Gone are the days when it was enough to pick up the newspaper to find a job listing, pay a visit to the business owner, get a spot interview, and potentially be working the very next day. Some jobs have over 100 applicants for them, and more employers every day are relying on electronic application methods to streamline the hiring process. There are also a large number of job seeker websites available, like Monster.com, where applicants can upload a resume and then apply to multiple jobs with just a couple clicks of the mouse.
With all of that information available for literally millions of people, identity thieves are attracted to these sites like a shark is attracted to blood in the water. Besides signing up for identity theft protection services from a professional company like LifeLock or Identity Guard, what else can you do to protect your identity while trying to find a job?
You Should Never Have to Pay to Apply for a Job
We all crack jokes about those Nigerian scams that talk about how you’ve won millions of dollars in an e-mail lottery or some long lost relative as left a large estate in your name and you need to send money for legal fees to collect it. Yet when it comes to job seeking, identity thieves get the financial information from hundreds of victims every day because they tell them they need to spend a few hundred dollars on specific software or need to pay for background checks up front before they consider a resume.
You never need to pay for anything up front when it comes to a job application. If a company tells you that you must pay for a background check to be considered for employment, ask if that cost can be put onto your first paycheck instead – after all, you are unemployed and need money for food, right? Before paying for anything, even as an independent contractor, make sure you have a solid employment agreement in place before releasing any payment. Then, if you are sure of a cost that is something you need to front, make sure that you don’t give out your financial account numbers. Get receipts for everything. Verify, Verify, Verify
An employer has sent you an e-mail saying that they found your resume online, that you look like an awesome person, and they would like to have you start a job next week. Sounds like a dream come true, right? Then, when you hand over your Social Security number to get your new job started, you never hear from them again. You’ve just lost the key to your identity in this scenario.
If you’ve never heard of a company, verify them. Go to their place of business if possible. Visit their website to look for scam signals, such as:
- fake contact information,
- cut and paste content,
- no customer service, or
- generic information that tells you nothing about what they do.
Utilize the resources that are available to you as well, such as the Better Business Bureau, to determine their legitimacy. Always ask questions!
Limit the Personal Information on Your Resume
A prospective employer from an online bank of resumes needs to know your physical location, some sort of contact information to get a hold of you, and your name. That’s really all you need to get the ball rolling with an online resume – if an employer is interested in you, then they will contact you through your chosen method to get additional information. Many applicants, however, overshare their personal information, with many thinking this gives them an advantage because it lets an employer know a little more about them.
What it does, however, is give identity thieves all the information they need to steal your identity. A good rule of thumb is to use your name, state, and e-mail address as personal information for an online resume. A city may sometimes be helpful, but remember – the more information you freely share, the more likely you are to have your identity stolen. If someone needs more information because they’re interested in you, they’ll ask for it. Don’t just hand out more information – it really doesn’t make you more attractive to the right kind of employers.
Mike Carter writes about consumer credit for SIF. He has been a speaker at Financial Freedom Summit in California. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, MarketWatch, USA Today and MSN Money, and on the Associated Press wire. At one point he held a perfect 850 credit score and he is a serial mortgage refinancer.