob who had the same name as I do, with a one-letter variant (like Smith vs. Smyth). She had been there for ages and was pretty high up — and she used to get a lot of confidential emails about stuff I should never have seen.

          I was very scrupulous about closing them and forwarding them as soon as I worked out that they were not mine, but dang, the things I could have known that I shouldn’t… that place was a mess.

          1. SometimesALurker*

            Yuuup, I work at an institution where some people deal with very sensitive and legally protected information. I share a last name with one of those people (totally different first names) and have done my best not to find out how much sensitive information people will unthinkingly leave on voicemails!

            1. blackcat*

              Yeah, my dad was once one of two lawyers at a large firm with his name, except one letter difference. Mixing up lawyer email is bad!

              1. The Rural Juror*

                My grandfather has always been mixed up with his former neighbor, a man just a few years older than him and not at all related. The neighbor’s name was Authur G. Jones. My granddad’s name is A.G. Jones, Jr. Granddad’s legal name is just initials, the A and the G don’t actually stand for anything. He always got phone calls for his neighbor (back when there was a phone book) and lots and lots of mail. Luckily there was never any serious mix ups! I believe Aurthur passed away about a decade ago…he was a nice man.

          2. Momma Bear*

            I have the same first name as someone else in another part of the office who started before me. I’ve gotten her emails and vice versa. Anytime I don’t get something that someone says they will send me I follow up because at least half the time it went to her. But that is a common error, vs ID theft.

        2. AnotherAlison*

          My last name is top-5 common, so there are always people with my name out there. My son’s doctor’s wife has the same name and went to the same gym, and bought several meals on my account when she forgot her card and they just looked her number up for her. Thanks a lot.

          I also found one who also shares my same not-that-common middle name, and weirdly enough, we were born the same year, just a couple months apart.

          No one wants to claim my work history, at least. Licensure and specialized degrees help.

          1. blackcat*

            Yeah, mine is top 20 in the US and higher in some other English speaking countries (comes from England).

            But I will say, with all of the mix ups I’ve witnessed (because of the gmail address), I’ve never experienced anything nefarious! 99% of the other Jane Smiths and their friends/family/etc are totally nice about mix ups.

          2. Bee*

            I’m a Smith (my grandmother’s married name was Mary Smith, if you can believe it), and this is exactly why my parents went looking for unusual names for me and my sister – they dug deep into traditional Irish names to find something that would be at least a little rare!

            1. Another Smith*

              Haha this is also exactly me, except that my grandmother’s name was a little less common. My father on the other hand had a very common first name and worked at a large bank, so there was often confusion there.

            2. Mona Lisa*

              I can believe your grandmother’s name was Mary Smith because that’s my husband’s grandmother’s AND one of my aunt’s birth name. We come from German-American Catholic families who all have saint names, which generally translate into sounding like they were auto-generated (Patrick, Tom, John, Mary, Elizabeth, etc Smith).

              1. SmithSmithSmith*

                My last name is Smith. My first name was in the top ten in the year I was born, in the country I was born in. Fortunately my parents gave me a very unusual middle name.

          3. allathian*

            Yikes, I hope you got a refund from her for the meals that were charged to your account…
            One of my former coworkers is a woman with a very unusual last name, all who have it are related to each other. It’s unusual enough that when she got married, her husband took her name, which is fairly unusual, but not unheard of here. Trouble is, her husband and her father have the same first name and middle names are usually not used here except on official documents. It’s mainly a case of people calling the wrong person, my former coworker’s father is retired so it’s not a problem professionally.
            When I got married and took my husband’s name, I also switched from hotmail to gmail and had to use my middle initial to get an account. My maiden name is fairly uncommon, although my first name is very common, so I had one namesake.

        3. Done with job hunting*

          My brother-in-law was a lawyer specializing in environmental regulations and worked for many years for a manufacturer of teapots in and around an East Coast city before ultimately working for his own firm. The last name we shared is not too common either in the U.S. or back in the old country but there are fair number of us anyway. There was a lawyer who specialized in environmental regulation of a raw material required for teapot manufacturing who had the same name (including MI) my BIL and worked in the same city. The two actually met several times at conferences and had a good laugh about it. They frequently got phone calls or mail meant for the other and one time a subpoena was served on the wrong person.

          When my BIL passed away, his family made sure that information that was specific to him (e.g. formerly of Acme Teapots and currently with X and HisLastName law firm) was in the first sentence of the obit so that no one would think the other guy died.

        4. MsChanandlerBong*

          My friend’s brother has come close to being arrested more than once because there is a guy in his state with the same first, middle, and last name AND an SSN that’s only a couple digits off who likes to do things like drive without insurance and drive on a suspended license.

      2. Smithy*

        I think that’s the case as well, but I also think that particularly with women it’s not wildly uncommon to go by a professional name while perhaps having a married surname on public documentation. So if we’re talking about Jennifer Nincompoop using Jennifer Johnson’s resume – from a benefits perspective, it could be explained with “I go by Jennifer Johnson professional as I was married when I started my career, not since have divorced and have legally changed my name to Jennifer Nincompoop in private life”.

        I don’t think it needs to be quite as extensive lifetime change as a Don Draper/Dick Whitman scenario for someone already willing to fraudulently use another’s resume.

    1. Lynn*

      I think this person must actually have had the same first and last name of OP’s name (OP mentioned it was a fairly common name) so they will show up with a SSI card with the right name after being hired on the wrong work history.

      But oof I hate sharing any part of my SS. I hope they implemented this policy with all the correct data protection measures in place!

      1. Annony*

        I don’t understand why that is even necessary. Why can’t HR just tell her when they get a request and she can tell them if it is legitimate or not. Or they could set up a random password that she can give to anyone with a legitimate request. How is her social security number more secure than “IHLVMTY”? A random string of letters would be more secure.

        1. Dragon_Dreamer*

          Probably so this doesn’t happen to anyone else in the future. It also prevents stalking.

    2. Sis Boom Bah*

      Yeah, it’s confusing. I think what might have been happening is that the “fake Jennifer” is a real Jennifer–I think both “Jennifers” actually have the same name. So the “fake” one just took the “real” one’s references and credentials. Was all like, oh yeah, that one is actually me. This might be a major downside of having a very common name!

      1. Third or Nothing!*

        This story kind of makes me glad we picked a really old-fashioned name for our daughter. Our surname is super common, like as common as Smith or Johnson, so if she also had a common first name there could be a lot of cases of mistaken identity!

