If you're among the millions out of work and are responding to several job openings or posting your resume to job boards, beware of identity thieves who are just waiting to add to your misery by committing fraud in your name.
Desperate times call for desperate measures. And if you're jobless, you may be so desperate for a new job that you ignore your better judgment and submit an online application that asks for your Social Security number, driver's license number, or other data that can be used to track down even more of your personal information.
Here's a word of advice: Don't give it out, unless you want to put yourself at risk for identity theft.
"Identity thieves are taking advantage of these uncertain economic times to scam job seekers and gather personal identifying information," the nonprofit Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) announced in a recent statement.
How Identity Thieves Work
What can identity thieves do with your information? Here are three common schemes:
- Credit cards: They use your personal data to open a credit card account, racking up perhaps thousands of dollars in charges, which go unpaid and ruin your credit record.
- Banking: They open a bank account in your name, write counterfeit checks, or clone your debit or ATM cards to make withdrawals from your account.
- Government fraud: Using your driver's license or Social Security number, they register for government benefits, such as a Social Security pension.
How to Protect Yourself
- Don't give out your Social Security number. Never put the number on your resume or a job application, either online or on paper. Let prospective employers ask for it after they have interviewed you and are seriously considering you for the job, the ITRC suggests. The ITRC especially warns of scams in which someone notifies you that you're a finalist for a job and needs your Social Security number to do a background check. If you have not had a face-to-face interview with the company, offer to call them back later when you have more time to talk. This will allow you to research the phone number and company to make sure they're legit.
- Don't submit personal information such as age, birth date, marital status, and graduation dates. Employers cannot legally ask you for personal data, and including it on your resume can help an identity thief get even more information for fraudulent activities.
- Don't pre-register for anything on the web using sensitive information. Avoid any web site that requires you to "pre-register" with your Social Security number, home address, or driver's license number. The ITRC also warns that you should not have to pay to view job listings. Requirements such as these are strong indicators of a scam.
- Watch your bank and credit card statements. The first line of prevention is to consistently monitor your bank and credit card statements, and check your credit report regularly. If an identity thief is opening credit accounts in your name, these accounts will likely show up on your credit report. To find out, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) suggests you order a copy of your credit reports from the three major nationwide consumer reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union). By law, they must provide you with a free copy of your report once a year, at your request.
Need to know more about identity theft? Play this online game on the FTC site. The six true-or-false questions provide valuable information on what you should do if you believe you're a victim.
Which precaution do you believe is most important for job seekers in preventing identity theft?
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