Nearly 70 percent of all employers conduct criminal background checks on employees before extending a job offer, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. While most of these checks are legitimate and completed by companies who protect sensitive, personal information such as Social Security numbers, some are completed by imposters. Identity theft ranks as one of the UK’s fastest-growing crimes, according to CIFAS, a UK-based fraud database.
When criminals access personal information, whether through fake background checks or other unsavory schemes, they often use it to charge items in your name, ruining your credit and causing damage that sometimes takes years to undo. Fortunately, by following a few easy steps and using your intuition during your job hunt, you can avoid falling prey to identify theft perpetrators.
Investigate the Company Asking For Information
Some companies say they’re hiring but are actually fly-by-night operations designed to corral personal information from unsuspecting job candidates. If at any point during the process you feel prematurely pushed to provide your Social Security number or other sensitive data, back away.
The Internet provides a wonderful resource to conduct a background investigation of your own. Try Googling the company’s name, looking it up on Glassdoor.com or asking friends and family if they have heard of the organization. Chances are if the company is reputable, you’ll find information online to make you feel better.
Protecting yourself while on the hunt is crucial. But because looking for a job can feel like a full-time job in itself, you may not feel you have the time or energy to keep everything in order. Look into hiring a company that will protect your information. If money is tight, try to find deals based on your personal qualifications. For example, LifeLock offers VFW members a discount on their offerings.
Look for Inconsistencies
A company that exists only to steal information will give you clues well before the worst happens. Does the company representative who writes you use proper grammar? Poorly written communication could be a telltale sign of an identity theft criminal, and not a person looking to hire, according to NBC. Does he use an official sounding email host?
Most hiring organizations will use email addresses that match the URL of their website. For example, John Doe from Tax Accountants Inc. would likely have an email address that ends in @taxaccountants.com. Conversely, many scammers use untraceable email addresses with a confusing mix of letters and numbers or unprofessional handles, such as Joe123@gmail.com.
You also might try calling your prospective employer. An official office will have a professional sounding person answering the phone or a voice recording mentioning the company’s name. If these details are missing, it might mean something is fishy.
Avoid Giving Out Bank Account Information
This might seem like a no-brainer, but companies often ask for your bank account information under the guise of needing it for direct deposit. While this might be fine if you’re positive the company is real, it could be a waving red flag that you’re close to being an identity theft statistic in some cases.
Frequently, companies trying to steal your information will make it seem as if there’s a hurry to fill the position, and they need all your information right now. The rush is meant to get you excited about the opportunity and distract you from your normal careful ways. Don’t fall for the thieves. Keep your information close to your chest and your identity will stay safe.