With job search rip-offs on the rise, how do you protect yourself?
Research is probably the biggest defense you have against getting scammed. Start with a simple Google search and find out if you’re pursuing a legitimate opportunity — or if other folks have been targeted with the same scam. Job postings with lots of errors, misspellings, and/or typos are often scams. Also, when you search on Google for a job posting, see if the identical ad comes up in numerous other cities. If it does, it may be a scam.
Act cautiously when receiving job offers that sound too good to be true. If you receive an email “out of the blue” with a job offer, investigate it thoroughly before responding, or simply delete it.
Sometimes, the scam can be quite elaborate — you may be asked to participate in several phone interviews, or complete a pre-employment test. However, being asked to jump through several hoops does not mean a job opportunity is legitimate.
If you are deliberate about investigating things that might be helpful to you in your job search — whether that’s working with someone to help you with your resume or LinkedIn profile, or you’re exploring work-at-home opportunities — doing your homework is vital.
For work-at-home opportunities, research is especially relevant because you can often find legitimate work-at-home opportunities listed online, and with a little homework, you can see that those are legitimate ones as opposed to a scam.
Having a plan is also a good defense. The more focused you are on your job goal, the less desperate you are. That may involve working with a career service professional to develop your plan, or maybe getting help from a resource in the community, like a workforce development office, or help from churches and community organizations that offer assistance, or even going back to your college or university’s career service office.
Having assistance in developing a plan is going to help you be more methodical about working that plan. Consequently, you’re going to be a lot less desperate and you won’t necessarily chase opportunities or respond to unsolicited opportunities. You’re more likely to be scammed by things that come into your e-mail inbox than things that you’re pursuing through, for example, networking or LinkedIn.
Mind the information you share on social media. Using sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn can be beneficial in your job search, but they can also make you the target of scammers. A lot of the information you put on social media related to your job search is public, and if you put out the word that you need a job fast, it will make you a bigger target. Again, use social media proactively as part of a targeted plan for pursuing the job that you want.
Avoiding being re-victimized. Sometimes scammers sell lists of people who have been scammed before. The second round of scammers offers to help you recover the money you’ve lost in the original scam. Instead, you’re re-victimized. Unfortunately, the kind of folks who are perpetuating these scams don’t care about people; the only care about money. So they’re going to take advantage in any way they can in terms of separating you from your money or, again, re-victimizing you if you’ve already been scammed once.
If you have been scammed, report the crime. Contact your local police and the Federal Trade Commission (www.ftc.gov/complaint). If you have provided access to your financial information (for example, providing your bank account information to facilitate direct deposit of your “paycheck”), contact your financial institution and ask for help in eliminating the scammer’s access to your account (which may include closing the affected account and setting up an alert on the new account). Keep a written log noting the names and phone numbers of everyone you’ve spoken to, and keep copies of all reports you file.
Manage your online presence to minimize opportunities for identity theft. Use passwords that contain letters, numbers, and symbols — and do not use the same password for multiple sites. If a scammer asks you to set up a username and password for accessing a company website, and you use the same password for your financial accounts online, they can access them without your knowledge.
Request your free annual credit report from the three national service providers (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax). Obtain yours through www.annualcreditreport.com. You can receive a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each credit reporting company, which allows you to spot possible identity theft. Some jobseekers choose to pull a report from one bureau every four months, so you receive all three reports for free in a calendar year. Checking your credit report is important as some companies will request access to your credit report as a condition of employment, so identifying and correcting errors is critical.
Place a fraud alert on your credit report if you have been victimized. This lets potential credit grantors know that you’ve been a victim of identity fraud. (You can remove the alert at any time.) Once you notify one of the national service providers, they will notify the other two companies. If you place a fraud alert, you are entitled to a copy of all of the information in your credit report at each of the three major credit reporting companies. You can also place a security freeze on your credit report, which prevents new credit applications from being issued.
Consider signing up for an ongoing credit monitoring service, which will provide you with email alerts if identity theft or fraud is suspected on your accounts. Some credit monitoring services also include identity theft insurance, which will reimburse you for time and money spent recovering your identity.
Being aware of the opportunities to be scammed in your job search will help you keep from being separated from your money. If you’re feeling desperate about your job search, don’t fall prey to a scam. Contact me today to talk about options for your job search and career documents.
- Job Search Scams: Work-at-home rip-offs
- Job Search Scams: Protect yourself from identity theft
- Job Search Scams: The bait-and-switch job offer
Image courtesy Stuart Miles via freedigitalphotos.net