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Staying Safe Online When Looking for a Job

The Internet and sharing of information make our lives easier every single day, but it also opens the door for serious security threats. This can be especially true if you’re looking for a job, especially while we’re still seeing the effects of COVID-19. Too many malicious parties are taking advantage of people during this sensitive time.

What are some common employment scams?

If you’re on the hunt for new employment, it is a good idea to be aware of common scams affecting job seekers. The COVID-19 pandemic in many cases has increased the number of these scams, with the top two being the following.

  1. Work-from-home: If somebody offers you a job promising a lot of money for little work, it is probably too good to be true. Any reputable company will never ask you to cover the cost of work-from-home supplies using your own money. Some companies will claim that they cover these costs and will then send a fraudulent check. If you cash it, it will typically bounce but the bank will ask you to cover the difference. In all these cases, it’s important to steer clear!
  2. Unemployment: COVID-19 has resulted in record levels of unemployment. Unfortunately, that means some people are taking advantage of systems that are at a breaking point. There is a current scam in which individuals are applying for unemployment benefits using someone else’s name. If you receive a paper notice in the mail from your local unemployment office, open it and verify the information. If you did not apply, immediately inform the unemployment office and your local law enforcement.

How can you protect yourself?

How can you keep yourself, and your data, protected while you are looking for a new job? Some tips and tricks are below.

  1. Do Your Research: check out the company name, website, and recruiter. If you’re looking at a website, look for the “lock” or secure icon in the top left of your browser near the URL. If it says “not secure”, it may be an illegitimate business.
  2. Keep Your Personal Information Private: details like your bank account, social security number, and other sensitive data should remain private. Don’t offer this information up too early in the process (it is often necessary only right before you start a job) and don’t share it via public, unsecured avenues.
  3. Check for Inconsistencies: are there typos in the company name or email addresses? Do they say one thing but ask you to do another? Do they switch how they’re contacting you many times during a single conversation? These are all red flags that you may be in a scam or fraud situation.
  4. Trust Your Gut: if something seems amiss, chances are it might be. There is no harm in asking for more information about the position or the person you are dealing with. Any reputable company will be happy to provide additional details.

What do you do if you have already been targeted?

There are several steps you should take to further protect your identity and personal information.

  1. Before you do anything else, it is best to take detailed screenshots and save any files from your interactions with the scammer. This will be important evidence to any law enforcement agency that investigates the issue.
  2. Then, you will want to report your compromised data to the appropriate service. For instance, call your bank and look into an identity protection program at https://www.identitytheft.gov/.
  3. Reach out to your local law enforcement and file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).

Each system, like Google, Facebook, and video conference software, also have ways to report if you have been the target of fraud. Below are some resources to help:

While the Internet has made so many aspects of our lives easier, it also creates new opportunities for criminals to carry out their terrible acts. Hopefully these tips, tricks, and information will help you protect yourself when you’re on the search for a new job.

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