If you’ve been in the market for a new job any time in the past few years, you’re likely aware that the internet has become a huge resource for both employers and prospective employees. Sites such as CareerBuilder.com, Monster.com, and Craigslist.org have become wildly popular as tools for job seekers to search listings, post resumes, and receive updates on openings in their field. However, like so many other well-intentioned aspects of the internet, job-seeking sites have become targets for internet scammers, according to a report released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
In their July 5 report, the FBI notes that much of the information sought by identity thieves, such as full names, addresses, phone numbers, and even social security numbers. The same people who work so diligently to block hackers from unearthing the same often unthinkingly post personal information such as this on an online resume. The resume can then be accessed by any “employer” who happens to register with the site, and the information can be used at will without the thief ever having contact with the poster.
Aside from stealing personal information from job seekers, scammers are using job search sites to pose as legitimate employers to extract information from victims or to “hire” them for jobs that turn out to be scams. In the first instance, victims are contacted, “hired, ” and then asked to provide their bank account information for purposes of direct deposit, after which their bank accounts are left open to the perpetrators. In a more complicated and currently popular method of fraud, victims are hired and sent packages, with instructions to reship the packages to overseas addresses. This seemingly simple job has been found to be part of an international reshipping scam, a way for criminals overseas to receive items purchased with stolen credit cards.
So what can you do to make sure you don’t involve yourself in such a scam or otherwise compromise your privacy? The following simple steps may help you to protect yourself:
1. Don’t include all of your personal information on your resume. This may seem like common sense, but a surprising number of people don’t think twice about doing so.
2. Never give account information or personal details to a potential employer online. These details include bank account or credit card information and information found on your ID cards or passports.
3. If a company asks you to pay a fee or otherwise transfer money to them, do not do it. Legitimate employers do not ask their employees to pay them.
4. If the job posting looks like it was written by a child or is otherwise fraught with spelling, grammar, and sentence structure errors, there is a possibility is it not legitimate. Don’t take the chance by answering an ad that looks unprofessional.
5. Do not forward, transfer, or “wire" money to an employer, or otherwise accept transfers that require you to give them your account number.
6. Do not transfer money and retain a portion for payment.
Other indicators of fraudulent job postings, according to the website Privacyrights.org, are:
1. Requests for personal information or for a scan of your ID to “verify identity. ”
2. A contact email address that is not from a primary domain. Be wary of any employer who uses a gmail, yahoo, or similar email address.
3. Words and phrases such as “Foreign Agent Agreement, " “package-forwarding, " “money transfers, " “wiring funds, " “eBay, " and “PayPal. "
If you should by chance become a victim of an online job scam, steps need to be taken to ensure you aren’t further exploited, or worse, labeled as an accomplice in a crime. Recommended steps to take include:
1. Close all bank accounts to which the scammers have access and consider changing banks altogether so that the scammers won’t be able to get your new account information.
2. Order credit reports and watch them for unusual activity. Consider placing fraud alerts on your credit reports if your Social Security number has been made available to anyone.
3. Contact your local Secret Service field agent to report any suspected international fraud, file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center, and file a police report with local law enforcement.
4. Report the company name, the job posting, and all contact names to the job sites where the scam was posted.
5. Delete all email accounts you used in connection with the job.
Remember, if a job sounds too good to be true or seems like a lot of money offered for very little work, it’s probably not on the up-and-up. Using common sense before replying to any job ad removes much of the risk associated with an online job search.