Job seeking in 2012 has more to do with sending email traffic than pounding pavement. Resumes, CV’s, application info, background data; the vast majority of it is sent through email. It allows us to view a large number of open listings and to get our information in front of a large number of employers in a relatively short amount of time. This convenience does not come without risk however, and there are some common behavioral pitfalls that modern job seekers should avoid in order to prevent being a victim of a job scam. Below are five steps you can take to ensure that your job seeking experience does not lead to a compromise of your personally identifying information (PII).
- NEVER send PII through email: PII means social security numbers, copies of your birth certificate or driver’s license, and banking/account or tax id numbers. This rule is ESPECIALLY true if you’ve never actually met the prospective employer face to face. If they ask you to fill out an application which requests this info, simply leave these spots blank and inform the employer you’re not comfortable giving that info yet. The key discerning factor here is timing. The proper time to supply an SSN or similar information is much further along in the hiring process. Once you’ve had one or more face-to-face interviews. At that time an employer may have a legitimate reason to request your SSN for background check and/or payment processing purposes. The important point is this is NOT information you send through an online or emailed position application ESPECIALLY if you’re unfamiliar with the employer.
- ALWAYS research the company you’re applying to: And not just because it’s a smart idea to know a little bit about the company before you meet for an interview. Have you ever heard of this prospective employer? Even if you have, does the website listed on the email take you to the same website that is more commonly associated with said employer? Running a quick Google search on the company you’re applying to will tell you a lot. First, this will tell you if they have a website (Instantly be suspicious of ANY company in 2012 that doesn’t have a web presence. Starting a website is incredibly cheap and incredibly useful. Ask yourself what logical reason could there be for NOT creating a webpage for your company). Next, if this is a commonly used scam (and often times it is), there will more than likely be message boards and other hits on your search that will let you know if there’s any chatter about other job seekers being scammed by this particular “employer.” Even if it is a legitimate business, doing a search will no doubt reveal consumer reviews, which will give insight into the company’s business practices.
- If the employer requires a background check, request a copy for yourself too: For most people, background checks are simply another administrative hurdle in the process of gaining employment. In the event that a bad background check (due to identity theft or any other reason) becomes the reason you are denied employment, under the FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act) the potential employee has the right under law to know who ran the background check, and what was found on it that caused adverse action (the employer to withdraw the offer of employment). At the time the potential employer requests to do a background check, the job seeker is given the choice if they want to receive a copy of the report. ALWAYS check yes. In the event that the report shows any reason to withdraw an offer of employment, you want all the information you can possibly have. If it’s identity theft, that information will give you an immediate road sign on where to start mitigating the issue.
- Beware of “Shipping” or “Payment Processing” positions that allow you to work entirely remotely/off-site: Usually these are scams. They almost always sound too good to be true. It usually involves someone seeking to have you cash a check for them, and offering to pay you a cut of the proceeds for your trouble. This is almost always an attempt to make you an accomplice to check fraud or money laundering scams. The idea that one can make a chunk of change simply for walking into your bank and cashing a check can prove very alluring, especially for a desperately unemployed job seeker. Ask yourself why they need YOU to cash a check for them? The answer is always the same: fraud. Most times the check will get marked by your bank as fraudulent a week or so later, and not only will you be on the hook for any funds that were withdrawn in the interim, you may also now be in legal trouble as you’ve just become the accomplice of a crime.Distribution scams are similar. They offer payment for receiving one package, re-packaging it, and shipping it off to someone else, usually in another country. Again, getting paid just for sending a package? Sounds too good to be true…because it is. Usually the package you’re receiving is stolen goods. The scammer needs YOU to reship it because it muddles the package’s origin, or because something within the package may be being shipped overseas illegally.
- Craigslist can be your best friend or worst enemy: Craigslist is one of the most common places job seekers go to find employment opportunities. The advantages are easy to discern; it’s free, widely used, and anyone can post there. This means potentially limitless exposure to employment opportunity, but it means something else too: exposure to false employment offers designed to scam you. Be especially concerned if it’s difficult to find contact information aside from an email address. Again, no website, no US phone number? Ask yourself why. If it’s a remote position, that doesn’t mean they should only be reachable via email.