        1. Marzipan Dragon*

          These things happen even with less common names. I have two cousins, Jeff and Joe Unusualname. Jeff’s wife is Laura and Joe’s wife is Diana. Joe and Diana went to buy a house and had a comedy of errors because the sellers were named Joe and Laura Unusualname. Not related in any way but keeping buyer and seller untangled during the whole process was a nightmare,

          1. Third or Nothing!*

            Ha, that is too funny. My side of the family has an unusual last name, and my dad happened to marry someone with the same first name as my aunt. So we now have two Jane Unusualnames running around and they get calls for each other ALL. THE. TIME. Even though they live in completely different parts of the (very large) state.

            Maybe they should just start calling themselves Jane of Major Metropolis and Jane of Tiny Hick Town like they’re LM Montgomery characters.

      2. Gazebo Slayer*

        I’ve heard of at least one case of identity theft where a notorious fraudster with a common name stole the identity of someone else with the same name. I forget which one, though.

    3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      This was my suspicion as well, that the first and last names were very similar/same so the thief thought they could pull it off. Glad to know OP got this straightened out quickly (and that the people around her were willing to help, not punish for being a victim).

    4. Stella70*

      You may all be right! I guess I was assuming that the imposter was picking a really common name, so if suspicions were raised, they could reply that “it happens all the time – there are a ton of us!”.

      1. Anonysuse*

        The OP made it very clear in the original letter that it’s someone with the same name as her!

        I find this whole situation so intriguing and if you think about it, it’s scary how easy this would be to pull off. Would never happen to me though, as I have a very uncommon surname and a not all that common first name, I’ve actually searched for anyone with my same first and last name on linkedin and facebook (there isn’t anyone).

        I personally like to imagine that the imposter searched for other “Jennifer Johnson”s in her area out of sheer boredom/curiosity, found one (OP) who was doing exactly the work she was trying to get into and couldn’t resist pretending to be her.

        I’m curious if OP has a photo on her linkedin? I know not everyone wants their picture online, but in this case it might make it a little harder for the imposter? Though I do think that many interviewers won’t remember what the interviewee looked like on their linkedin…

        1. Adam V*

          > I’m curious if OP has a photo on her linkedin? I know not everyone wants their picture online, but in this case it might make it a little harder for the imposter?

          Sounds like she had an older picture:

          “I also added a new picture, and we can hope that helps.”

    5. juliebulie*

      Ha. I assume “Jennifer Johnson” was just an example, but there was a Jennifer Johnson in my high school class. There’s definitely a downside to having a common name.

    6. Myrin*

      From the original letter: “I’m sure that someone with my same name is using my actual credentials to get jobs”.

    7. also a Jennifer*

      I work at a large state university and my name is Jennifer Commonlastname. They have had over twelve Jennifer Commonlastnames working here or enrolled as a student over the years that I have been here.

      1. Confused*

        My friend Jane Smith was registered at a doctor’s where there was another Jane Smith also registered who weirdly had the same birthday. The hospital assumed it must have been a mistake and merged the records – it nearly resulted in my friend receiving the wrong treatment. Took ages to sort out as hospital wouldn’t believe it was possible

        1. blackcat*

          I (not actually Jane Smith but using it as my current AskAManager common name) once shared a pharmacy with another with the same birth DAY but not year.
          I always had to remind them to double check the year, until the day both of us arrived to pick up our prescriptions at the same day! It was actually really lovely and we got coffee :)

        2. SaraV*

          Ahhhh!!! As someone who used to be the person that merged the medical records electronically, this would be a nightmare for me. This is one reason why health care providers ask for your SS#.

      2. Cambridge Comma*

        I was working on a project about identifiers for matching people with their records and there was a case of two people with the same first name, middle name, last name, date of birth, street name and street number working in the same industry and therefore using the same very niche system.

          1. Cambridge Comma*

            There was no piece of information collected by the system that differentiated the two people at all. (They weren’t in the US.)

      3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        when I was in fifth grade, there were three of us in my class with the same first name, middle name, and last initial, with birthdays all within a week of each other. I spent fifth grade answering to “Two” :P

    8. Cj*

      I work in a town of only 10,000, and there were still three of us with the same name when I had my maiden name. I’m a CPA, one worked for a lawyer, and one worked in banking, so we were all in the professional world and got confused frequently. Sometimes we would get each other’s flowers if one of us won an award or something.

      1. Cj*

        I forgot to add that I did work with one of these women for a few years. People would see my CPA certificate, Etc, and think it was her instead of me because I was going by my married name down, and my certificate showed her name.

      2. SaraV*

        I lived in a town of only around 6-7,000, and there were also three Sara(h) [VeryCommonLastName] One was old enough to be my grandmother, the other was three years younger than me, but I was the only Sara. There was a mix-up in HS my senior year when I left school early to attend a funeral, never returned. The younger one left for a doctor’s appointment, but she did return. I got called to the attendance office the next day, and asked why I didn’t return. I kindly pointed out that it was the other Sara(h) that had gone to the doctor’s appointment, not me. I MAY have also pointed out the difference in our ID numbers. (The numbers started with our graduating year)

        I now have ExtremelyOddLastName as my married name. Although, I just googled myself, and someone with my name passed away three years ago, and there’s another person with my last name with Sarah. Not quite in the clear.

    9. Laura*

      I know of someone in the 70s who wanted a job but didn’t have a bachelors. He called up Ohio State and gave his name (think Bob Johnson) and said he needed a copy of his diploma and transcripts. Poof! He now had went to college. Our neighbor moved away so I never heard if his brother got caught.

    10. Mary's pretty common too*

      Common first name, common maiden name, common married name. The first page of one Google search shows a CFO, a therapist, three different obituaries, and me.
      So what’s the chance there’s a recruiter careless enough to create this problem without Other Jennifer knowing about it. Called by Jennifer Johnson to help find Llama Grooming positions, he didn’t even think that there might be two people by that name in that industry and grabbed the info from LinkedIn.
      That would suck in many ways. OP has her identify stolen. Jennifer Johnson, Junior Llama Groomer gets turned down who wonder why she’s applying for a junior position when she’s senior. And then when Original Jennifer’s story gets out, Other Jennifer would get an undeserved bad rep.
      Yeah, it’s the zebra in a herd of horses — but the side-effects would be so huge it’s worth considering.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        That would have had to have happened 10 different times as OP says her boss has been contacted about 11 different job searches and only one was actually them.

        1. Mary's pretty common too*

          Not necessarily — that would be if there’s 11 different corporate recruiters.
          But there’s the other way around too — Other Jennifer calling a recruiter to find her a job, and the recruiter’s looking around at a lot of places.

    11. Captain Raymond Holt*

      I went to a college of 1000 students. We had three pairs of pairs of the SAME first/last names.

      I now work for a company of 39 people. We have three sets of people with the same first name. Two of the names have two people with that name. One of those pairs has the same first/last initials. The other set has four – FOUR – people with the same first name! If you work at my company, you have a 20% chance of having the same first name as someone else who works here.

