Articles and Advice

 Staying Safe Online

By Joe Stein

We have become used to security issues with many aspects of modern technology. For example, we have become accustomed, each holiday season to read about some major retailer(s) who have fallen victim to a data breach, leaving all of its shoppers to wonder if they have been impacted.  This has caused many of us to watch our payment card at all times, or to always use a credit card that offers us fraud protection. Similarly, most of us know that visiting certain websites or working without virus protection online is very risky.
 
One area, however, that people will often underestimate the risk is when seeking employment. A growing concern is the danger associated with applying for positions, especially when using a site such as Craigslist. There are a number of general posting sites that have employment listings (or at least we think they are), but these can bring considerable, potential risk. The primary issue is with “bogus” ads or, more specifically, advertisements that are placed for positions that do not actually exist. Unfortunately, some of these “scammers” are pretty sophisticated, going so far as posting the position as if they are an existing company that you would easily recognize.
 
The news headlines have recently had a number of instances of internet employment fraud. For example, in mid-January, a woman in Nassau County, NY was jailed when she stole $500k by placing phony employment ads and rental listings on Craigslist. She used the information obtained to assume the victims’ identities in order to file for NY State tax refunds. In something more local, an area financial institution recently discovered that their company name and a job description were being used for illegitimate employment advertising on Craigslist. Job Seekers were being directed to respond to a Yahoo e-mail account that was not associated with any of their recruiters.
 
The difference between our website (WNYJOBS.com) and many others is that we are a paid site (by employers) that works directly with a company contact to place advertising. During the interaction with the company contact, WNYJOBS.com has the ability to screen and verify that the advertising is legitimate and local, since most fraudulent employment ads originate out of state or even outside the country.
 
How can you protect yourself?
 
·         Use Actual Employment Websites – As noted above, there is a reason why there are employment websites such as WNYJOBS.com. They provide a service to both the employer and the applicant that other sites don’t offer. While nothing is guaranteed, by using dedicated employment websites you greatly protect yourself.
 
·         Don’t Provide Personal Information– It is impossible to apply for a position and not provide certain information, such as your name, address, and phone number. There is, however, certain information you should not be asked at application time. If you are asked for information such as date of birth (other than if you are over 18) or S.S. number (some employers have archaic applications that ask for it, but those are the exceptions). I had a situation awhile back where I was asked in the application for all of my driver’s license information. This was extremely odd, since it was a non-driving position. Ultimately, although the position appeared on the surface to be legitimate, I decided not to submit the electronic application due to the risk.
 
·         Don’t Pay to Apply – Legitimate employers do not require payment for you to apply, to be background checked/drug screened, or even to be hired. If you are asked for any type of payment, then be extremely wary regarding the request.
 
·         Verify – If you are concerned about a posting, you can always try to verify it prior to applying. You can do this in a number of ways - check to see if it is posted elsewhere (in particular, the company website), check to see if other positions with the same contact information have been posted, or call the employer to make sure it is for their open position.
 
·         Use Common Sense – It is the most widely used skill that we most often overlook. If something seems odd, or too good to be true, then it probably is and you should not apply for the position. 
 
It seems particularly heinous for a criminal to pry upon job seekers, particularly when it comes to the unemployed, since they especially need every dollar they possess. To a thief, however, a job seeker may make the easiest target. This is because our need for a new job may make us vulnerable to any promise that may lead to the position we are seeking.
 
Online thievery is becoming more common than ever. Protect yourself by focusing on the safety tips above. By focusing on employment websites and using your common sense, you can finish your job search with a new position and not your identify stolen.
 
As always, best of luck in your job search!