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Identity Thieves Prey on Job Seekers

Are you out of work and looking for a job? Unfortunately, there may be some people out there who wish to prey on your bad fortune. Identity thieves in particular have recently ramped up activity as they seek to take advantage of our country's bad economic situation and turn it into a goldmine for themselves. So, how are they doing it?

Online job banks offer a powerful way to find a new career, and most have excellent security safeguards and screens to protect your personal information. However, it isn'Â’t too difficult for a thief to set up a legitimate-looking but fake business and pose as an employer with legitimate-sounding job postings. In fact, anybody can set up fake profiles in social networking sites such as Facebook or Linkedin. Identity theives can then harvest resumes and use this private information against you. A resume, which probably includes your name, address, phone number, and a detailed employment history, often provides them with all the information they need. And if theyÂ’ are lucky, theyÂ’ may even get your social security number, mother'Â’s maiden name, or a birth date.

Coming to Your Inbox - A Fabulous (Fake) New Job!

Lately, I have been receiving a large influx of job opportunities via email. I have either been chosen as a lucky candidate for a job, or a global company is searching for new recruits to fill fabulous high-paying positions. All they need is my reply, and I will supposedly be on my way to finding meaningful employment.

As many unemployed individuals are frantically searching for new jobs, it may be tempting to quickly respond to job ads such as these without doing the proper research to verify their authenticy. A tough economy means more competition for less jobs, and identity thieves are playing on our emotions by using tactics to prey on our vulnerabilities. The emails typically call for a sense of urgency, include the promise of high-paying positions, and reiterate the fact that many others are competing for the same positions. Since job seekers often have posted their information to multiple employment lists, these e-mails can seem quite legitimate.

Some employment scams are so sinister that once you respond, they then set up an elaborate “background check” account online where you have to submit a username and password (or PIN number) to complete the application process. Identity thieves know that many people use the same password or PIN for online accounts, so they are counting on this to hack into online banking institutions where they can do some real damage.

How to Protect Yourself While Job Hunting

As scary as all this sounds, there are safeguards you can practice to and avoid becoming a victim to one these scams. And remember, high-quality online job sites will secure your resume, which means that most of your personal information will be replaced by a code that can only be unlocked by a legitimate employer specifically asking for your information.

Other tips you can take care of yourself are as follows:

  • Show less information on your online resume- Do not list your home address or phone number, and list a more public e-mail address, such as your Gmail or Hotmail account. Likewise, only provide your city and state, and add an unlisted contact number such as your cell phone. Most employers will not hold this lack of information against you.
  • If appropriate, make your employment history more vague - Instead of listing your actual job title, list something more industry generic. A more generic term is often more descriptive anyway, as there will be industry standards that all employers should understand. Also, instead of listing your actual place of employment, add a description such as "a leading insurance agency", and focus on your duties that do not reveal any personal information.
  • Always be wary of job offers via e-mail - If you subscribe to job seeking lists, you should receive employment offers specific to that list. More generic job offers, especially those promising rich rewards and opportunities, are usually scams. Criminals can easily fake real company letterheads and pretty graphs, hoping to fool you into applying for the job. In essense, they are just another form of phishing, a tactic that involves convincing you to click into a fake website where identity theives hope to capture as much personal information about you as they possibly can.

Above all, just remember to be savvy and never let your guard down. The promises of rich rewards, opportunities, and a fabulous lifestyle seem to be more prevalent in tough times as more an more people are worried become desperate to better thier financial situation. Make sure the lifelines of meaningful employment are not just lures to steal your information.

on Tue, 2009-03-17 17:00