Job searching is already a frustrating process. Between the stress of unemployment and the sting of rejections, job hunting for any length of time can make you desperate. Unfortunately, that's exactly what identity thieves are counting on.
Many con artists are relying on a sophisticated new scam by trolling for job seekers on job boards like Monster or Indeed. They reach out to job seekers by pretending to represent a major company that has a supposed interest in the job seeker's credentials and/or experience. They claim they need a few more pieces of information to conduct a background check before hiring. They'll ask for personal information, such as a Social Security number. Then, they'll take you for everything you've got.
Or, they set up fake job postings on sites like Craigslist or LinkedIn and wait for job seekers to contact them. This practice provides them with a steady stream of desperate and vulnerable applicants. It also saves them the trouble of tracking down e-mail addresses, and makes the contact seem more legitimate.
These schemes work, like most other identity theft scams, by preying on people's hopes. You need this job offer to be true, so you are willing to rush into the "opportunity" without waiting, thinking, or researching. It only takes one slip to wipe out your savings and ruin your credit, which can also undermine your future job search efforts.
You can't give up your job search, and you wouldn't want to refuse a reasonable request from a legitimate employer. So what can you do to keep yourself safe from identity thieves when looking for work? Follow these pieces of advice, which you can remember using the acronym KISS:
1.) Know the hiring process. For most businesses, the hiring process includes job posting, interview, background check, job offer. Background checks cost money to run. No business is going to start running background checks on every potential applicant, and most will only do so as a component of a job offer. Before they've hired you, that's all they'd do with a Social Security number. Also, the company would need your signature to run a background check or fill out immigration paperwork. A legitimate business won't ask for your Social Security number out of the blue.
2.) Identify the poster. If a job offer comes from a major company, odds are good that it's not just on the job boards. It's also on their web page. Copy the text of the job description and paste it into a search engine. You should get results from several job boards as well as the company's website. You can use tools like who is to determine the ad's country of origin. This can help find hidden red flags. If the posting claims to be from a company that's located in the U.S., its domain registration should reflect that. If it's a company that's been in operation for years, its website registration shouldn't be from the last few weeks or months.
3.) Sanitize your online presence. Tools like Facebook and LinkedIn can help you in the job search process, but they can also help identity thieves. Remove unnecessary personal information like your hometown or your birthday from your social media profiles. This information can help identity thieves bluff their way past human security. As an added benefit, putting your date of birth on your resume may be a turnoff for employers. Age discrimination in employment is illegal, and employers can land in hot water if they ask you any questions that hint at trying to determine your age.
4.) Stay vigilant. Look for all the typical scam warning signs: unbelievable salaries, vague descriptions, misspellings, grammar errors, and unprofessional e-mail service providers. Someone offering you a job isn't that much different from someone offering you a large sum of money. You should be skeptical of everyone you don't know who contacts you wanting personal information. Take the time to do your due diligence in every instance. Don't let the pressures of the job search crumble your common sense. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.