      TL;DR: Matching names aren’t that uncommon.

      1. Gumby*

        Yeah. My 33-person company has one set of 3 people with the same first name (plus a customer who goes by that name even though it is not his legal first or middle name) and one set of 2 people who share a different first name. It makes conversation interesting. I generally identify by department/role but sometimes last initial. (i.e. accounting-Alex, manufacturing-Alex, Alex F; *not their real names/roles)

        When I started, there were an additional 3 sets of shared names but some of the people have moved on gradually so we’re down to just the 2 now. I was all “but how did I get hired? My name isn’t Alex or Chris!”

    12. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I have found people with my same name before and I don’t even have a super common name.

      You have a billion John Boy Walton’s out there, each with their own SSN. It doesn’t seem like they stole her SSN, this is why they’re now asking for SSN verification when giving employment information.

    13. tab*

      I have a very unusual name (in this country), but there is another woman who has the same first and last name. We’re both from LA, are similar ages, and are distantly (several generation back) related. She’s in HR, and I’m in EE, so neither of us is interested in the other’s job opportunities.

    14. Artemesia*

      We have been dunned several times over the years by collection agencies for debts incurred by people who share my husband’s very common name — first and last. Another one of them is a notorious right wing agitator. I have an uncommon last name and not very common first name and there are several people in the country who share it — hundreds with my husband’s name.

    15. fhqwhgads*

      The scenario involved is someone named Jennifer Johnson looks for her own name on linkedin, finds a different Jennifer Johnson, and updates her own resume to match the found-profile. It only works because they do genuinely have the same first and last name, and originally, there was no photo on OP Jennifer Johnson’s account.

  6. AdAgencyChick*

    Wow, that is brazen AF — (at least) ELEVEN times this person got as far as reference checks?!

    I have a feeling the next time it happens still won’t be the last time — the company will call the old boss for a reference, hear the story, and end this person’s candidacy, but probably won’t tell the candidate why. So I bet it takes the thief a while to figure out she’s been found out.

    1. Free Meerkats*

      I mean, Jenny2 got as far as reference checks 11 times in what seems to be a short time. Maybe she can write in with job hunting tips!

      1. juliebulie*

        Sounds like she was applying for more junior jobs. That’s probably why she got that far so many times.

      2. AnotherAlison*

        If you can steal the work history, I’m sure you can create a persona and stellar accomplishments, too. If you are a liar, it’s easy to tailor yourself to be a perfect match to a job. The fake Jennifer isn’t constrained by reality like real Jennifer and the rest of us.

        1. Anonysuse*

          OMG! “Fake Jennifer” reminds me of season 1 of the Good Place and how they called Kristen Bell’s character “Fake Eleanor”. It’s quite a similar scenario if you look at it in a certain way – trying to get/stay somewhere you want to be based on the someone else’s accomplishments!

          1. Marthooh*

            Maybe Fake Jennifer will end up getting a terrible job at a toxic workplace, but feel like she has to put up with it all for fear of being found out…

      3. knead me seymour*

        I like to imagine that Jennifer 2 is a devastatingly suave and charming con artist who can talk her way into any job, using the credentials of some other Jennifer. She’s had dozens of careers.

    2. Alli525*

      I hope OP has called all her references and let them know they shouldn’t give references for her unless they can confirm it’s actually her! Like informal two-factor ID – if Jennifer 2 is emailing them, maybe they should text OP before agreeing to be a reference.

      1. nonegiven*

        It’s not Jennifer 2 that’s asking for references, it’s HR at the places she is applying to.

  7. Not Australian*

    I was one of the people who asked for an update on this because I found it so easy to relate to the OP; not that it’s ever happened to me, but I could see how it might – and I wouldn’t have a clue how to get out of it if it did. Sounds like you’ve done everything you needed to for the time being, OP, and handled the whole scenario pretty successfully; I hope this doesn’t come back to bite you again at any time in the future.

    1. many bells down*

      Yeah I have a pretty common name, and while I don’t have a work history that’s impressive enough to steal, I’ve absolutely received confidential information meant for a different “Jennifer Smith”. Of course, those were mistakes and this was clearly deliberate.

    2. Cj*

      I forgot to add that after I got married I did work with one of these other women. People want see my CPA certificate Etc and think it was her instead of me because then I was going by my married name, and it was her name on my certificate.

  8. Lynn*

    Jennifer Johnson 2 sounds like a con artist. This might even be the type of thing the FBI would investigate; I know they got involved with the Anna Delvey fraud (although that also involved a ton of money)

    1. Anonysuse*

      What she is doing is 100% the definition of a con, so defo a con artist, even if it’s her only one. But the FBI really wouldn’t care, as she is still using her own SSN (even if not the FBI likely wouldn’t do much – as you say, no money involved here). In a way, the only thing she is technically doing is blatantly lying on her resume (in a way that 100% matches someone else’s actual resume and references).

      1. Lynn*

        You’re right she is a con. I didn’t need the “sounds like”

        Fraud and identity theft are still crimes though even if this hasn’t escalated to anything monetary yet. If it were me I probably would report it — this is one of those cases where the worst they could do is say they don’t care and I don’t think it would take much time

      2. The Rural Juror*

        Back in the day when I was a bartender, I had to go take a class at the police station on how to identify fake IDs. It was a lower crime to falsify your information, but still present yourself as yourself. For example, college kids were using photoshop to change their birthdays, then printing out the image and laminating it on top of their real IDs. It was a higher level of misdemeanor to present yourself as a different person altogether, even though it was the strategy that was much easier – a younger person would sometimes “buy” an expired ID from someone who was of age (sometimes they didn’t even resemble each other – dummies!)

        So, what Jennifer 2 is doing is a lower level of deception, because she’s not saying she’s a different person. Still pretty crappy, though!!!

  9. Heidi*

    There has to be a better name than Jennifer 2. Jenni-faux? Jenni-fraud? Jennif-ersatz? Pretennifer?

    1. Lucien Nova*

      If we want to dip into foreign languages, Janaifer?

      (ja nai, roughly, being a Japanese term for “not” – it is of course slightly more complicated than that depending on context but!)

  10. Lucette Kensack*

    This is a wild story!

    How is this woman interviewing successfully based on a resume that isn’t hers? Surely the interviewers are asking her about the experiences listed on her resume. She must be very talented at BSing.

    1. irene adler*

      It’s good enough that interviewers have contacted the refs multiple times.

      Impressive, if you ask me.

      But clearly, not quite enough to get the job (unless they were hired before any refs were alerted to this situation).

    2. Elenna*

      To be fair, someone who is comfortable enough with lying that they’d think to steal someone else’s entire work history probably has a lot of practice in deception :P

  11. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

    This is more obviously identity theft than mistake, but I’m immediately thinking of the Lisa Davis case, where multiple women with the same name and birthday kept being mistaken for each other because no one ever looked more deeply than name and birthday.

