Apply For a Job Online, Have Your Identity Stolen

identity theftTurns out, typos on a resume or getting the hiring manager's name wrong aren't the only things job seekers have to fret about when they apply for openings online. They also have to worry about being scammed.

Web savvy criminals are preying on uninformed and desperate job seekers to turn a quick buck and steal people's identity or credit, and even drain their bank accounts.

For example, take this unsuspecting job seeker who was hired via a Craigslist posting to transcribe MP3 files into Word documents for an "international company." It was a work-from-home, part-time job. The "employer" collected her name, address and social security number, claiming it was necessary for the IRS. She did two weeks' worth of work and sent them her invoice. They didn't pay her right away but did send more work. As a "new employee" she was reluctant to insist on getting paid right away.

After three unpaid invoices and six weeks on the job, she grew concerned and turned to a chat board forum to ask for advice on how to collect the money due to her. One of the people who responded was Susan P. Joyce, owner of Job-Hunt, an award winning employment portal. Joyce clued her in that hat she had probably fallen prey to a scam and may be the victim of identity theft.

Joyce says that there were several warning signs that the scammers were trying to steal her identity. They used a generic, untraceable email address (the company name turned out to be bogus). Also, there was no website for the company; the only search engine results for it were other job postings on Craigslist and other sites.

"Make it a habit to verify before you trust" says Joyce. "Check to make sure that the recruiter's email is coming from a company domain and not a general email account. Look for verifiable contact information on the posting and cross check this information via a search engine or a site such as Superpages.com. Check the company domain registration using tools such as DomainTools.com and note how long the domain name has been registered. Do not trust if the domain name is a couple of days to a couple of months old or if it is private which means that there is no employer contact information to verify."

Job boards are not the only way that scammers gather information on a job seeker's identity. Thieves also cull information from the online profiles that many job seekers use to build their network and source job leads. According to Jeremy Miller, identity theft expert and director of operations for Kroll Fraud Solutions, "what seem like small details about your personal life can amount to a big reward for identity thieves." He suggests that anyone using social networking sites be careful with the following information:

  • Your Name – Your name is the first and most recognizable part of your identity. When networking online, it's better to use your first name only – or better yet, use a nickname that your friends recognize or that you'd be comfortable being called by strangers. If both names must be used, leave out your middle initial. In some cases, individuals may consider altering the spelling of their name or leaving out letters. For example, a woman named 'Nancy' might opt to spell it "Nancee" or "Nanci" in the networking space.
  • Birthday – Your date of birth is a key element to confirm your identity. In combination with your name and Social Security number, identity thieves have full ability to open accounts, rent homes and gain employment while posing as you. It's best to omit this information entirely, but at the very least avoid including all parts of your date of birth. You can say March 5 without including your birth year, for example. But don't cancel out this protective measure by including your age in another section of your profile. If you do simple math will tell an identity thief all he needs to know.
  • Address – It's never advisable to include your full address in any online communication. To put it into perspective: you wouldn't hand over your home address to a stranger on the street, would you? For the purposes of online profiles, opt to include only your city and (if necessary) state. If you live in a large metropolitan area like New York City, this isn't going to tell anyone much. But if you live in a small town where there aren't plenty of other people with your name, it's better to leave the information off altogether.
  • Profile Photo – Surprisingly, your profile photo can reveal important information about your identity. For example, a business uniform might tell an attentive identity thief where you work, a key piece of information when it comes to verifying one's identity. Simple head shots avoid unnecessary risks.
  • Phone Number – It's best to not post this at all. A thief can easily obtain the corresponding address through a reverse directory on the Internet.
  • Friend Requests - If you receive a friend request from someone you don't know, it could be someone fishing for your personal information. One clue: These requests often come from people with barely any information in their profile. Or, after connecting with your they'll invite you to take a "fun quiz" that sprinkles in questions about your personal information.

Miller adds, "Keep in mind that even individuals who include just one or two of these features on their profiles are not completely out of the woods when it comes to identity theft." In a tactic known as synthetic identity theft, thieves piece together real components of different people's information to create one unique identity. That is, they'll take your date of birth and match it up with someone else's address or Social Security number to create a "synthetic identity." This type of fraud "may significantly impact victims later on in life," Miller says. And "Synthetic identity fraud is particularly hard to detect and even harder to fix."

If you are a job seeker, think before you post. When in doubt, Miller says, consider 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."

For more information on identity theft and job search scams, be sure to check out Joyce's Avoiding Job Search Scams Guide and the identity theft white papers from Kroll Fraud Solutions.


Barbara Safani

Barbara Safani

Editor

Barbara Safani, owner of Career Solvers, has over fifteen years of experience in career management, recruiting, executive coaching, and organizational development.

Barbara partners with both Fortune 100 companies and individuals to deliver targeted programs focusing on resume development, job search strategies, networking, interviewing, salary negotiation skills, and online identity management.

She is the author of Happy About My Resume: 50 Tips For Building a Better Document to Secure a Brighter Future and #JOBSEARCHtweet and her award-winning resumes are featured in dozens of career-related publications.

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Wakjob Dunfor

in't globalization grand? We never had any of these problems before we let corrupt 3rd world countries into the world economy. Not only have they driven down wages in the west making it harder to get a job, but they have also opened the entire world up to corrupt 3rd world culture. These people do not share our values. For example in China there is no prohibition against stealing and in India corruption, deception, fraud, theft, and bribes are part of daily life.

Welcome to the New Economy. You wanted it, you allowed it, now you have to live in it.

