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Preventing Identity Theft During the Job Search

Credit Card Theft

Have you ever been a victim of identity theft or fraud? I imagine an identity thief as that person sending out emails promising $20 million to send over my bank information, a phising site requesting to verify my account with a username and password, or even someone rummaging through my trash to piece together enough information to open fraudulent account making my life more difficult while sorting out the mess.  It doesn't stop there. Unsuspecting candidates seeking working in a depressed job market have quickly become a target for identity theft.

Jeremy Miller, director of operations at Kroll Fraud Solutions, outlines some of the key factors job seekers should keep in mind to protect their personal information during the job search process.

Here's what Jeremy has to say:

Remember: your resume is a hot commodity. Resumes are an essential tool for someone looking for a job. After all, they say a lot about you and your professional background — information which is very important to potential employers. Still, there are some items that should never be disclosed, particularly if you intend to post your resume on career Web sites like Monster and USAJobs. Social Security Number (SSN), driver′s license number, and date of birth should never appear on a resume. The same goes for job applications: you might consider writing "prefer to provide this information during the interview" in the fields where these pieces of personal information are requested.

Proceed cautiously with career Web sites.

Not all job posting Web sites are created equal. Make sure you review the privacy policy and user terms and agreements before you post your resume on a career Web site. You may also want to do some online research to ensure that the site you are working with is credible When in doubt check with online resources such The World Privacy Forum′s Consumer's Guide to Online Job Sites. That said, it′s important to remember that no matter how credible the site or how well it safeguards the data it keeps, no one can guarantee what happens to your resume after it has been downloaded by a recruiter or potential employer. For that reason, you may want to inquire if the site allows you to mask your name and contact information, thus giving you the ability to choose who can and cannot contact you.

Know how to spot bogus job ads. Job-related identity theft scams are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Despite the best screening efforts used by career sites, scammers always find a way in. You might be looking at a fake job ad if it:

  • Offers considerable pay with few to no duties
  • Promises payment of wages in cash
  • Contains no physical address or contact person
  • Requires you to open a new bank account or accept company checks to "test" a wire transfer service

Most employment sites offer information on known scams, and should be notified immediately if you suspect that a posted job isn′t legitimate. You can also conduct an internet search on the company or check with the Better Business Bureau to determine if the potential employer has a bad reputation.

Keep a record of your job search activity. Maintaining good records will not only help you track the progress of your search, but it will also provide a "paper trail" in the event you become a victim of identity theft. Record where and when you distribute your resume, maintain lists of contact information for businesses and recruiters/representatives you come in contact with, and keep track of any additional information (e.g., applications, etc.) you provide to prospective employers.

Carry good data security practices with you offline. Keeping personal information off a resume is only the first step"”other vulnerable situations include phone interviews, job fairs, and e-mail and phone conversations with recruiters. Scammers know that as long as someone thinks an offer is genuine, they are more likely to provide sensitive information. Make sure that you know who you′re talking to and never divulge any personal information if you have doubts about their credibility. It is important to remember that virtually all legitimate businesses or recruiters will not ask for your SSN or other information until after you have begun a formal interview process.

Think before you post! Social networking sites (e.g., LinkedIn and Facebook) and are a great way of communicating your talent and expertise with a larger community of individuals. But sometimes staying connected comes at a cost. What many do not realize is that the more information you reveal online, the greater your chances of having that information accessed by the wrong person. Carefully consider what information you include on your profile page. For example, is it really necessary to share your date of birth and address with potential employers? When in doubt, remember this: if you wouldn′t give this information to a stranger on the street — you probably don′t want to put it online for the world to see.

Photo credit: D70focus
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