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      My husband has an incredibly common name and he has had at least one or two fights with an insurance company over charges for another John Smith* in a different state. He finally got through to them, but I know it was incredibly frustrating for him.

      *Not his actual name.

      1. married to a JR*

        My husband is Jr. and somehow his credit got crossed with his Dad’s. We only found out when we went to buy a house and it was a mess to unravel. There was credit card dating back to when he was a baby on his credit report. Some credit card companies gave us a hard time, until explained that he would have been a toddler when the account was opened.

        1. Artemesia*

          My father’s bank once deposited his paycheck to my brother’s account for similar reasons and bounced my dad’s checks all over town. He made them write letters to every place a check had bounced. In those days there were not the huge fees for bounced checks there are today. We had the big chance for our son to be the fourth — and all three previous were alive at his birth – great grand, grand and of course my husband, dad — we went another direction.

        2. MCMonkeyBean*

          I thought credit and credit cards were based more on social security numbers than on names right? Parents can open credit cards in their kids names. There are lots of unfortunate cases where someone is saddled with terrible credit that their parents ran up in their name (but it can also go the other way–my dad actually opened stuff in my name when I was a kid specifically to build me up good credit)

          1. nonegiven*

            Sometimes the credit bureaus get files mixed, especially if the 2 people with the same name shared an address in the past.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        A friend from high school was admitted to the hospital after a car accident. He got a HUGE bill for elective surgery for the other person with his name that were in the hospital at the same time. Took forever to split the bills for “Brendan Fraser” and “Brennan Frazier”. (All apologies to the actor, it’s just a good analogy for a name that’s neither extremely common or obviously unique.)

        1. Merci Dee*

          Now that you’ve mentioned being admitted to the hospital, it reminded me . . . . I was admitted to the hospital to give birth to my daughter and was confused for . . . . myself.

          Daughter was due on September 21, but had not been born by the time I had my next scheduled doctor’s appointment on September 28th. There was a slight complication with the pregnancy at that visit, so the doctor put me on the schedule to induce labor on October 1. I filled out the necessary admittance paperwork before I left the doctor’s office, and they sent it to the hospital across the street, no problem. But I ended up going into labor on the morning of September 29th, and was admitted into the hospital late that afternoon for delivery. My daughter was born shortly after midnight on September 30, and everything seemed to be going well. Until the someone from hospital admin came around to my room later that day trying to “figure out which one of the [Merci Dees] are you.” It didn’t take long to figure out what they had me admitted twice because of the scheduled induction that ended up being a moot point. So they were able to merge the records, and everything was fine after that.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Personally I give your hospital a gold star for noticing something unusual and going to the source for clarification!

            1. Merci Dee*

              Looking back on the situation, I would have to agree with you that they did the easiest and best thing to figure out the situation. But when they came to my room to figure things out, it was shortly after 8 a.m., and I had only had a couple of hours of sleep at that point. My post-delivery, interrupted-sleep mindset was somewhat less generous with its interpretation at the time. :)

      3. Jay*

        My husband has a very, very, very common name – both first and last. We know of at least two other people who also share his middle name. There was a boy on his street growing up with the same first and last and middle initial. This is one of many reasons I kept my (still common but not nearly as common) name.

        One of the many places we rented early in our marriage was owned jointly by two married couples. We discovered after we moved in that the second couple, who we hadn’t met before, were Mr and Mrs. Husbsandsfirstname Husbandslastname. They moved into the house when we moved out. We got their utility bills for months because of the mail forwarding. Six years later when we bought our first house we had problems with my husband’s credit because the other couple had declared bankruptcy – more than once – and of course the names, address, and dates of residence matched. Luckily he had a different middle name and hubs uses his middle name on EVERYTHING. Which once got us in trouble with the IRS, but that’s a story for another day.

        1. Jay*

          and then there was the time he got the bill and the lab results for someone else’s lab work. This presented not only a money problem but a HIPAA violation, since the labwork including info about the other person’s HIV status (CD4 counts and viral load). The lab refused to do anything without info from the doctor. The doctor’s office refused to talk to us because of HIPAA. Finally after six months and under threat of being sent to collections, I went on the website for our college’s alumni directory and searched by employer. I found a VP of the lab company and hubs Emailed him. He finally fixed it.

        2. AnotherAlison*

          We bought our house from people with the same last name. Fortunately, no same first names, but I think I will get hearing aid junk mailers for Helen Mycommonname forever. We’ve lived here almost 10 years, and I doubt she is alive.

      4. knead me seymour*

        This thread is making me feel somewhat better about having really uncommon first and last names–I’m pretty sure I’m the only one with my name combination. I kind of feel like it would be worth the hassle for the increased anonymity, though. (And for not having to spell out both of my names every time someone asks for them.)

          1. Lierre*

            Wow, I am the only person in the country with my legal name (or my nickname). I’d definitely better stay on the straight and narrow!

    2. Environmental Compliance*

      My grandparents have the same names as another couple in the same city, and both sets live on the same street – just a handful of blocks away. They get each other’s mail all the time.

      Another naming fun fact – I used to play doubles tennis, and one of the other teams had a doubles partner set who had the same names as my partner and me, and we played each other all the time. We all had a good time cheering for each other, because we found it absolutely hilarious.

    3. Frank Doyle*

      Thank you for posting that story about the Lisa Davises, so interesting and with a heartwarming conclusion!

    4. Art3mis*

      Sort of amusing and semi related… when I was a kid we took our cat, Patches, to the vet. Vet walks in the room, looks down at the folder, back up at our cat and declares “That’s not a dog.” Well good thing he went to vet school, where would we be with out him. Turns out that Another family with the same last name had a dog named Patches. Their names were Ray and Pat and my parents were Roy and Pam. They also lived not far from us. Their daughter was kind of a bitch to me for “stealing” her last name, so that’s where the similarities ended.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I think you’d get an email from an HR assistant or hiring manager saying “Jennifer Commonname has listed you as a reference for our Llama Groomer position. Please complete this form.” They assume you know who Jennifer is and can speak to her previous work without needing them to provide a most recent resume.

      If her current HR department now says “Sure – please confirm the last four digits of her SSN” then it would be immediately obvious if there were a mixup (unless, oh lordy, real Jennifer is 123546 and Jennifake is 883546).

    2. blaise zamboni*

      I think previous boss was contacted once by Jenni-for-real (sorry), for a legitimate job. That must have been around the same time, and he just assumed the subsequent calls about “Jennifer” were regarding her, because why would he think otherwise?

      It is unfortunate though, she should be confronted for pulling a stunt like this.

