Job Applicants should be Careful about Online Identity Theft

by Krantcents · 38 comments

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Many identity thieves use bogus job applications as a means of gathering personal information from unwary job seekers.  Everyone needs a job.  Sometimes we even need two jobs.  Making a living in today’s economy is a real challenge for many people, so finding worthwhile employment is incredibly important. The last thing most of us think about when we are searching online for job opportunities is whether or not that application we are filling out could possibly be an identity theft scam. 

Most of us wouldn’t even consider that someone might be baiting us to give up our personal information for the purpose of stealing our identity.  The sad truth is that online identity theft happens every day, and one of the largest identity theft scams involves online job applications.

How to Identify Employment-Related Online Identity Theft

We’ve all heard that saying, “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.”  Well, that same saying applies to questionable job opportunities, as well.  Many times, online identity thieves will use tactics such as lucrative salaries and enticing benefits to lure unsuspecting people into giving out their most personal and valuable information.  Many times, these scams can be spotted by looking for a few tell-tale signs:

  • Unusually high salaries.  Employers are interested in hiring good workers at a fair wage.  What they aren’t interested in doing is spending good money on low-level jobs.  Offers which have a higher-than-normal salary may be an indication of an online identity theft scam.
  • Poor grammar and spelling.  Many online identity thieves are from foreign countries and do not have a great command of the English language.  Improper spelling and simple grammar mistakes are sure indications that something might be wrong.  Legitimate corporations hire professional web designers and content writers to ensure that their job portals are free of such errors.
  • Do they have a legitimate website?  Many of the scammers who are trying to steal your identity contact people directly through free email accounts that are not tied directly to a business.  The absence of a website is a very good indication of a bogus and fraudulent effort to gain your information.
  • Asking for social security numbers and bank account information.  No one should ever give out this information on a basic job application.  Professional human resources representatives will never request such information until after a job has been offered and accepted.
  • Offering jobs that don’t require an interview.  Even with online jobs, most employers will request either an in-person interview or a meeting online with a video conference call.
  • Requesting payment for their services.  While there are legitimate job services that request a fee for finding a job, the typical business that is looking to hire employees will never ask for an upfront fee.  Such requests are an excellent indication that the “employer” is after more than just information.

Take Steps to Prevent ID Theft

There are several things that you can do to prevent ID theft.  Don’t ever give out social security numbers, birthdates, driver’s license numbers, credit card numbers, or bank account information online.  Other things that can provide ID theft protection are only posting your resume onto reputable online job services.  Such job search organizations are themselves actively watching for illegal job scams and screen all employers to ensure that their businesses are legitimate.  The only purpose for a resume is to help the job seeker get an interview.  It may be prudent to leave off detailed employment histories and provide only the essential pieces of information that a real employer would be interested in.

One of the most valuable things you can do to find a good job and at the same time guard your identity is to do some research into the company itself.  Even if the business doesn’t have a website, it probably has a record with the local Better Business Bureau, local and state government taxation office, city business license office, or state attorney general’s office.  Doing a little research can do a lot to prevent ID theft.

Why It’s Important to Guard Your Identity

The benefits of basic ID theft protection are many.  People who steal your identity do more than take your name.  They can access your bank account, your social security benefits, state and federal tax and income reports, credit reports, employment records, educational records, military service records, and much, much more.  If you do not guard your identity, thieves may be able to take out credit cards and loans in your name, and then default on them.  This impacts your credit record, which, in turn, can impact your employment efforts, your ability to buy a car or a house, or to enroll in colleges and universities.  Even medical records can be accessed and corrupted by a thief using someone else’s identification.

Looking for a good job is stressful enough without having to worry about identity theft.  Taking a few extra moments to research a company, ask questions, and use care in completing online job applications will go a long way in efforts to prevent ID theft.

Amy Johnson is an active blogger who is fond of sharing interesting finance related articles to encourage people to manage and protect their finances. Follow her and learn how your credit score can affect your job acceptance.

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Matt Becker September 26, 2013 at 5:50 am

Interesting. I hadn’t heard of scammers using this tactic but it certainly makes sense. The “too good to be true” offer is definitely one to keep in mind. I remember apartment hunting on craigslist and seeing the amazing apartments listed for ridiculously low prices. It was always just a little enticing, but I knew that in the end I was just going to be running into a scammer.

Krantcents September 26, 2013 at 6:58 am

Scammers are everywhere, it is part of the technology revolution. Unfortunately, they are the new criminals.

Money Beagle September 26, 2013 at 7:14 am

When I’ve done online job searches, I’ve only gone through the very big sites (Monster, etc.) or directly to the company site where I am applying. Any obscure sites I tend to skip over, and it’s a good practice so that you stay secure.

Krantcents September 26, 2013 at 9:35 am

I think you always need to be wary! I avoid providing any real identification unless it is a really secure site.

Michelle September 26, 2013 at 7:54 am

There are a lot of these type of scams out there. When I was applying for jobs right after college I saw so many! It was scary.

Krantcents September 26, 2013 at 9:36 am

I think we are still at the beginning of using the internet for these kinds of things and security will have to ramp up.

Mr. Utopia @ Personal Finance Utopia September 26, 2013 at 8:08 am

When you are in a desperate job situation (needing one as soon as possible) I can see how you might be more prone to succumbing to such a scam. As with all things though, be on the lookout for your best interests and use your common sense. If it doesn’t pass the “smell test” then it’s likely not legit.

Krantcents September 26, 2013 at 9:38 am

In the past, I only used the internet as a supplement to my job search activities. I think it is still just an additional source for applicants.

