Protect your Privacy while Job Hunting Online

If you are a recent graduate who is currently unemployed, chances are you’re using technology to help you with your search. While older, traditional job search methods such as inquiring about open positions in person have been replaced with online newspaper classifieds and job listing sites such as CareerBuilder and Monster (and despite the fact that these newer method have simplified the way a job seeker can go about finding employment) the truth is that job hunters can quickly fall victims to the many threats that await for them in the online world such as identity theft. To make sure that you don’t get duped by a fraudulent online job posting or that you accidentally expose sensitive information during your online job search, make sure to follow these few simple tips below.

Do Not Put Sensitive Information on Resumes/Cover letter. While you want your cover letter and resume to reflect you in the best light—after all these two documents are the items that help you score an interview—you do not want to irresponsibly put down information that can be used for criminal actions if put into the wrong set of hands. For example, some hackers and identity thieves go as far as rummaging through garbage (both traditional and cyber) in the hopes of finding improperly disposed resumes and cover letters that give them easy access to all of your info. So never include sensitive information like your social security number, driver’s license number, your sex, age or marital status on any of the forms when initially applying or inquiring about a position. You should even be careful about including your Alma Mater—some really advanced hackers will fill in the necessary blanks by simply looking you up in school directories. And since by law employers can’t even hire you on the items mentioned above anyway there is no real need to include it, unless of course you think earning a degree from your particular school will give you a competitive edge.

Additional Tip: If an online job application asks for something like you social security number, simply state that you will provide the information during the background check stage. Remember that there are no such things as a “preliminary background check,” meaning they cannot scan for one until after you’ve been interviewed.

Do Not Fall for Fraudulent Job Postings. While there is tons of legitimate employment opportunities posted online, there are even more fake ones. Yes, these criminals go as far as creating lucrative sounding job openings so that can prey on the vulnerable unemployed community to get all sorts of information from them, including social security numbers and even bank account numbers. First things first, always remember that you cannot be hired without having an interview. While yes if you are applying to work overseas a phone interview or video-chat interview may suffice, but if all you did was simply submit an application/resume and the employer contacts you via email or phone already offering you the job, you should proceed with extreme caution, especially if the employers next line is, “what’s your social security number so we can do a background check?” or “we need your bank account information.” The only time a company needs your bank account info is to set up direct deposit, but even then you still need to have an in-person interview to get the job. That said, to avoid responding to fraudulent job postings all together make sure to pay attention to the following details:

  • The company’s web site: It should look professional, contain some of the company’s history as well as and contain all of the important contact information, including the corporate office. If you cannot easily find the company’s site using a search engine, it may just be because the company you are applying for does not really exist. If a web site does exist but you are still on the fence about whether the person who contacted you is a con artist or not, don’t hesitate to attempt to contact the company’s HR department and verify their identity.
  • Email: Legitimate companies will not have you submit applications from personal email addresses such as Instead, the domains will look like this:
  • Lastly, never ever will you have to submit checks or money orders to apply for a job. Most work-at-home scams will do this. For a full list of typical work-at-home scams and how to avoid them, click here.

This guest contribution was submitted by Lenore Holditch, who specializes in writing about top online colleges. Questions and comments can be sent to:

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