  12. Miss Catherine Morland*

    This happened in a really high profile way in my my state about 15 years ago. To make a long story short, someone who had been a secretary in a graduate program stole the identity of one of the graduates (presumably she had access to the person’s SSN), then took a job in the field (which she had no qualifications in). Then she (the identity thief) was elected president of our state association(!). Thankfully, she was caught before her term began.

    1. Me*

      Something to remember when impostor syndrome hits. If an impostor can be that successful being a literal impostor, those of us with at least some experience can’t possibly be unqualified like we sometimes think we are.

      1. AGD*

        Eric Idle tells a story that when he was a kid and wanted to skip an afternoon of school, he’d put on his schoolboy cap, and nonchalantly but confidently walk straight down the hall and out the door within full sight of the teachers. They’d all assume that he had a darn good reason to be heading outside.

  13. Fiona*

    Maybe I have already told this story, but I used to work at a media company and we had a part-time intern. “Layla.” We became friendly and I knew she had a twin, “Lola.” I often had to deliver hard drives to other media companies and one day I visited one of our regular partner companies and saw the twin, Lola, who was working the reception desk.

    Me: “Hi Lola, I’m Maggie – I work with your sister,”
    Lola: (staring at me with a creepy smile) “Oh…I’m not Lola, I’m Layla. I worked with you at Llama Media.”

    Now, I know they were twins, but I could tell them apart and I knew 100% that this was NOT the girl I worked with. It was truly creepy! I just was sort of like “uh, okay” and left.

    Well, it turned out that our intern, Layla, had applied for a receptionist job at this company and gotten the job. Then she decided she didn’t want it after all, so just “gave” it to her twin. Her twin showed up to the job pretending to be her. Not a bad scam, but we all worked in a close-knit industry and it was only a matter of time before it had to blow up, which we heard it did a few months later. The whole thing just struck me as truly bananas.

    1. Goliath Corp.*

      Wow, I have so many questions but I can’t even figure out how to write them because I’m so confused about Lola/Layla/Fake-Layla…

      1. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

        Layla previously worked with Fiona at Llama Media. Layla applies for a receptionist job at Otter Corp. Layla decides she doesn’t want the Otter Corp. job, but instead of quitting, she gets her twin, Lola, to pretend to be her. Lola tells everyone that she is Layla, but Fiona realizes that she’s actually Lola.

        1. Goliath Corp.*

          I guess I just don’t get why Lola would take the job, when presumably the pay would have to go to an account in Layla’s name, and it would bolster Layla’s resume but not Lola’s. But I suppose that immediate need might trump long-term consequences.

          1. fhqwhgads*

            If they live together and have join accounts, it wouldn’t cause an issue with access to the funds. (Lots of adult twins I know live together so this wouldn’t surprise me). Taxes and SS and such would be borked, but the actual pay part less so.

    2. AnotherAlison*


      I sort of doubt that the part-time media intern had years of specialized reception experience. Why not just say, “I don’t think this is the right role for me right now, but I would love to recommend my sister for the job”? I mean, there’s a chance she doesn’t get it, but did they not consider that it would eventually blow up? So dumb.

      1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

        Right, and also Lola will have a gap in her own work history, because it will look like she was unemployed while Layla was working two jobs. And did all the money she earned go straight to her sister?

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Huh. I assumed that part-time intern twi was a volunteer — and receptionist twin took a paying gig so would have been the first person to fill out paperwork.

    3. Fiona*

      For everyone saying that there might be massive issues with UI or SS numbers – totally!!! That’s why this seemed so nearsighted and dumb.

      As far as work history, I looked the twins up and Lola has since gone into acting/modeling so I don’t think any of these resume gaps would hurt her that much. That said, based on the one interaction I had where she was pretending to be her sister, she’s not a great actor.

      1. Prof. Space Cadet*

        I almost wonder if Lola had some problem in her background (like a missing educational credential or an arrest history) and Layla let her “borrow” her identity to conceal that. It’s still dumb, but I’m guessing it somehow made sense to the two of them.

  14. Goliath Corp.*

    Wow, I’ve never been so grateful to have an unusual name. I’ve googled myself and never found anyone else with my spelling — which is a bit stressful sometimes, because I can’t hide anything either. (Thank god I didn’t use my last name on my Myspace account!) But at least no one has tried to steal my identity… yikes!

    1. Data Nerd*

      I’m literally the only person in the world with my name (until and unless my third cousin has a daughter or my second cousin’s wife changes her surname). I’ve had my identity compromised, but the idea that someone out there *with my name* could be stealing the reputation I’ve worked so hard to achieve is just creepy and awful. I’m so sorry you had to go through that, OP.

      1. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

        I’m also the only person in the world with my name (extremely uncommon last name + decently uncommon first name), and anyone who tried to steal my identity would have to reliably spell and pronounce it.

    2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      This is one of several reasons why I didn’t change my name when I got married. My husband’s name is also a bit uncommon but mine is unique as far as I know (for some reason my great-grandfather slightly changed the spelling of our surname). This means I should have been more careful about commenting on random things on facebook, but also makes it a bit harder to steal my identity.

    3. OrigCassandra*

      Right? Having an unusual or unique name (mine’s unique) comes with its own set of challenges, but at least nobody not my identical twin (and I don’t have an identical twin) could realistically pull this stunt on me.

  15. mdv*

    This is one of those letters that made me secretly grateful for having four uncommon and hard to spell names. My mom “made up” my first and middle (not regular spellings of a regular name (first) and totally made up middle) and hyphenated her not that common maiden name to my dad’s two word German last name. I am VERY careful with how I use it, since I am, as far as I have been able to determine, truly the only person in the world with my name. If you google me, at least the first 5 or 10 pages are links that ARE me.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      It’s an interesting point, and a reason I’m glad to be Amy Smith levels of anonymous.

      However, you only need one more word to find me and only me – my field of work, so the equivalent of “Amy Smith teapot”. Even though I have a common name, and do the same kind of job as umpteen thousand other people, I am the only overlap between those two groups.

    2. Bubarina*

      I went from having a common “Anna Jones” type name to an extremely unique name after I married. Like you, I think I am the only person in the world with my specific name combination. According to the records, there appear to be less than 100 of us with the surname in the entire country! It makes me be careful about how and where I use it.

      The strange thing is that my husband has the exact same name as someone else, with uncommon spelling choices in the first name and an unusual middle name. Their birth year is the same, and they grew up in the same small city. Unfortunately, the “other him” has had a lot of difficulties with the law, and it’s led to some headaches when applying for programs or jobs. It gets sorted out in the end, but I have to wonder if some places never contact him because they conduct a google search and think the other guy is him!

