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Job Search Scams & Personal Data Protection: Tips for Safe Job Search in 2023

job search scams

Overview

Job Search Scams & Personal Data Protection: Tips for Safe Job Search in 2023

Let’s talk about job search scams. Don’t feel like reading? Listen here!

Every company wants your personal information. Employment sites, social networks, and blogs wish to gather information from you—even if it’s just an email address—to sell to you. Everyone, even an unemployed job seeker, has something every company wants: private data. It’s time to treat it as a precious commodity.

Most career counselors, coaches, resume writers, or employment specialists who coach job seekers don’t help you notice the red flags when you’re approached. Most of us have offered our email addresses in exchange for information, savings alerts, or to make an online process easier.

Job Seekers Beware

You’ve heard of job phishing as one of the many attempts to get your personal information and money. You must be diligent about any invasion of your privacy that can affect your financial and employment decisions. 

Job seekers often seek help from career professionals after they apply for jobs on job portals. Many apply to dozens of jobs, while others submit applications to hundreds of employer portals. Whether you upload your resume on a job board or fill out an application, you’ve approved of them having your information. 

There are many job sites with the proper privacy seals, such as BBBonline (Better Business Bureau). You can trust these sites because they follow trust accreditation guidelines and display them on their websites. It’s optional by law; they’re not the only trustworthy sites.

Personal Data Is the New Currency

It is a fair exchange if the transaction is straightforward and the requester is upfront about how they will use the information. If they lack transparency about how they will use your email address or other information, then they may exchange it for money with someone else. 

From there, the possibilities are endless on how they can monetize your data.

It’s not just your bank account or email scammers want to hijack. Many of them are successful in hacking social media accounts, so you should secure your passwords. Your online reputation is at stake once an account is hacked and creates damage in multiple ways.

Your hacked account may be used to:

  • Sell products, ads, and services in unethical ways.
  • Bully and abuse people in your network.
  • Post fake jobs and lure people to phony job interviews and acceptance offers, all to get their data.
  • Take over your identity.

Scammers Are Master Marketers

Take a step back and look at the marketing around America’s favorite commercial sport: football. There are ads specifically targeting food, beer, and betting. The marketing targets the sports culture as well as the experience accompanying the event. 

Similarly, scammers—like marketers—use the timing of mass layoffs as a catalyst for scamming vulnerable professionals, both employed and unemployed.

Since employed workers are conscious of the unpredictability of layoffs that leaves them without a job and an upcoming paycheck, the news of layoffs may cause them to want a different job, often with better circumstances such as more money and the ability to work hybrid or remotely. 

The unemployed are also vulnerable because they need a job sooner rather than later. In both employed and unemployed instances, scammers sell the interview process as easy and seamless as long as you give the scammers what they want: access to your personal information

There are six marketing tools scammers successfully use to fool victims:

  • Job postings with attractive job descriptions that are too good to be true, with offers of “competitive salary,” unlimited PTO, and remote/hybrid options.
  • Fake “recruiters” often describe your credentials as perfect and what they are looking for in recruits. Unfortunately, LinkedIn has predators pretending to be credible recruiters but no gatekeepers.
  • Employer websites often lack substantive individual profiles, job descriptions, and vague offerings about their inception.
  • The employer’s site offers suspect testimonies because of their generalities, no company quarterly reports, and bare technology.
  • Scammers use cold emails or calls from an email list bought elsewhere: conferences, webinars, or other scammers.
  • Post fake job ads on social media and job sites as actual companies. They will use stock pictures, and duplicate other user accounts to direct message unsuspecting users. They also want to steal your identity to continue masquerading as a real person to steal other people’s identities.

Who Is Vulnerable to Getting Scammed?

Scammers masquerade as something close to the real thing, but when closely scrutinized, they are fake. With today’s technology and no real gatekeeper, it’s left up to us to determine whether a job posting or recruiter is real or not. 

job search privacy

While we all desire a more direct hiring and onboarding process, when it’s too easy, those are warning signs that something’s not right. You’re most vulnerable when you ignore the signs of being scammed. 

Law enforcement is very engaged in finding scammers. In 2018, Microsoft worked with law enforcement to find and take down a fake Microsoft call center. Can you imagine if Microsoft ignored the signs of a scam? However, the most vulnerable of professionals do ignore the signs in certain circumstances.

Consumer reports published an article three years ago offering hints about who gets scammed, which relates much to our discussion on job search scams and who is vulnerable. 

They list these traits that may make a person more vulnerable to getting scammed.

