In applying for various jobs online, I've been asked to give out some personal information and never gave it a second thought.

Employers have asked for, and I've provided, my Social Security number, telephone number, and happily shared my resume with anyone who wanted to see it.

I'm starting to rethink some things after talking this week with a representative at TrustedID, a company that provides identity theft protection with proactive methods such as checking black market sites for stolen IDs of its customers.
At least I haven't fallen for a scam where a con artist poses as an employer who wants the job applicant to help test the company's wire transfer by accepting a company check, and then has money withdrawn from their account once the scammer has the person's bank account.

It seems like common sense to avoid such a scam, but people desperate for jobs follow through on the instructions, said Lyn Oakes, chief marketing officer at TrustedID.

"You never want to give anyone access to your bank account," Oakes said.

Con artists are out to get your personal information so they can ultimately get access to your money. They pose as businesses that are hiring and will ask for information that legitimate companies wouldn't ask for. A Social Security number is one thing they may ask for.

"Bells should go off in your head and you should just say no," Oakes said.

Here are some other tips Oakes suggested to avoid being scammed while looking for a job online:

  • Don't put even such personal information as your phone number on a resume. If an employer is serious about interviewing you, they can contact you via e-mail and you can provide a phone number later.
  • Create an e-mail account specifically for your job search.
  • Research if the hiring site is credible, such as with a secure lock at the top of the browser bar if it's asking for personal information.
  • Don't respond to promises to be paid in cash when you're hired.
  • Check the physical address of the person you're dealing with to ensure it's a real business.
  • If the company wants to do a background check on you, it should be contingent on a job offer.
Last year there were 9 million identify thefts in the United States, and the numbers will grow unless people protect themselves, Oakes said.

"Today ID theft is the number one crime in the U.S. and it's not going away," she said.

Aaron Crowe is an unemployed journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Read about his job search at www.AaronCrowe.net

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