    3. Dumpster Fire*

      I’m sure I’m not the only one who really wants to know what your name is now, mdv! My mom has one of those long German first names (which her mother – whose name was Anna – always told her was beautiful) that was horrible to deal with while she was in school…but she’s never had to worry about identity theft!

  16. Anon Librarian*

    I don’t have a common name but know of at LEAST 2 people who share it: one is a grandparent, the other is an OBGYN who actually lives in the same city I do. Fortunately, I don’t think I’ll have to worry about them trying to impersonate me as Drs make a lot more money than librarians.

    My partner also had a mild heart attack when they learned my middle name since it was their ex’s first name and the ex’s middle name is my first name, lol. Names man…….

    1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      I once dated two guys in a row with different first names that traced back to “John” and the same middle name. (To be fair, a LOT of men’s names trace back to John.)

    2. LawLady*

      I knew a guy who married 3 separate Katies, and they each took his last name at marriage. So my town had 3 Katie Johnsons, all of them wife or ex wife of the same fellow.

      1. Dragon_Dreamer*

        Hah, my Dad and my best friend share the same first name, and different middle names. My cousin is

        1. Dragon_Dreamer*

          Not sure HOW that got cut off. Hah, my Dad and my best friend share the same first name, and different middle names. My cousin is “Dad’s middle name” “best friend’s middle name.”

      2. Goliath Corp.*

        That’s hilarious – have any of the Katies gone back to their maiden names?

        My mom “Jane Smith” has a brother “John Smith,” who married another woman named Jane, so she’s now another “Jane Smith.” One time my aunt Jane was in a terrible accident, and before I had heard about it I got a phone call from a reporter asking me about my mother’s terrible accident. It was alarming, to say the least.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          Ahh, you just reminded me of one of the most ridiculous things my parents have ever done (and there are many).

          My son went to a home daycare run by “Carla Perkin” for several years. She was like a second grandma to him, and we had some other ties, as I graduated high school with her son and my husband went to school with her son-in-law.

          One year, we were on vacation. My parents were watching our dog or something, so we were in touch with them as soon as we got home. My parents told us that Carla died. They were all set to bake a casserole (not kidding, wth?!?) and take it to her husband. My husband called Carla, and she was in fact alive, but had been getting a lot of calls from concerned friends. She was in her 50s. The other Carla was in her 50s. IDK. Check things out before telling people that important people in their lives have died.

          1. EvilQueenRegina*

            One time there was a group chat of my primary school class discussing a possible 25 year reunion (which never got off the ground) and this one guy said “Fergus Smith died a few years ago”. It caused a bit of upset before Fergus’s best friend clarified what had happened. Fergus had a cousin in the year below us who was also Fergus Smith (but who most of us had had no further contact with after primary school as he went to a different high school) and it was Cousin Fergus who had died, this guy had obviously found out about it and thought it was our Fergus.

        2. Buni*

          One grandmother and *both* of my sisters-in-law were Mrs. J. Smyth – mild nightmare doing invitations for family events etc.

        3. LawLady*

          All three had kids with him and wanted to keep the same last name as the kids, so nope, all kept being Katie Johnson. Two of them were in my church!

      3. Lyudie*

        I kind of love this. My old dentist’s office had two dentists who were a married couple, and I later found out the husband’s ex-wife was also a dentist in the area, and she still used her old married name. It nearly caused some confusion when I changed dentists, but one of the clerks knew the whole story and realized which one I had actually been seeing.

  17. Me*

    There’s someone who lives in my area with the same name and birthday but different first name spelling. It’s caused problems more than once at drs and the pharmacy. How often does someone check the spelling of a name on a reference?

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I once got a very nice voicemail from the doctor’s office telling me that my mammogram was fine.
      Except I hadn’t had a mammogram. It took three or four re-explanations before I got the goofball admin assistant to understand it was NOT my test and maybe they should be calling the right person. And I had to say “Could you just look up my name as if my middle name were my last name?” before I heard an “ohhhhhh I know who that is.” Not long later, the same goofball called my number to reschedule the same wrong Mary…. and when I said that’s my middle name, she blurted “Oh, I keep doing that.” It didn’t happen a third time…the voice of the front desk changed.
      And seriously, could you imagine the person waiting on that test thinking something must have gone wrong for it to have taken so long?

  18. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

    This also happens in elections sometimes, when someone else with the same name as a well-known political figure runs for office. Always an interesting problem when it comes up.

    My dad has the same first and last name as a double-digit number of people in our town (many years ago, I looked in the phone book and counted 11 of them listed, plus however many more had unlisted numbers or weren’t the person in their house paying the phone bill for whatever reason), and it’s caused annoying problems off on and on his whole life. There were times when no one would take his checks because one of the other That Names was bouncing them, or when we’d get repeated collection calls because skip tracers live on hope apparently and will assume that all 11 That Names in the phone book are the right guy with no other evidence. I don’t think he ever had anyone trying to impersonate him to get a job (he’s in a highly technical field, so I assume the interview would go down in flames if someone tried), but he’s not the only person with his first and last name who emails me regularly, so I have to make sure I have the right That Name from my contacts before sending messages to either of them.

    1. Old person*

      You can also steal a historical name for election purposes. Google this phrase and look at the first result from the Dallas Observer – ‘denton county sheriff will travis’. And get some popcorn, it’s a wild ride.

      1. Old person*

        You can also find more dirt in other reporter’s stories about the situation. He was not well liked when the scandal broke and everyone wanted to write a piece on him.

    2. Artemesia*

      I grew up in Washington state when Warren Magnuson was a highly respected Senator. There was one at large congressional office and 6 districts (when the census came, they didn’t re-district, they just added a statewide congressional seat. For years another guy named Magnuson who was unfit for office for many reasons won that seat. Everyone assumed it was the other guy. He didn’t lose till they re-districted into discrete seats and he had to run where he was known. In Illinois where we live now a terrible congressman who inherited his seat from his father was able to stave off competition until this year because people always voted for Ferguson like they always had.

    3. EvilQueenRegina*

      I used to get something similar as a kid because my dad was the first P Lastname in the phone book, and we were always getting calls for Phil Lastname the architect. It didn’t matter how many times Dad would say “It’s Peter Lastname here”, they still kept calling for Phil. For years all I’d have to do was mention my last name and I’d be asked if I was anything to do with Phil. Even after my parents separated and the number wasn’t under his name anymore, people would call asking for Phil.

  19. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    I’m really glad this worked out for LW, but what a horrible shock in the meantime.

    And, as an aside, I note that one of the other letters that day is all about video calls and surrounding etiquette. It’s like reading a letter from 1954…

  20. LawLady*

    OP, one thing I might suggest (and this may have been suggested in the first post and I didn’t see it) is that you put clearly on your LinkedIn that someone has been doing this, and that anyone considering you for a job should reach out directly via LinkedIn.