July 31 2011 at 8:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Trish

This whole internet thing on "downloading" resumes, and responding to email job notifications is creepy, to say the least. Most of the job sites will not let you "continue" unless you fill out every line they request.
I think we should go back to the Sunday paper job want ads with names and phone numbers of the Personnel Department....You know, like "normal" communication? Actually talk to the person who is fielding the job seekers calls and setting up appoointments if interested. Take a couple questions from inquiring employment seeker. There is no substitute for real communication, even if by telephone.. The internet is a cesspool of potential harm for those trying to gain employment and speak to a prospective employer.

May 09 2010 at 9:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Cindy

I never really thought about that because being long-term unemployed, an Identity theft professional would NOT benefit at all from "being me", ha, ha. It would waste their time, which would be good!

BUT.....I was thinking about this in another light. This could be Huge! (Maybe I should keep this to myself...hmmmm) OK, all possible beneficial ideas should be shared if we hope to get help too. It's true.. What goes around, comes around. Pay it Forward. Eventually we will reap a reward :)

If we found ways around it, perhaps with slightly mis-worded personal info, but 1 correct NEWLY MADE contact method and, this is VERY important, we are HONEST about WHY we did this, this could instantly prove to Employers that we are a person who can anticipate potential problems and are PROACTIVE by creating solutions before a problem happens. Instantly this could be a POSITIVE attribute.

Quality, forward-thinking, problem solving skills are MUST-HAVES in today's, job environment. Each open job has TONS of very qualified candidates applying, companies are still laying off people and are not lifting their hiring freezesm so we constantly grapple with "How do I stand out from the others?" Employers can, and do get the best. Ppeople who will improve their business, no matter which dept they are in. They don't have to settle for a candidate who has the minimum REQUIRED experience, like back in the mid to late 90's, when you could name your price. This unusual (but explained) situation could set you apart from the masses by GAINING THEIR ATTENTION...something we ALL are desperately trying to do!
Thank You AOL JOBS for posting this which allowed me to think about the effects. Now, the article could be called, "How to turn your Identity Theft written resume-profile, into a POSITIVE!

March 06 2010 at 4:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Cecil Jones

Identity theft is one of those "Faceless" crimes where nobody cries until "They" become a victim. Congress should pass a law making it punishable by death and strictly enforced. Why death? You assume the identity of another individual and you murder the individual you assume to be. There is no greater crime one can commit. Congress hasn't felt the sting because they are operating above the poverty line not forced to swim in this lawless sewer that needs to be regulated. If some of them lost their jobs and were forced to apply online? With a handshake, they become "Lobbyists." No resume required and they don't lose their healthcare.

March 06 2010 at 3:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
kevin

And one of the reasons is, there are too many unemployed people and the places dont want hundreds trapsing in asking if they are hiring so they went to the online way. Its easier for both, you dont have to waste time and gas looking for a job, and they dont have to waste time saying they arn't hiring.

Think about it, if a hundred people came into a place asking if the place was hiring theyd never get anything done. So the online way is way easier.

March 06 2010 at 1:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
kevin

Yep gotta be careful, but being unemployed every place i have physically gone to tell you to apply online. So I guess you just need to be careful of the site your on.

March 06 2010 at 1:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
dsherline

Where she got the job listing from should have been an major red flag. Craigs List. I bet she provided all of the requested information without having any human contact. I responded to two jobs listed on Craigs List, sending an e-mail saying that I needed more information before I could apply and I got the same thing from both. An automated response with links in them. Yeah, right, that's just what I'm going to do.

March 06 2010 at 10:18 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to dsherline's comment
Nora

I agree with the comments about not handing out information such as address, etc. Legitimate sites require this information. I have never had any legitimate site outside of the official government job site ask me for this information.

However, I have had these scammers contact me. The MP3 thing came in the form of an email -- I don't trust these. But I fell for another one that claimed to be a recruiter. They even "recommended" me for a job, hah! It turned out to be an advertising site that only marketed computers and online degrees. (I think it's also the source of some of the other questionable job emails I've received.)

The article is correct though -- go outside the links and find the site. If there is absolutely no contact information about location and job managers -- don't even go there. Check reviews of the job site/recruiter. There are always disgruntled people, but if the overwhelming review repeatedly mentions the word "scam", then there are problems.

March 06 2010 at 1:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
smittygirl50

Frances is right, if you don't fully fill out an application on line it will not let you submit it. I understand the reasoning of Susan Joyce's article but it's not realistic. I think people need to be more savvy when choosing who they apply with. Do some research if it's an unknown to you. I would never answer an add on line for any "work at home", "international" or "mystery shopper" postings, most of them are scams. Be diligent and best of luck to all who are searching, be safe.

March 06 2010 at 9:57 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Frances

Since most on-line job posting ask that you attach a resume when responding, how do you NOT give them your name, address, phone number. And, how are they going to contact you to call you about a potential position (except the back and forth e-mailing) without a phone number for contact???? I have been out of work for 6 months and seem to not be getting anywhere with the job hunting. Prior to this, the last time I had to actually go out and "look for a job" was in 1984 - and that took me a total of 3 days!!!! I am not real clear on how to do this internet job seeking (I'm computer literate and well-versed in internet use, its just the 'job-seeking' that is confusing and frustrating)

March 06 2010 at 9:34 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Frances's comment
Bonnie

The only way I will apply online is through the Companies website, of which I am applying, or legitimate job search site, such as "CalJobs, USAJobs," and etc. Those type of job search sites set up a system whereas you fill out resumes with them and your SS# does not appear. Any Company which has an online job application also has an address where you can drop off or send the completed application to them. If the company is a legitimate place of business it will have an address. That is the bottem line. Also all online applications will have a confirmation number that they recieved your application.

March 06 2010 at 6:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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