We all want to be someone else occasionally, but what happens when someone else wants to be you?
With so much of life happening online, we have all become more aware of the threat of identity theft. We’ve been schooled on the risks associated with online banking and shopping, and most people wouldn’t dream of sharing their credit card number or social security number on an unsecured site.
However, during a job search — a fast-paced time often fraught with a combination of excitement and anxiety — many of these safeguards go out the window.
Many job seekers are unaware of how much — and how often — they are putting themselves at risk for identity theft as they search for their next big break. It’s a growing problem, and job seekers must be aware of how to protect themselves and their identities as they navigate their online job searches.
Think about it: When was the last time you applied to a job advertised in the newspaper? It’s been a while, right? As the job search has moved almost exclusively to the Internet, the risk of identity theft has increased as well. If Yahoo!, Equifax, and eBay can suffer major hacks, a niche job board could be even more vulnerable.
We’ve compiled some tips to keep in mind as you search for your next job. These will help keep you — and your identity — safe from cyber predators.
1. Don’t Post Your Entire Resume Online
Both well-known job boards and super niche industry sites encourage job seekers to fill out detailed profiles. Without thinking about the consequences, many job seekers fill in all the blanks, posting their full resumes to public job boards in an effort to get noticed.
What many people fail to realize is that resumes contain sensitive data, like your email address, phone number, and home address — three bits of information that hackers love to collect. You’d never post this information on other publicly facing websites, so take care to remove it from any resume you plan to upload to a public job board.
Also keep in mind the most trustworthy websites should have password-protected areas that keep this information safe. In other words, reputable job boards like LinkedIn will serve as liaisons between you and a potential employer, allowing you to communicate with an interested hiring manager without having to share your private contact information.
2. Consider Applying Directly Through Employer Sites
See a job on LinkedIn or Indeed that looks interesting? Did you receive an email from a recruiter with an exciting opportunity? If so, head over to the company’s job board or the recruiting agency’s website and apply directly.
Why take the extra step? Identity thieves often set up fake websites that look like job boards for the specific purpose of collecting the personal information of unsuspecting job seekers. These types of scammers then use the information you provide to contact you about the “opportunity” to phish for more valuable information.
Sure, taking the extra step to head to a company’s job board instead of hitting the “Apply Now” button tacks time onto your job search, but it’s well worth the trouble. According to one study, identity fraud reached an all-time high in 2017, with 16.7 million Americans falling victim.
3. Be Smart About Security
More than simply create a password, reputable job sites will also ask you to provide responses to several security questions to verify your identity. Mark Burnett, author of the book Perfect Passwords, suggests that the ideal length for a password is 12-15 characters.
Some other password tips:
- Keep it quirky. Don’t use your birthday, or your pet’s name, or the name of a character on a popular television show. Pick something that no one would be likely to guess, like the name of your favorite specialty sandwich or the hotel you once stayed at in Nicaragua.
- Don’t use the same password across sites. This increases your chances of being hacked.
- Sprinkle your password with special characters, rather than just using them at the beginning or the end of the password.
By following these quick password tips, you should be able to drastically lower your chances of having a hacker break into any of your accounts.
4. Don’t Give Out Your Social Security Number
Job seekers can also fall victim to identity theft by giving their social security numbers out to phishers. If you are thinking, “I’d never do that!” — think again.
In one common employment scam, a job seeker applies for a job and is called or emailed for an interview. The scammers on the other end will ask the applicant to provide their social security number for a pre-interview background check.
If this happens to you, refuse. It is illegal to collect this information until after you’ve been offered a job. Employers with legitimate job offers will know that they cannot do even a preliminary background check until after they have interviewed you.
LiveCareer develops tools to help job seekers draft cover letters, prepare for interviews, and build targeted resumes via its resume builder and an extensive collection of resume templates.