    1. Artemesia*

      Absolutely. Make it clear on the resume and then again at any time you progress to a phone interview that this has happened and so references have the two step process — of checking with you first.

  21. Ruby314*

    Glad it all worked out! But I do need to point out that sounds like an actual, great promotion and not a “mini” promotion :)

  22. Fabulous*

    My maiden name is in no way common, but both my mom and I (also with non-common first names) have someone with the same names living in our state. My mom used to be contacted for all sorts of things, but her name was different enough (think given name Kate vs. Katherine going by Kate) that she could clear things up relatively easily.

    My experience got even funnier when my brother was temporarily married to a woman with my same first name – I started getting her collections calls! I’m glad they got divorced after only a year!

    1. AnotherAlison*

      Many of my cousins live in the small town our parents were raised in, and we had that happen with my male cousin marrying someone with the same first name as our female cousin, so there were two Rae Lassnames in the town.

      The other strange thing is that my maiden name is an uncommon spelling (top 3500 vs top 150 for the common way), and my grandfather and uncle were Tom Lassname Sr. and Jr., and there was third Tom Lassname with the weird spelling in a town of 2,000–no relation.

  23. Fabulous*

    As for the OP, I was thinking maybe it would be useful to add a blurb in her LinkedIn summary saying something akin to “It’s come to my attention someone has been applying to positions using my name and listed credentials. If you have received an application from me, I ask you to please verify all personal application details with my prior employers and references to ensure authenticity.”

    1. Cobol*

      I think this is a really good idea. She can just put it at the bottom of her summary section.

  24. Angelinha*

    Would a reference checker usually have the last 4 of the person’s SSN? I think that’s usually collected after an offer is made, right?

  25. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I gasped that they did call your references! I’m glad that all mine happily contact me every time anyone reaches out to them, so this wouldn’t have been a surprise to any of us.

    Now it’s confirmed I’ll continue to reach out to the people I act as reference to too. At best it gives them that jolt of “oh, they’re checking references!” and at worse they go “Wait, I never applied there…I’m not looking for work…wtf.”

      1. fposte*

        Yeah, I’m imagining her as a go-getter who’s light on the ethics, who initially just was going to borrow the original Jennifer’s resume and then realized she could probably borrow her references as well. I mean, that’s a fair bit of initiative!

        I’m reminded of when somebody else in my town with my name called me up and asked if I’d gotten a check she was supposed to get. It wasn’t until after I got off the call that I realized if I had gotten it (never did get it) I could have cashed it.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Probably by calling their company phone line and phone treeing to the department or HR.

        I mean nobody calls me here asking for anyone specifically, to be honest. They call saying they’re looking for a reference for “Former Employee”, and “Can you help me with that?”, you can ask for a former manager and if they’re available for a direct reference, etc.

        It depends honestly. I have to give my references personal contact information because of various reasons! But I find I’m a rare case and having done employment references and verification for so long, there’s lots of pretty easy ways to get through to people.

  26. CatCat*

    My last name is uncommon, but I have encountered several people with the same first name and last name as me (one even connected several of us on facebook). There is one that is in my same profession, but in another state. So far, neither of us have tried to steal one another’s identity!

  27. Van Wilder*

    This is a better update than I could have anticipated – especially the promotion!

    The only more satisfying thing would be if Jennifer 2 was confronted and learned the error of her ways but maybe someone here can write the fanfic version.

  28. Starfire117*

    I have one of the top baby girl names for the 1980s, so in my classroom of ~25 students alone, there was always another girl with the same first name as me. Luckily for my country, my last name isn’t that common, so there aren’t many in my country with my same first and last name.

    However, my first and last name are very very common in a few other countries, so there are tons of me on the Internet. Since my father was adopted though, none of them remotely look like me, as I resemble him and his ethnicity does not match those countries’ demographics, so I always include my photo on LinkedIn and other professional social media accounts haha

  29. That's not what SSN is for?*

    Am I the only person who made it to “they now require the last 4 digits of the SSN to verify employment, which I think is a good step” and immediately thought about how that’s not what an SSN is for, and how anyone born before 2011 you can just figure out the first three numbers because they’re geographical, and how normalizing just blurting out the last four over the phone or regularly placing them in e-mails means the remaining two (which are also assigned administratively, just not uniquely per region) are all that’s left unknown?

    Like, setting some kind of unique identifier to verify employment is a great idea, but please tell me there’s an option to **NOT** use any part of one’s SSN for this? It’s such a horrible practice, for what is still a clearly vast majority of the population (anyone older than 9 as of the year 2020…) that’s the *unique* part, the rest is all region- and group-based.

    I want to be abundantly clear here: I am not in favor of the identity theft described in these letters, and I am not against companies setting up protective measures. My real snagging point here is the company becoming *yet another place* where people who understand how SSNs actually work will have to fight yet another battle over picking some other numbers, and I have to wonder given how little this comes up in the early comments (before this one) whether I’m alone in thinking it is a huge red flag that using part of an SSN is the best way an HR department could come up with?

    1. Alice*

      I bet they are going to have people fill out a form with the partial SSN and email it ;)

    2. Me*

      Well knowing the first three means you have to know where the person was born. Very few people know where I was born vs where I live.

      I agree ssn is used to often. That said an employer is going to have the ssn for tax purposes. I don’t see anything inherently risky about verifying the last 4 in this instance. Its’ either the person or it’s not. I more worry about having to use my ssn on forms at the drs office.

      Id be curious how much id theft is small time stuff like someone guessing vs the massive data breaches.

    3. AutolycusinExile*

      This is literally why I came down to the comments section! I cringed when I read that. And to those people saying you’d have to give it out anyway – no, not really. You’d give your SSN to the employer who hires you, sure, but I definitely wouldn’t want to give it out to companies I have little knowledge about and no existing relationship with – which is what it sounds like they’re asking for. For this to be useful they’d be asking every applicant long before offering them a job, and tbh that’d be something of a red flag for me.

      And no, my acquaintances don’t know where I was born, but for a huge number of people they still live near their hometowns and for many who don’t it’s still discoverable information if you know how to look. It’s less risky to only give the last four digits but it’s still a long way from safe. You don’t need a 100% hit rate to have a very lucrative career in identity theft.

      But then, this isn’t anything new. Social security numbers should never have been used the way the US decided to. It’s an easy fix on the face of things, but I worry that this solution will inadvertently cause more harm than good in the long run :/

    4. Pomona Sprout*

      I don’t think it’s as easy to guess the first 3 digits of someone’s ssn as you may think. The digits are indeed geographically based, but they don’t necessarily correspond to where you were born. From the ssa dot gov website:

      “The Area Number [first 3 digits] is assigned by the geographical region. Prior to 1972, cards were issued in local Social Security offices around the country and the Area Number represented the State in which the card was issued. This did not necessarily have to be the State where the applicant lived, since a person could apply for their card in any Social Security office. Since 1972, when SSA began assigning SSNs and issuing cards centrally from Baltimore, the area number assigned has been based on the ZIP code in the mailing address provided on the application for the original Social Security card. The applicant’s mailing address does not have to be the same as their place of residence. Thus, the Area Number does not necessarily represent the State of residence of the applicant, either prior to 1972 or since.”

