Identity Theft: Information for Job Seekers

Unfortunately, in today’s technological world, prevention of identity theft is your best bet.  Once your personal information is out on the internet, it is very difficult to recover from the financial damage done.  If you have been a victim of identity theft, see our What To Do page.        

Check Privacy Policies

Before posting a resume to any database, take the time to look for and read the privacy policy of that site and query the site owner with any privacy concerns.  Be sure to look for specific privacy policy statements about resumes, registration information, and statements about how that information is used, stored, and shared.  If the site does not have a privacy policy posted, that should be a signal that you should be especially cautious about posting a resume there, if at all.

Protect Your Information Online

Most job sites offer semi-anonymous posting that lets you protect your contact information and email address when you post a resume.  This lets you decide who sees your real information.  Check the privacy settings of the website and also make sure the site is legitimate.  This is very important, but posting a resume privately will not be adequate protection from a data breach.  Employers aren’t the only ones looking at resumes on online database.   Criminals acting as recruiters can gain access to resume databases.  Even though privacy settings will help, data breaches have occurred at online job sites where thieves have wrongly accessed databases.  Additionally, once a resume is downloaded off of a website, it is out of your, and the database’s, control.  Once a scammer has your personal information, they can set up bank accounts in your name, and potentially access your accounts.

It is not a good idea to post a resume openly online, but if you decide to do so, protect your information by using disposable information.  Use an email address that you can cancel if you start getting spam, and don’t give out your full name, phone number, or home address.  Use a post office box, and do not give your street address to an employer until you have verified them fully.  Since cell phone numbers are usually unlisted, you should feel relatively safe listing your cell phone number on a resume.

Even if you post your resume privately, it is still a good idea to use "disposable" contact information that does not tie back to your street address or place of residence.  If a data breach occurs at an online job site, disposable contact information may help mitigate some of the potential risk, depending on the type of breach.

On your resume or cover letter, never include your date of birth, Social Security number, driver’s license number, bank account number, or credit card number.  Do not share this information with any company until you have met in person, interviewed with the employer, and been offered a position in writing.

Beware of Scams

Some job offers are scams. Here are some red flags:

  • Does the job ask you to scan your ID or drivers' license and submit it?
  • Does the job ask you to transfer money as part of your duties?
  • Does the job description mention e-Bay, Pay Pal, or Western Union money transfers?
  • Does the potential employer ask you for bank account numbers, or your Social Security number?

The vaguer the email “job” offer, the more likely it is a scam. Look out for:

  • Any email where someone promises to "help you find your dream job" .... but only after you have paid a fee.
  • Email from self-help gurus or entrepreneurs who promise to help you "fulfill your potential" ..... but only after you have paid to attend their expensive workshop.
  • Email from a recruiter who "has a great opportunity at a major company" ........ but can't seem to come up with a specific company name or a specific job.
  • Email claiming that they have a great opportunity for a "responsible financial manager" ...... but they want to interview you by phone only before hiring you.
  • Email from a person who wants you to "post your resume here" .... but doesn't tell you that they may be paid a small referral fee for getting you to do this.
  • Scammers may then use the information you provide to access your account or set up an account under your name.

While it's reasonable in the early stages of the hiring process for employers to ask you for information about your education, training and qualifications related to a prospective job, don't provide proprietary information until you're farther down the road and have conducted due diligence to review the company's background. 

Remember after you have posted your resume, it can be downloaded and used in ways you may never have imagined and may not like. 

Protect Your Social Security Number

Please, keep your Social Security number off of your resume, and be very cautious about emailing it to people who ask for it.  You should only give your number to an employer after you have fully validated it as a legitimate employer.  Beware of fake job offers, especially those for "work at home" offers.

The most common situation is the fake employer who obtains your resume, then asks you for your Social Security number or a scan of your driver's license saying a background check is needed before you can be hired.  Unless you have physically visited the place of employment or have fully validated the employer by checking with the Better Business Bureau and other agencies, then do not send your Social Security number, especially through email.

Protect Your References

If you post a resume online, leave off your references.  If you put your references’ names and phone numbers on your resume, you are disseminating their information in what can be a very public space without their consent.

Protect Your Educational Information

Consider removing your school information.  While you need an education section on your resume, anyone can call up your school and get what is called "directory information" without your consent.  This can include your name, date of birth, home address, and other vital information.  If you are a current college student, you can sign what is called a Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) form to stop your school from giving this information out to just anyone. (It can also apply to high school students—but parents must sign the forms).  If you have a FERPA form on file, only legitimate employers or law enforcement professionals or others with a legitimate interest should be able to access your information.  Usually school records offices will have FERPA information for you, or will know where to send you to find that information.

Deleting an Online Resume

Make sure the job site or resume site lets you delete your resume whenever you desire.  Also, look for information about how long a site says it will keep or store your resume.  This information can usually be found in the privacy policy or terms of use section.

Job and resume sites should state that they promise to let you delete your resume whenever you want, and will only keep your resume for a limited, specific amount of time, such as one to six months, after which the site will delete your resume.  Without specific, written statements about how long your resume may be kept, your resume can be archived for years, legally.

Other Tips

Be sure to keep a record of where you have posted your resume online.  Sometimes, you will not have an email record because you will have posted your resume into a form on a Web site.  Print all of these out when you post your resume, and keep copies.

These copies will help you to remember where you have posted, and will allow you to go back and follow up, or delete your resume from the sites where you have posted it after you have finished your job search.  And if you run into any problems on a site, the copies will allow you to prove what it is that you posted on the site.

Even if you have posted your resume on the site, check to make sure the company is legitimate.  Don't respond until you have double-checked that both the position and the company are legitimate.  Some scammers use real company names, but post fake jobs.  Scammers may also email you directly pretending to be a contact from a legitimate job site.  If you have a record of what jobs you have applied to, you will be tipped off that this is probably a scam.  Often, it is a job that seems too good to be true, such as a work-from-home job or a job in an exotic, far-away location.  Like the scammers on job search sites, they will ask you for personal information, such as your bank account or PayPal account number.

If you discover that you have been the victim of a job scam, it is very important that you take immediate steps to stop any further action.  There is a chance you may have unknowingly committed a crime.  For example, if you have transferred money that is stolen, you may have committed wire fraud. Because of this, you will need to take steps to file a police report and make restitution where appropriate.  Familiarize yourself with information on how to deal with the aftermath of a job scam.

Further Reading Protect Yourself