With the U.S. unemployment rate approaching double digits, it is not surprising that many Americans are prepared to do whatever it takes to gain employment. In fact, many job seekers resort to a “desperate times call for desperate measures” approach, loosening their data security practices by divulging personal information to recruiters, businesses, and job search sites alike in the hopes of increasing their chances of securing a job.
The bad news is that identity thieves are well aware of this increased vulnerability among job seekers and use it to their advantage. There are an increasing number of studies that show identity theft and personal data theft is on the rise. The good news is that understanding the risks before you begin your job search can not only help you avoid identity theft, it can make your job search more productive, too.
Below are some of the key factors that you should keep in mind to protect your personal information from fraud during the job search process:
- Remember: your resume is a hot commodity for a scammer. 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.
- 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 fraudulent 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 your 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.
Need any more encouragement? Consider this: according to the Federal Trade Commission’s 2006 Identity Theft Survey Report, 10 percent of all respondents who said they were victims of identity theft spent 55 hours or more resolving the problem. That’s precious time you can ill-afford when looking for work. Don’t waste it unnecessarily! For additional resources and links on the subject of identity theft and data breaches, see this list put together by Kroll Fraud Solutions.
Jeremy Miller, director of operations at Nashville-based Kroll Fraud Solutions, has unique frontline experience in the areas of identity theft discovery, investigation and restoration. At Kroll, Miller leads a team of licensed investigators specializing in cases of identity theft and fraud. These professionals support thousands of ID theft victims and potential victims, including individuals whose personal information has been inadvertently exposed through data breaches at businesses or organizations. On behalf of their clients, the investigators interface with law enforcement, credit bureaus and financial institutions to help remove personal information from circulation, address fraudulent activity and restore their clients’ names.