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Job Application IDENTITY THEFT

Never — I mean NEVER — type these into an online job application.

If you’re requested to provide them, one of two things is happening.

  1. The prospective employer doesn’t know what it’s doing, and it’s putting your identity at risk.
  2. That’s no prospective employer — it’s an identity thief.

“When you’re applying for jobs, remember that applications contain a lot of information about you,” wrote the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) in this blog. “Too often, the applications are just outdated, and no one ever bothered to update them.”

On job applications, never list:

  • Your Social Security Number. “Hopefully, you already know not to turn over your Social Security card or number during the application process, but that doesn’t mean that all employers know not to ask,” continued the ITRC. “Be prepared to hand it over once the job is yours, but don’t supply it during the initial phase.”
  • Your Date Of Birth. This should also be obvious. Your birth date is a common target for identity theft, used along with your SSN to open bank accounts, credit cards, loans and — yes — used by ID thieves to apply for jobs with YOUR credentials so they can avoid paying income taxes by sticking YOU with the tax bill.
  • Your Home Address. Although your home address is public information accessible through property records (or even an archaic phone book), you never want to post it on an unsecured online job application or even on your resume. That just makes it easier for a bad actor to know where you live and track your comings and goings.
  • Your REGULAR Email Address. You’re just begging for an uptick in spam or phishing scam emails if you use your common email address on an online job application. Instead, open a separate, dedicated email address for your job search. “Open a free, ‘clean’ email address that you can check for updates on your application,” said the ITRC. “This way, you’ll also know that you haven’t missed an email from a potential employer, as all of your applications will be linked to this one email address and only used for that purpose.”
  • Your Social Media Account Handles. The exception here is if your social media accounts are essential to the industry or job for which you’re applying. Otherwise, you’re just handing someone immediate access to your accounts to ‘clone’ your accounts and pose as you to scam others.
  • Your References. Listing your references on an online job application puts them at risk for spam or phishing scams. “Create a separate document that includes a list of people who have agreed to speak with prospective employers in support of your candidacy,” said Kim Isaacs, resume expert for

ID Watchdog from the credit bureau Equifax said these are the most common employment scams that start with a bogus online job application:

  • A scammer posts a fraudulent job listing online, or sends an unsolicited email posing as a recruiter encouraging the victim to apply for a position. The job opening may even use the name of a real business or government agency. The scammer, posing as the employer or recruiter, may ask for information from the victim, such as date of birth, address, or Social Security number, which could be used to open fraudulent bank accounts, take out loans, or obtain credit cards in the victim’s name.

  • The victim may sometimes even receive a fraudulent job offer without having an interview. After the victim believes they have been hired, the so-called employer may attempt to charge the victim for training or supplies, or they may ask for personal or financial information with the excuse that they need to run a credit check or set up a direct deposit.

  • The scam artist may offer to send money upfront to their victims through a signing bonus, initial paycheck, or funds to buy equipment. The victim is encouraged to cash a counterfeit check and then send a portion of the money to the bank account of a third-party vendor, which may actually be controlled by the scammer. By the time the counterfeit check is discovered, the victim may have already transferred their own money and may also be on the hook for cashing a fake check.

You must ALWAYS verify the job — and the job source — are REAL.

“Even if a job posting seems authentic, you may want to do your own research on the company, the hiring manager, and the position,” wrote ID Watchdog. “Remember that fraudulent employers and jobs may even appear on legitimate job websites.” You can also search the company or the listing on the Better Business Bureau’s ScamTracker.

ID Watchdog also recommends these safeguards:

  • Enable Privacy Settings on Job Search Websites – Some job search websites allow you to limit the information you share with employers and potential employers. Just keep in mind that enabling some privacy settings may also impact whether interested employers can easily find your resume.
  • Be Wary of Work-from-home or Secret Shopper Jobs – Consider taking extra precautions with work-from-home or secret shopper positions, or any job posting with a generic title such as administrative assistant or customer service rep. Scammers know that positions that don’t require special training or licensing may appeal to a wide range of applicants, which potentially gives them a wider audience of possible victims for their scam.
  • Watch Out For a Fast Hiring Process – You may be a qualified candidate for the job, but be cautious regarding any offer made without first having an interview. An actual company hiring for a real position will most likely want to speak with a candidate before hiring.
  • Beware of Public WiFi – You may want to avoid using open networks at coffee shops or other public places to fill out job applications, and think twice before applying for a job through non-secure websites. Websites that don’t use proper encryption can make you an easy target for thieves.
  • Don’t Send Money—or Accept Money – You may want to avoid sending or accepting money unless you are positive that the opportunity is legitimate. Accepting a check that you must cash before buying an item or returning some of the money is a common scam tactic.
  • Remember that Government Job Posts Are Free and Public – The U.S. federal government and the U.S. Postal Service do not charge for information about jobs or applications for jobs. Be wary of any offer that gives you special access or guarantees you a job in exchange for a fee. If you are asked to pay for the promise of a job, it’s likely a scam.
  • Get the Details in Writing – If you choose to engage with a recruiter, you may want to get a written contract for their services including the total cost, services provided by the recruiter, whether you or the employer are responsible for payment, and what happens if you do not find a job.
  • Check Your Credit – During your job search, consider monitoring your credit report at all three of the major credit reporting agencies to look for activity, like new accounts being opened in your name, which if unexpected could be a sign a potential identity theft.

I realize for some of you, the last 18 months have been hard. Perhaps the pandemic cost you your job. It’s been a struggle to find your way back into the marketplace.

But no one should be in a hurry to sacrifice their personal and financial identity online to a scammer posing as their next big career break. 

Copyright 2021 Wise ChoicesTM. All rights reserved.


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