If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

 How To Stop Identity Theft From Losing You New Jobs
Photo Credit: JD Hancock

Imagine that after applying for a job online, you suddenly get an enthusiastic response. A human resources manager from a top company is interested in your candidacy. Turns out you might be just the person they’re looking for. All they need from you now is some personal information for a routine background check to make sure you qualify.

Naturally you feel excited about the prospect of working with more interesting clients and earning a better salary. So, in hopes of securing a position, you provide them with your data without thinking too much into it. After all they are a reputable company working with important clients.

Or are they?

Unfortunately, job markets have been infiltrated by criminals who seek to exploit your trusting nature and collect your personal information with fake job ads. Identity theft is a common cybercrime and it can wreak havoc in your financial life or damage your personal reputation.

Luckily there are some warning signs to watch out for.

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If you don’t want to experience the stress of spending your whole afternoon canceling credit cards, setting up fraud alerts and nervously checking your account balances, then keep in mind the following tips to protect yourself from cybercrime and don’t let it affect your job search.

Pay attention… there's a quiz with a real scam to test your knowledge at the bottom of the article.

Free bonus: Download 366 Top Tips to Rock Your Job Search Every Day of 2020 for easy reference, where I've highlighted effective tips that job seekers tend to not know .

4 red flags that should raise suspicion

1) Poor language use

Common sense tells us that if something sounds too good to be true, it almost always is. Similarly, if something just seems too awkward to be real it’s also probably a fraud. Frequent spelling mistakes, poor grammar and strange sentence structures are usually a clear sign that the person who wrote the job posting is definitely not from the company they claim to represent.

2) Non-company domain names

Another red flag is raised when the “hiring” company uses someone else's website or domain name in their listings. For example,  when contact information in the job posting has a Gmail address. Why wouldn’t they use company email? A real human resources employee would never request communication via a private email address.

3) Requests for sensitive information

An application form that asks for a lot of sensitive information is yet another telltale sign that something isn't right. Requiring your bank account number, credit card number, your mother’s maiden name, or even a four-digit PIN code is almost certainly an overkill.

Stop and think about it for a moment.

People looking for a job are in need and tend to do anything if they think it’s going to help them get hired. Fraudsters are aware of this psychological weakness and expect you to forego your skepticism when your hopes get up. Ask yourself, why would they really need so much information up front? Does it even make sense?

If still in doubt, it doesn’t hurt to call the company to verify if the job posting is legitimate.

4) High sense of urgency

Fake job listings also create a sense of urgency because the job is supposed to start in a couple of weeks. And therefore they request that you should give out your sensitive information immediately. Sometimes it can be true that the company is in a hurry. But keep in mind that creating a sense of urgency is also an age old marketing technique to get us to take action more quickly. Don’t let your inherent fear of missing out stop you from thinking things through and doing your research.

Even if most job seekers would prefer to have companies seek them out than the other, usual way around, be more cautious when a recruiter contacts you out of the blue about a position you haven’t applied for.

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Especially if they ask for sensitive information, you should again call the company and check if that recruiter is indeed a company employee or representative. And safeguard your information until then, in particular your Social Security Number (SSN or other ID number, depending on your country).

Only give out your ID information to vetted contacts

In a way, your SSN is the key to your personal world. It’s your most important identity asset. A skilled hacker can use it to do significant financial damage such as hijacking your credit accounts, opening new ones, going on a shopping spree, obtaining illegal products and services and even commit all sorts of crimes while pretending to be you. In the worst case scenario, this could even put your life at risk.

If you must share it, only do it after verifying that the request is legitimate in the first place. While online job boards do what they can to remove fake postings you can never be 100% sure that they haven’t missed something. Ultimately, you are the gatekeeper of your personal information and the best way to protect yourself from identity thieves is to be skeptical and limit access to your sensitive data as best as you can.


How many of the above warning signs can you find in this real life employment scam letter below?

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Why you MUST notify companies of potential corporate identity theft

If you suspect a job scam, a quick google or Twitter search of the company's name might be enough to confirm or remove your fears.


But what if the fake job posting appears from a real company, including their logo, address, etc., while still showing some of the warning signs mentioned above?

A google search might only help build the phony ad's credibility if it's supposedly from a company you hadn't already heard of.

Your best option is to reach out to the company directly to get confirmation, but NOT with the contact information used in the ad. Rather, look for different contact information found online. If a job scammer can post fake ads, they can also create fake company websites with the same contact information used in the ads.

Avoiding applying to a scam would be a win for you, but there's an even better reason you should call companies about this: doing a company a favor upfront is a fantastic way to get yourself in the door.

Doing a company a favor upfront is a fantastic way to get yourself in the door 🚪Click To Tweet

Calling a company to ask about your resume will often get a standard response from a receptionist, but calling a company to say that someone may be stealing their corporate identity with a job application scam will be taken much more seriously.

That call is also more likely to get you through that reception gatekeeper to someone who can actually do something about the problem: an HR person who is aware of current company job openings, the exact person you would want to talk to there. They would know if the ad in question is fake, and if you explain how and why you found the ad, they just might be interested in you for a real job opening at the company.

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READ NEXT: 3 Reasons Job Search Spam Should Scare You

Another take on the job scam from the tweet in the quiz:

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Jacob Share

Job Search Expert, Professional Blogger, Creative Thinker, Community Builder with a sense of humor. I like to help people.

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Dan

    Great article about identity theft.

    I would like to add that I am one of those types of people who is naturally suspicious of a lot of things and have been able to spot a scam or two. I always check out details of anyone who contacts me with anything to sell that I have not requested, not necessarily just job opportunities.

    Here in the UK, I run a check on the phone number, their Companies House status and a credit report which details how financially sound their company is and also highlights the director details. This is a very good way of finding out who you are dealing with.

    1. Jacob Share

      Thanks for sharing your UK vetting process, Dan. Can you share the websites you use for it? These are free to use as well?

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