Peter September 26, 2013 at 11:46 am

This is definitely first for me. It’s a brilliant idea for identity theft… never crossed my mind. Good information to know, thanks for the article.

Krantcents September 26, 2013 at 2:08 pm

You’re welcome. If you use the internet for anything, you certainly increased the opportunity for scammers.

Jon @ MoneySmartGuides September 27, 2013 at 5:25 am

I always make it a point to visit a job postings website. I never click in the link of the posting either. I go to google and search for it. The only personal information I give out is my name, email and phone numbers. I won’t give out anything else until I meet them at the place of business so I can be certain they are legit.

Krantcents September 27, 2013 at 6:52 am

Good! There is never a good reason for giving specific identification until they are willing to give you an offer.

John S @ Frugal Rules September 27, 2013 at 7:55 am

Like others, I’ve not heard of this before either but I guess it makes sense as there are scammers everywhere. I just think it goes to show you how careful you need to be with your information and not to give it out to everyone who asks.

Krantcents September 27, 2013 at 12:10 pm

I think it is easy to fall into the trap of a website when you think it is secure. In fact, ther eis no reason to reveal Social Security information until they give you an offer.

Bryce @ Save and Conquer September 27, 2013 at 7:43 pm

Good points. In these days of online work, it is difficult to know what’s real and what’s not. A perfect scenario for scams and identity theft. Best defense is to learn all you can about the prospective employer.

Krantcents September 27, 2013 at 7:47 pm

I used to avoid online job applications because it was too impersonal androbably key word scanned. I always tried to avoid the crowds! This is another reason to avoid them too

The College Investor September 28, 2013 at 1:03 pm

I would have never thought about identity theft when applying for a job. Important things to remember.

Krantcents September 28, 2013 at 1:08 pm

These kinds of scams are everywhere! I will not provide personal information unless I know the requesting individual.

One Cent at a Time September 29, 2013 at 8:45 am

One of my relatives once received a mail notifying him about winning lottery. He needed to send some of his details and and he did! to claim the prize. Sooner he realized his bank account balance has reduced to negative number. It was too late and fortunately he lost only a couple of grands.

It’s scary out there all are great tips to follow.

Krantcents September 29, 2013 at 9:00 am

Criminals have discovered technology and it has become easier to be a thief! I have become very cynical about these kinds of things that I just routinely delete these emails and never reveal personal information unless I have a real connection (relationship) with the company or individual. It is my form of defense!

Kim@Eyesonthedollar September 29, 2013 at 1:50 pm

That’s scary. I think having your identity stolen would make you feel incredibly violated.

Krantcents September 29, 2013 at 3:15 pm

I had a near miss once. Some one got a hold of my Social Security number, name and (a former) address. Luckily, the credit manager did a check on it and stopped it.

Untemplater September 29, 2013 at 11:11 pm

It’s unfortunate that these things can happen, but we have to be cautious nowadays. I get emails at work almost every other week warning us about scams.

Krantcents September 30, 2013 at 6:55 am

Criminals are now much more technology savy!

Holly@ClubThrifty September 30, 2013 at 5:55 am

That’s scary….but it makes sense! And, people looking for a job may be willing to give out more info than they would have otherwise.

Krantcents September 30, 2013 at 6:58 am

A good rule sof thumb is do not reveal any personal information, but you still need to give an address.

Jon Haver at Pay My Student Loans September 30, 2013 at 7:43 am

I have never encountered any scammers. But your post makes sense. I also in favor of not sharing any personal information unless I am applying through official site of a company. Thanks mate for the informative post.

Krantcents September 30, 2013 at 3:58 pm

I may be cynical, but I never give personal information unless I know the company or individual. Even then, I am careful.

Jon Maroni September 30, 2013 at 10:53 am

My wife and I were recent victims of identity theft, someone got access to our bank accounts and there was some fraudulent spending activity. Fortunately it was quickly corrected. I hadn’t ever thought that someone would scam people via a fake job posting but I can see how clever this is. It plays upon many peoples greatest need in this economic climate, to get gainful employment. Thanks for the warning, have you had any experience with someone who has been a victim of this type of identity theft?

Krantcents September 30, 2013 at 3:55 pm

I do not know anyone personally who was a victim. Criminals seem to ahead of the rest of us when it comes to technology. The internet is the new “wild west!”

Connie @ Savvy With Saving September 30, 2013 at 11:41 am

I knew someone in college who had put his social security number on his resume and had actually sent it out to a bunch of companies before he realized it was dumb. It’s unfortunate that things like identity theft happens but it does so it’s definitely important to be extra careful about your personal information.

Krantcents September 30, 2013 at 3:57 pm

It is real important to never allow a company to have too much personal information until you are actually offered the job. Not because of identity theft, but you do not want to expose yourself to frivolous searches.

SuburbanFinance September 30, 2013 at 8:53 pm

Wow. Believe it or not, I’d never thought of this – and I work in HR! Very, very scary.

Krantcents October 1, 2013 at 6:50 am

The criminals are ahead of us in technology!

Taylor Montgomery October 9, 2013 at 3:24 am

Identity theft occurs when someone obtains your personal information, such as your credit card data or Social Security number, to commit fraud or other crimes. The Federal Trade Commission estimates that 9 million Americans suffer identity theft annually. It sounds like a big number, but it isn’t.

Krantcents October 9, 2013 at 6:57 am

If you are applying for a job online, be careful not to reveal your Social Security number. If they want to do a background search, it should coincide with an offer and it is not done online.

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