By now, we’ve all at least heard about both MTV’s “Catfish” and the online love hoax of Notre Dame’s star linebacker Manti Te’o. Both scenarios focus on the role online media plays in our love lives and how the truth about an Internet love affair can easily turn into someone’s worst nightmare—or in Te’o’s case, public humiliation. However, it’s important to know that your love life isn’t the only thing that can be a “catfished.” With the prevalence of online job searches, it’s easy for scammers to trick you into deals and agreements that will have your professional life in shambles. Below are three vital steps that will prevent you from getting bamboozled in your career.
1. Research professional backgrounds: With the help of social media, it’s easy for business deals to be initiated online. One of the first steps before agreeing to any deal is to research a person’s professional background and their company to see if they’re legit. Make sure you find out their personal contact information, reviews, client names, social media profiles and other credible details that help prove you’re actually dealing with a real company.
2. Have an offline conversation: Communication through e-mail can be tricky with recipients responding to certain parts of a question and leaving key details out. Although face-to-face interaction is always best, it’s not always possible depending on location and time constraints. If an in-person meet up is not feasible, exchange contact information and schedule a phone conference. Also, try tech resources like Skype to connect and get a feel for the person and their credibility. Be direct in addressing any questions or concerns you may have.
3. Draft a contract: After confirming their identity, get a contract in place. Before releasing any personal information online, such as account information, social security number, address, and other info, be sure a contract outlines every detail that will keep your professional career and brand covered if things don’t work out as planned.