Remind Job Seekers: Beware of Identity Theft

By Sharon Graham.

In the information age, job seekers have found many new and interesting ways to market themselves online and gain exposure to a worldwide job market. Our clients are able to e-mail resumes to countless recruiters and a myriad of potential employers with a few keystrokes. They can even post a personal profile and history into databases and Internet job boards for all to see. Our clients’ eagerness to jet a job, and the widespread use of the Internet, has created a new means for criminals to easily obtain and exploit our personal information.

In recent years, we have seen a marked rise in “Identity Theft”, where the criminal specifically targets and takes advantage of vulnerable individuals. Identity theft occurs when a criminal uses personal information to assume your client’s identity and steal from him or her. Using the individual’s good credit history, the criminal can then make credit card applications, open new bank accounts, establish phone service, take out loans, and write cheques in the stolen name. Your client is left emotionally and financially devastated. Worse still, a bad credit history will follow him or her around long after the huge mess is straightened out.

Three versions of identity theft scams specifically preying on job seekers seem to regularly appear:

The Fake Job Posting

Recently, we have seen a rise in the number of scams related to advertisements that offer fake job opportunities. These advertisements often promise extraordinarily high wages, specialized job training, guaranteed job placements, minimal skills required, multiple available positions, and/or employment outside the country.

Phoney job postings seem to be turning up everywhere including some well-reputed media and job search sites. Online career listing sites such as Monster.com have even begun warning its users of fake job postings targeting job seekers in order to steal their personal information.

When an unsuspecting job seeker responds to a fake ad, he or she will receive an e-mail from a person posing as a senior employee with a well-known company. The e-mail will imply that they are interested in the applicant and that a background check is required as part of the employment process. In order to increase his or her chances of getting the job, the targeted victim may unsuspectingly provide all kinds of personal information, including his social insurance number and bank account numbers. As a condition of being “set up” in the company’s system, the victim may even be asked for a password, which they innocently provide. Of course, it is very likely that the victim is using the same password for their credit cards, debit cards, and/or bank accounts, which the thief is now easily able to access.

The Resume Database Scam

With the inception of Internet job boards, applicants have a new means of depositing their resume in a “resume database” for recruiters and employers to retrieve and review.  As a result, job seekers are now posting their resumes online more than ever.

These sites offer the job seeker more exposure, but they also offer the criminal more opportunity. Any crook who is willing to pay a fee to a resume databank can have access to thousands of resumes. Some job boards even allow free access to resumes. Criminals can easily obtain full names, addresses, telephone numbers, and e-mail addresses. Using a victim’s own resume, an identity thief can take this information and assume that person’s identity. A person with criminal intent can even contact the victim directly and obtain further personal information.

The Traditional Hacker

We know that computer hackers are perpetually developing inventive and infuriating ways to gain access to private and confidential databases. It is important to note that any database holding personal information provided by a subscriber may potentially be the target of a hacker. When job seekers utilize the many Internet job search tools available to them on-line, as a condition, many of these sites may request personal information. Therefore, it is important for all job seekers to be diligent in ensuring that they only enter information that they would feel comfortable in disclosing to anyone out there.

Even though scams have been on the rise, the benefits of online job searching still outweighs the risks for most job seekers. Here are some tips that you can provide your client to help avoid Identity Theft.

  • If a prospective employer contacts you via e-mail, scrutinize their e-mail address. Be cautious of any e-mail address that does not include a company name in the domain section. Carefully review the correspondence and look for red flags such as spelling errors or poor grammar. If you are unsure, ask for the company name and the contact’s phone number, then promise to call back after confirming the identity of the person contacting you.
  • Beware any company representative that asks for your social insurance number, credit card, banking information, marital status, and/or driver’s license number, even if he or she says it is for a routine background check.
  • Be particularly vigilant with prospective employers outside North America. If offered a position, make absolutely sure that the address, phone numbers, and fax machines provided by the employer is listed and working. If you receive voice-mail, listen carefully to determine whether it seems legitimate.
  • If you want to post your resume online, include only information that is absolutely required. It is best to omit your personal contact information including address and phone number. Include an anonymous third-party e-mail address for potential employers to contact you.
  • When posting information to a databank, read the terms of access and usage agreements to determine how well each job board maintains your privacy. On many sites, it is possible to post a confidential resume and approve the employer prior to providing them with your contact details.
  • When checking into job posting sites, ensure that your information cannot be “spammed” onto other job boards. Some sites will take your resume and copy it to other without your permission. If this happens, your resume could end up on dozens of job boards that you do not even know about.
  • Make sure to perform an Internet search from time to time using a variety of search engines and look for your name, address, e-mail address, phone number, and social insurance number to see who has your information.
  • If you do not receive a credit card bill on time, follow up immediately with the creditor. Credit companies rarely forget to send the bill and this could be a sign that a thief has already obtained your credit card number, changed the billing address on your card and is using it now.
  • Once a year, order a copy of your credit report from a major Credit Bureau. Confirm that your credit history is correct, and review who is making enquiries about you.

If your client is a victim of Identity Theft, advise him or her to immediately contact the appropriate Credit Bureaus. In addition, your client should notify the police and keep a copy of your police report, as this will help demonstrate that he or she is or may be a victim of fraud. Advise your client to inform all applicable financial institutions and creditors of the situation. Your client should also cancel all existing credit cards, accounts, passwords and PINs, and replace them with new ones.

Following are some sites dealing with Identity Theft:

Better Business Bureau

http://www.bbb.org

Internet Fraud Complaint Centre (FBI and NW3C)

http://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx

Public Interest Advocacy Centre

Fighting for consumer rights

Equifax Canada

http://www.equifax.ca

Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner

http://www.ipc.on.ca

While the Internet has made access to personal information faster, it has also made the process of identity theft much easier for criminals. Online job boards are working harder than ever to meet the privacy and security demands that job seekers are insisting on, making it a little bit safer every day. The most important issue is that you must be diligent in ensuring that your client keeps personal information classified, to decrease your chances of becoming a victim of this fast-growing crime.

Thank you for reading my blog! Please email me if you spot any errors in this post.

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