Protect Your Info
By Ben Murray, Monster Staff Writer
With the wheel came the getaway car, with the printing press came counterfeiting, and now scam artists continue to keep up with technology by exploiting the Internet's anonymity to approach victims over the Web. While Internet fraud is nothing new, would-be swindlers have found a new avenue by which to reach victims: Online job postings.
While offline activities set the precedent for this type of fraud, the move to the Web allows con artists to reach vast numbers of potential victims. Often their goal is identity theft, and cons can be sneaky. Taking advantage of job hunters' desire to please potential employers, they ask for all sorts of personal information: your name, birth date, credit information -- all the things they need to steal your identity and spend your money.
The best protection is constant vigilance when searching for jobs. Since the point of the scam is to prey on your hopes for a great job and to hit you where you least expect it, being wary about even the most legitimate-sounding requests for your personal information is always warranted.
"There's an old saying that you should never buy anything you can't see from someone you don't know," says Paul Barada, Monster's Salary Negotiation Expert. While it's legitimate for employers in the early stages of the hiring process to ask you for information about your education, training and qualifications related to a prospective job, "you don't provide proprietary information until you're farther down the road."
And he means so far down the road that you're standing at the HR manager's desk, and even then, there should almost never be an occasion to give out your bank or credit card information. As his best piece of advice on what to do to avoid being fleeced by a bogus job ad, Barada says you should ask someone who approaches you for his contact information, and then independently look up the company's phone number and call them to verify that the company is legitimate and the person who approached you actually works there in a legitimate capacity.
Also look at the details, because they may reveal a thief. If someone approaching you under the guise of a well-known business asks you to reply to them through a third-party address that doesn't bear the company's name or trademark, that's a clue to a possible con. While many large recruiting firms may ask applicants to do this, it pays to make sure the person you're working with is legit. Also look at phone numbers and letterhead. Do they line up with the company's mailing address, other phone numbers and images?
Even given the current job market, Barada advises job hunters not to let their desire to please employers overpower their better judgment. "(Job hunters) shouldn't perceive themselves to be totally at the mercy of prospective employers," he says. "It's not worth losing your identity.".
If you find that you've been a victim of identity fraud do two things immediately:
- Alert all the financial institutions with which you have accounts and close anything that has been accessed illegally. Put new passwords on the ones you keep open, and password-protect your new accounts with different codes.
- Report the crime to the appropriate police department and get a copy of the report for your files.
Get more tips for a safe job search on CareerOne’s Security Center. (update link) You can also check out LooksTooGoodToBeTrue.com.