I got thrown for a loop today… Real-life situations always are mind-boggling on the twists and turns they take because the truth is, as we always know, stranger than fiction.
Such is the case today, which underscores a point I like to make about how we ALWAYS need to be vigilant about our own reputation management.
So here’s the scenario on what happened to me:
One of my career industry colleagues received a curt voicemail from a company requesting a complete employment verification on me. (How very odd, especially as I have been in business almost 5 years now and haven’t applied for any jobs during that time!)
The person who had been contacted was very concerned as the request came out of the blue and wasn’t appropriate since I do collaborate with them, but never have been in their employment. So they only answered a few questions before refusing to provide any more information.
As a heads-up, they then sent me an email about this request, as well as a transcript of the voicemail plus the contact information for the company who was requesting the verification.
I sat there, scratching my head and reading this colleague’s message, trying to understand what had just transpired. What in the heck is this all about?, I wondered.
So then I jumped into action. I Googled the phone number of the requesting company. Turns out that it is a collections company for student loans.
I paid those off 10+ years ago.
The hair on the back of my neck started to rise. Is someone misrepresenting me?
Then I made a call to the company and got a run-around by a vacant-minded receptionist, then transferred to an aggressive representative who immediately asked for my SSN number (which I didn’t give out), so I called back in again… and got a different person. Then I asked to be transferred to a manager…thinking, let’s just take this up to the next level.
And that’s where things started to get interesting.
Long and short of it, turns out that there is another person in my geographic area with the same name, but different DOB and SSN number who defaulted on their student debt. Apparently, this collections company had stumbled across my information online and erroneously connected the dots between me and this other person, and assumed we were one and the same.
And my continuing concern?
That this company actually started to take a bite out of my professional reputation by contacting industry colleagues while armed with the wrong information and a ill-informed assumption. Their call planted a question in my industry colleague’s mind which wasn’t there before… about my integrity.
I told the company that they needed to cease and desist in contacting careers industry colleagues about this situation- that there is a totally different person who is not me that they need to pursue.
But more importantly, I needed to stop the spread of their erroneous assumption before they tarnished my reputation even more with additional folks in the industry.
At this point, I think I have the matter contained. But if it continues, legal action might be needed to prevent additional reputation damage.
But this whole story truly underscores that we need to be ready and proactive in dealing with issues impacting our reputations online and offline… any minute and any hour. It requires 24/7 vigilance, and immediate action. Think of yourself as your knight defending your domain. No one else is going to do it for you, and if you allow someone to violate your sovereignty, the damage could be irreparable.
Always take steps to find out what is online about you, and have a plan to deal with the things that come up that you can’t anticipate. Be swift and forceful in dealing with inaccurate information, and take detailed notes in case the first attempt doesn’t solve the problem.
You and you alone are the guardian of your reputation… never forget this and never let your guard down. Your reputation depends on it.
Oh my goodness. Good thing you were vigilant!