      To cite a couple of real life examples:
      1) I got my social security card prior to 1972, in a completely different state from the one where I was born. My “area number” (first 3 digits) corresponds to the office where I got the card.
      2) My daughter was born in 1985, and we moved to a different state shortly thereafter. I signed her up for social security state after we moved, and her first 3 digits correspond to the zip code where we lived at the time I signed her up.

      Nowadays, most parents sign their kid up for social security shortly after birth, because you need it for so many things these days (including claiming the kid as a dependent on your taxes), which was not always the case. If a child is born in the same zip code where their mailing address is, their area number will coincidentally match up with their place of birth. But there are plenty of cases where there won’t be a match at all. (For example, lots of women have their babies in a hospital located in a different city from the one they live in.)

      In other words, you really can’t assume that the first 3 digits of someone’s ssn will match their place of birth. If you try to guess based on that, you might be right in many cases, but there are absolutely no guarantees.

  30. This one here*

    Stories like this make me grateful for my very unusual name. My first name was ‘made up’ by my grandmother when naming her third daughter (my namesake aunt), my surname is Cajun, with lots of silent letters!

    1. LifeBeforeCorona*

      My first married name was one that no one would willingly steal. It was similar to Hooker or Hoare.

  31. Beth*

    I’m VERY glad that your boss responded by using the event as a wake-up call to make sure you wanted to stay!!

  32. IRV*

    Linkedin will suspend the account and delete the false current job if contacted about this. My predecessor , who was fired, kept listing my job as hers while badmouthing the company and losing a lawsuit against us. She would continue to reach out to clients as though she still held the position. This went on for a couple of years until we contacted Linkedin to see if we could at least get the ex employee purged – they will contacted the person and gave them a chancd to explain, and when there was no reply, purged the current employment info listed.

    1. Frank Doyle*

      But there isn’t a profile with false information. The information is correct, for the OP. The fake Jennifer is simply pointing to that LinkedIn profile as her own.

      That’s interesting to know, though.

  33. LifeBeforeCorona*

    I wonder if there is a way to lure the fake person to the OP’s office with the promise of a job interview. Then confront them Chris Hansen style with the stolen resume.

  34. Dumpster Fire*

    I’m sure I’m not the only one who really wants to know what your name is now, mdv! My mom has one of those long German first names (which her mother – whose name was Anna – always told her was beautiful) that was horrible to deal with while she was in school…but she’s never had to worry about identity theft!

  35. Tupac Coachella*

    I was ridiculously AAM-nerd amused at the highest level when I realized that this was an exception to the usual prohibition on trying to get promoted by getting another offer to make them “see your worth.” It doesn’t work when you try to call your boss’ bluff, but if someone else does it *for* you…

    You go, Jennifer.

    1. Moonlight Elantra*

      I was just thinking… I 100% believe OP is telling the truth, but imagine if she had made the whole thing up in order to finagle a nice promotion and raise out of her boss. Brilliant.

      But seriously, OP. I’m sorry you went through all that and I’m glad it worked out well for you in the end. Here’s hoping Other Jennifer gets what’s coming to her.

  36. emmelemm*

    I, on the other hand, have a functionally unique name. I believe, per the SSD website where one can check names, that there are 3 or 4 people in the U.S. with my first and last name (not middle), but none of them other than me have any internet presence. (And I have a very minimal internet presence.) There are certain upsides, but also downsides: nowhere to hide!

    1. WS*

      My partner has a unique name – no others in the world – and I have a relatively common name. We thought I was the better off of the two until a porn star with my exact name became famous…

  37. Alice*

    Crazy story — but I want to pick up on the SSN part. So Jennifer’s company is now only doing reference checks if the other, hiring company has gotten the final four digits of the applicants SSN? I don’t really want to give a company that hasn’t yet offered me a job that info.

  38. TechWorker*

    This thread made me google my name and job title… and realise that some dodgy ass recruiter is scraping info from LinkedIn along with a guess at internal email address… which explains the crappy spam recruitment emails I get. Worth doing….

    (In order to remove the profile they want *more* information from me, to verify my identity, ‘because of GDPR’… but they never had permission to store any of the data in the first place!! How the does that work?)

  39. Aitch Arr*

    I have a fairly uncommon maiden name, but there is another $MYFIRST $MAIDEN in HR in the metro area I live in.
    We’ve been mistaken for each other a handful of times in 20 years, but it was enough for me to take my first husband’s name when we married, keep it after we divorced, and then take my current husband’s name when we married.

  40. pagooey*

    My name is one of those that can conceivably be flipped, where both first and last name are not uncommon surnames. (Think Scott Meredith and Meredith Scott.) At a previous job in a huge company, I, Meredith Scott, wound up reporting to Scott Meredith; we’d previously received each other’s email off and on for years.

    Even better–when I left that job, I left behind some of the plaques and trinkets and dust-catching awards I’d received in years of service. Scott called me up to make sure I didn’t want them, and then said maybe he’d just put them on display in his own office, seeing as how they had his name on them, only backwards. I hope Scott is still happily dusting my tchotchkes today!

  41. MsChanandlerBong*

    I hire independent contractors, and I have been seeing a ton of LinkedIn-relate fraud lately. In my case, it happens mostly because we only hire people authorized to work in the US and Canada, but we pay well and the work is plentiful, so people from other countries want to get hired. They will steal someone’s entire resume from LinkedIn or Indeed and submit it to us as if it were their own. We had to start doing SSN verification to weed out “fakes,” but a few people also committed identify theft and stole the accompanying SSNs, so when we first ran them, everything came back as a match. We didn’t find out they were fakes until they did something like accidentally email us from their real email instead of their fake email or forgot to use their VPN to connect to our site and we noticed they were logging in from Pakistan or France.

    1. Quill*

      If you hire contractors via a recruitment agency, it’s probably easier for someone to steal their social security number than the average citizen – too many recruitment agencies require a SSN to even apply, and once that’s floating around a call center or an unsecured / poorly secured database in the agency…

  42. Batgirl*

    This is so skeevy that I’d be tempted to make a general announcement about it on Linkd In or other social media. Someone who thinks they are going into an ‘anyone can do it’ role would be easily busted with a heads up. Without it though, they are covered by the layer of audacity that makes a Big Lie difficult to suspect.

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