For weeks, maybe even months, you’ve been systematically job searching.Â But now your savings have dwindled down to mere dollars, you have no promising leads, and your rent is due in less than two weeks. Desperation and panic start to set in, so you apply for anything–waiter, dog walker, personal assistant–and quickly get an e-mail response. However, the company doesn’t provide a contact person, the pay seems too high for the position, and you’re asked to provide your bank information so you can immediately be put on payroll.
Suspicious?Â You should be.Â These are all signs pointing to a job scam.
As millions of job seekers scour the Internet in search of work, identity theft through online job scams and overexposure of personal information has become more prevalent.Â As of July, 13.9 million people in the U.S. were unemployed, with blacks leading with an unemployment rate of more than 16%, compared with Hispanics (11.3%) and whites (8%). According to the Society for Human Resource Management’s survey for August 2011, job growth will decrease in the manufacturing and service sectors and hiring will also decline. In this bleak job market people try to give themselves a competitive edge by appearing everywhere online and divulging personal information to potential employers, but this can lead to identity theft.
Identity thieves use creative tactics to lure victims, like posting ads that offer little information about the company or opportunity, but inquire heavily about one’s personal information, including driver’s license and Social Security numbers. To protect yourself, here are five tips for decreasing your risk of identity theft as a job seeker:
Never include vital identity and financial information on your resume and cover letter, in e-mail correspondences or with job site accounts: Social Security number, date of birth, driver’s license, bank account information, credit card information.
Research the company. Check the website using a new window.Â Make sure it has a physical address.Â Find out how long it’s been in business, if it’s licensed, and if it’s linked to any applicant or customer complaints.
Set up a separate e-mail account for job search use only. Be sure to use a different username and password from those used for your personal email account.
Keep track of where you post your resumes, including job boards and recruitment agencies. It’s also important to remember what positions you apply for and for what companies, which not only helps keep your job seeking process less stressful and more organized, but ensures you know what information is out there and where.
Don’t sign up for third party offers when you register for employment sites or create accounts on a business’s site when applying for a position. This increases your online visibility, making you more susceptible to identity theft.