Though National Football League players have no problem defending themselves on the field, they often get intercepted by identity theft, whether as victims or perpetrators.
A quick search of “NFL and identity theft” pulls up pages of stories of former players who have committed fraud. In one recent case, former NFL cornerback Will Allen, who played 11 seasons with the New York Giants, Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots, was indicted on 23 felony charges of fraud, including wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, illegal monetary transactions and identity theft. According to the charges, Allen used other football players and even two baseball players to raise $4.1 million in loans under false investing premises, and instead using the funds for personal expenses. In 2012, retired players Michael Bennett and William Joseph were arrested by the FBI for identity theft and tax fraud charges.
But just as frequently, NFL players are the victims of identity theft. Recently, former NFL player Michael Rumph, of the Washington Redskins and San Francisco 49ers, found himself a victim of identity theft when a man sharing his name used his information to rent a home on Long Island. In 2000, Danny Wuerffel had just become the Green Bay Packers’ backup quarterback and, not too long after, got a call from Home Depot asking if he had applied for a home-improvement loan in New Jersey. It turned out that another man had used Wuerffel’s name and Social Security Number to apply for the loan. Luckily, the loan officer had been suspicious enough to check up on it before there was any damage to Wuerffel’s credit.
These are just some of the many incidents of identity theft and fraud affecting the NFL community. Athletes, celebrities and other such public figures are never exempt from falling victim to identity theft. In fact, because of their public status, they’re often more susceptible to it.
“Professional athletes have always been prime targets of people who look to damage the lives of players by taking their identities and financially destroying them,” Troy Vincent, NFL executive vice president of football operations, explained in a news release.
A lot of factors make the NFL more prone to this crime than any other professional sports organization.
Not every NFL player is a well-known superstar, but personal information, like full name and alma-mater or hometown, is still available through a basic internet search. NFL rosters are also much bigger than professional basketball or baseball teams, and their faces are often obscured by helmets, making lesser-known football players more appealing victims to identity thieves. According to the magazine Legal Affairs, rookies are most at-risk because their wealth is so sudden and new, and they often don’t have the time to realize they need to protect themselves.
Now, newly inducted players are given a crash course in financial security as part of their training as a professional athlete. They are told to form better habits like shredding documents and keeping track of their credit — advice that’s applicable to anyone. If you’re looking to make a play to protect your identity, you can invest in a credit monitoring service that can alert you to certain activity on your credit file that may indicate fraud.