  • The path to least resistance. People who know time is running out to get a job hope someone will save them. Then someone comes along with an amazing opportunity with little to no hassle. The fake recruiter speaks sincerely, with fine-sounding rebuttals, and explains why you are missing out on this bargain. Since you’re frustrated with job interview rejection, you are ready to seize the most accessible opportunity instead of asking why this is the most effortless phone interview screen you’ve ever had. There’s a reason it sounds too good to be true.
  • You’re easily persuaded. Even smart and digital-savvy professionals were among those who fell for a great sales pitch—a well-written email or a compelling cold call stating how qualified their profile or resume appears. Instead of researching any claims made by a company, they’re convinced the scammer sounds convincing.
  • No security applications in place. A recent FBI podcast told of how a person called for help with a computer virus to the hackers who placed the virus on the caller’s computer. Fortunately, the caller hung up after hearing the fake representative giving them all the reasons to get help from them. Your security concerns should go beyond antivirus and malware software—which are excellent places to start, but you need more.

A few proactive steps to thwart scammers are asking the right questions and verifying information. Cutting off or denying communication is the best prevention for any attempt to invade your privacy.

    In the podcast, the caller avoided further engagement after the representative tried to convince him to use their services by hanging up the phone.
  • The appeal of taking risks. Many professionals who advance their careers in short increments are risk-takers. Passivity is not in their nature, and they don’t mind competition or something they can work hard at to succeed. While you’ve successfully conquered the good with the bad during your career, the discernment you applied with past risks is absent because a challenge intrigues you and leaves you vulnerable to fake opportunities.
  • Surviving a layoff or termination. Any job separation can be traumatizing, and there’s no preparation to ease the feeling of loss. Life can also take a toll and muddy our judgment, such as divorce, separation, a car accident, or the death of a family member. You want to show people you can bounce back, but scammers lack empathy.

Signs You’re Being Scammed for Your Personal Information

  • Request for too much personal information.  The caller is asking for social security and bank account numbers too fast, especially before interview questions about the job. More often than not, the caller is rushing you through the call. While it seems fitting to be polite, hanging up is better. 
  • The call is too scripted. The caller often sounds like they’re reading and sticking to a script without considering your concerns or questions. If you were to ask questions, you could feel the awkwardness in their answers. They don’t care what the “candidate” is going through. They want your money and data
  • Odd communication.  During a virtual interview, the interviewer turns off the camera or uses an avatar to conduct the rest of the meeting. While metaverse job interviews are the future where avatar use is expected, it is a strange way to begin a potential employee relationship. 
  • A sense of urgency to act now. The tenor of the call is to rush the candidate to make a decision. Most people expect hard job interview questions, but savvy candidates can detect when something is off, such as an off-the-cuff answer appearing acceptable without a follow-up question. For example, even while you’re answering relevant questions about your qualifications, the interview is more concerned with how you’ll pay for the shipment of your laptop. 

Tools to Help Protect Your Privacy

Every day websites are under attack to invade privacy and get money. They know they can use the information to steal and extort money from companies and individuals. It is up to each individual to make themselves aware of how scammers can attack. 

safe job search

Protecting your computer should be a priority—it is like having insurance and wearing a seat belt while driving. There are many free antivirus and internet protection software packages, but the most comprehensive are the paid versions

Below are a few tools to help educate yourself and remain safe online: 

  • The Better Business Bureau uses its BBB Scam Tracker to report the scams reported to them. Whether it’s jobs, credit, or pyramid schemes, they publicly list the current job search scams reported to them. 
  • If you work remotely or while on travel, consider using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to mask your laptop, phone, or tablet’s IP address from scammers who are trying to invade your computer’s stored information. CNET just published a list of their recommendations for VPNs
  • It’s never been as essential to have internet and antivirus software as now. Protecting your computer should be a priority if you want to protect private information. 
  • Consider using a specialized internet browser specifically to keep your Internet browsing private. 
  • AARP also has a scam tracker. While the audience of AARP is 50+, you may find their product helpful

Wrapping-Up Your Privacy

Since there is no federal law to regulate compliance against scammers, it is up to individuals to protect themselves. To date, Colorado is the only state proactively requiring companies to have a standard of compliance in handling consumer data. Each consumer, or internet user, will need to layer up in protection and make conscious decisions on how they appear online and distribute personal information. 

While there aren’t data privacy standards, the data privacy discussion will continue to last as long as predators are looking to capitalize on exploiting your data. 

Mark Dyson
Mark Dyson
Mark Anthony Dyson is a career writer, thinker, podcaster, and speaker in the careers and job search space. He has written for Glassdoor, Recruiter.com, Payscale, The Financial Diet, The Balance Careers, and more.

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