You finally landed a great job. Whether you were a new graduate, or among the long-term unemployed or under-employed, you put yourself out there and made it happen. But let's say that you flipped a few stones on the job market that were best left unturned, and you got scammed somewhere along the way.
It's not an uncommon tale. Think of it this way: A scammer's job is more difficult these days with so many consumers on the lookout for unauthorized charges on their credit cards or an account they don't recognize on their credit report. It's much easier for a fraudster to tap into a time in everyone's life when they're much more willing to hand over buckets of information about themselves to perfect strangers without a second thought -- and a job hunt is that perfect identity theft storm.
Identity-related crime is a dead certainty these days, but if you properly manage the threat it doesn't have to kill you. And while the pitfalls are everywhere (and the path to a new job is no exception), there are a few rules of the road that might make for a safer journey.
Know Who You're Dealing With
We're accustomed to filling out a gaggle of forms in the job application process -- giving a potential employer your full name, date of birth, education background, address, phone number, email and your Social Security number. And even the most reputable employers will ask for this information -- so can you tell if you're identity is in safe hands? The first line of defense is making sure you know whom you're giving that data to.
Whether you are responding to a job posting or scouring job boards, use common sense. Is it likely that Coca-Cola will be advertising a national position on a local job board?
If you think you're safe on a major message board listing jobs for your specific industry, think again. Many message boards and job listing services don't check out the paid job listings they publish, so you really have no idea who is on the other end of the email receiving your resume, which contains a significant amount of personally identifiable information.
Call the company HR department to make sure the job is the real deal. If you don't want to make that call, spend some quality time online researching the company.
Not every company will have a review on a site like Glassdoor.com, but no reputable company will be without a digital presence of some kind. Make sure you check to confirm the company you're dealing with has one.
Avoid Easy Money
There is no such thing as easy money, but there's no dearth of "companies" out there offering it to unwitting job seekers. The basic rule: If a job seems too good to be true, it probably is. Do your research. You might want to cut and paste a few lines from the job listing and search for them online. A scam will pop up immediately. Some common job scams are listed online with examples of the offers.
Know the Anatomy of a Scam
No reputable company is going to rush you through the hiring process. If you find yourself being invited to an online interview, and somehow during the course of a 10-minute back-and-forth you're offered a job and asked to provide personal information to get everything set for your first day -- run. While scams never follow the rules, as long as you do, the odds of everything being as it should be are ever more in your favor. Always use this rule: Trust but verify.
The next stop-gap is truly common sense. If a company asks you for money to help you find a job, if they ask for your Social Security number before making an offer of employment (this includes companies that run a credit check before making a final offer) or you just get a funny feeling that something's not quite right: Assume the worst, but hope for the best and do your due diligence.
Keep an Eye on Your Identity
If you haven't been terribly diligent about checking your credit throughout your job search, it's actually a great time to get into the habit. At the very least, make time to pull your free annual credit reports from the three major credit reporting agencies to look for signs of fraud, like loans or credit cards you didn't apply for. Monitoring your credit score regularly (Credit.com shows you two free credit scores, updated monthly) can also tip you off to a big problem if you see a large, unexpected change in your scores. Being unemployed can take a huge toll on your finances; all the more reason to stop the bad guys before they make your life an even bigger hell.