One of my Denver clients recently called me with an unfortunate but common problem:
“I just got called by the police – they discovered an identity theft ring which had stolen my information from an online job application,” he said, totally despondent and heartbroken. “I guess I’m lucky because the cops caught them, but I still have to deal with cleaning up the mess they made…”
In the past year, identity thefts and other scams that target job seekers has seen a sharp increase. It is estimated that 50-70% of job ads on craigslist.com are fraudulent. Compared to a rate of approximately 30% in 2008, it is easy to see that the thieves are banking on the desperation of the job seekers.
Fortunately, you can easily protect yourself from such scams.
Protect Your Information
One of the common tricks is to direct job seekers to an online application. While many legitimate companies use online applications, or Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), look out for ones that require too much personal information.
If the application asks for any of this information, do NOT fill it in:
· Social Security number
· Birth Date (they should only ask if you are over 18)
· Bank account information (often disguised as trying to set up your direct deposit)
· Mother’s maiden name (often needed to establish credit)
· Previous names used
· Insistence on full salary history when you apply
If you are still interested in the job after running into these requests, call the company first. If their name is not listed on the website, definitely run the other way.
Private Resume Posting
Scammers are also contacting people who place their resumes online. Generally speaking, do NOT post your resume online unless you can do so in a completely private manner.
For example, when you load up your resume on Monster.com or CareerBuilder.com, you do have the option to list it as “Private.” This means that your resume will not show up in a general search of the data base – only jobs that you actually apply to will receive your information.
Recruiters pay money to search the data bases, which is also known as data mining. However, these jobs tend to be high-turnover jobs, such as 100% commission sales jobs. You won’t be missing many great opportunities by posting your resume privately.
A private setting not only protects you from thieves that pay to search resumes, it will also decrease the amount of spam job listings that are targeting you. Want to get rid of the pesky “opportunity to own an insurance franchise?” Only post your resume privately.
In cases like Craigslist that offers no privacy settings on resume posting, do not post your resume at all.
Don’t Accept Packages
A newer twist from scammers is the offer to help someone run their purchasing business. Usually coming from someone across the country or who “travels a lot,” the job sounds like a great way to make part time money. All you have to do is receive the packages and ship them forward.
The first few deals may work out. However, then as you “prove yourself” on the job, you get asked to make purchases on the employer’s behalf, with a promise to pay you back plus interest. Here the scam can run two ways: either you never get reimbursed, or else the employer asks for your banking information to send you money.
Anytime someone asks for banking info is a bad sign…
Legitimate professional shoppers or art dealers do not operate this way. They already have a network that they use for these services.
Work at Home
While there are many legitimate work-at-home opportunities, you do need to be careful. Here are some of the common work-at-home scams:
· You have to pay for training
· You have to buy materials to assemble items for resale (either you can’t sell the items, or the “employer” won’t pay you for the work performed
· Stuffing envelopes – there are machines that do this 10,000 times faster than you; why would they pay?
· Bogus direct deposit forms
If you are serious about a work-from-home opportunity, check out Flexjobs.com. While you do have to pay to see the full jobs listings, Flexjobs researches each and every job to make sure they are a legitimate offering from a real company.
Check Local Resources
Before you apply for any job, you should research the company. In particular, resources like Colorado’s Better Business Bureau, local Chambers of Commerce (including the internet Chambers of Commerce) and local news sources like the Denver Business Journal all carry information on local businesses. In the case of the Better Business Bureau, they have free information on most of the businesses, whether they are members or not. Seeing the number of complaints – or a lack of records – are all indications that a potential employer is not on the level.
Use Common Sense
While the job search may be driving you crazy, don’t let desperation override your common sense. If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.