Main image of article How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft During a Job Search

Developing a robust online presence that showcases your technical prowess, project expertise and thought leadership is no longer optional for tech pros hunting for a new job. Today, some 91 percent of employers use social media to find candidates, and nearly 80 percent of recruiters check candidates out online before they make contact. However, posting professional and personal information on the web can expose even security-savvy tech pros to identity theft, scams and résumé fraud. Here are some ways to protect yourself from criminals and identity thieves during a job search.

Provide Limited Information

Jessica Dillard no longer includes a street address on the résumés she creates for candidates, just their city and state. To make it harder for an identity thief to “connect the dots,” the professional résumé writer (and co-founder of Dillard & Associates) sometimes uses only the first letter of a candidate’s last name. She also recommends setting up an email address that is just for job hunting, as well as creating a separate list of user names, passwords, and PINs for filling out applications, taking online assessments, registering for coding challenges, and so on. “Separating your personal, professional and job-hunting email accounts and information make criminals' jobs more difficult,” she noted. Christian Lees, information security expert and CISO at InfoArmor, recommends that tech pros go by a professional pseudonym on networking and code-sharing sites. Using a “handle” not only helps safeguard your identity; it’s also a good way to promote your brand. You may want to consider adjusting your privacy settings to limit the information you share with recruiters on job boards and social networking sites. Just remember that you may get fewer inquiries if you make it harder to view comprehensive information about your background or qualifications.

Watch Out for Scams

Don’t be bashful about verifying the identity and credentials of recruiters and employers who reach out to you online or via email. Even if the posting seems legit, do your due diligence on the company, the hiring manager, and the position, warned Mark Pribish, VP & ID Theft Practice Leader for Merchants Information Solutions, Inc. “Even though online job search platforms try to weed out fake employers and fake jobs, they still show up on legitimate job search platforms,” he noted. Indeed, phishing scams are rampant, and the bad actors are very clever about getting naïve job hunters to apply for fake opportunities. In fact, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center has issued a PSA about the prevalence of phony job offers. To protect newbies from age-targeted scams, Dillard has started eliminating graduation dates or information that may give away a candidate’s age on résumés. Many fake postings use the name of a real company, so as a reminder, don’t share your social security or driver’s license number, date of birth, mother’s maiden name, references – or consent to a background investigation, credit check or direct deposit – with any recruiter or employer until you’ve interviewed and received a written offer. Also, don’t use open networks at coffee houses or other public places to fill out job applications, or apply through non-secure websites. Legitimate companies and recruiting agencies generally provide a secure site, and don’t ask for sensitive information right off the bat.

Remain Vigilant

Have you ever spotted a résumé or online profile that is exactly like yours? It's probably not a coincidence; it’s résumé fraud. Stop fraudsters from “lifting” your professional identity and work history by setting up a Google alert for some unique language or phrasing in your résumé, Dillard advised. You’ll be surprised at how often the exact same wording shows up on the Internet. Monitor your credit report at all three of the major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) to make sure that nobody has stolen your identity and opened accounts during your job search. You can also use myE-Verify to see where your information has been accessed by employers (and prevent unauthorized use of your social security number).