As sophisticated as the Internet has become, aspects of it are as dangerous as the Wild West. Billions of people world-wide use the web everyday for an infinite number of reasons, overwhelming law enforcement's ability to monitor it.
The Federal Trade Commission reported that in 2009 alone it received over 1.3 million different complaints of online fraud and identity theft. Since the web is a critical tool in the job hunting process, here are some simple things you can do to protect your identity and surf safe.
1. Keep Your Social Security Number Private
Every day, I see resumes and e-resumes that include personal data such as Social Security numbers, birth dates and drivers license numbers. Don't ever publish them on a resume - online or otherwise.
2. Avoid Applying Via Unsecured Websites
The proliferation of websites like Craigslist means anyone can post a job claiming to be a legitimate company, and the scammers can be convincing despite "scam alerts." If you find a job on a free and open site, use it as research and then apply on the company's official website instead.
3. Clean Up Your Social Media
If you use Facebook, MySpace, or other social media sites, double-check to ensure you are comfortable with each site's security settings. You may be offering up sensitive, personal family details without realizing it.
4. Maintain a Separate Email Address for Job Hunting
Many online services offer free email (such as Google's Gmail, for example.) You can create a separate account just for just your job searching purposes. And never include your birth date or year in your email address (such as Mary112169@whatever.com). They are looking for it.
5. Protect Your References
It's never a good idea to print your references' names and contact information on a resume, yet candidates still seem to do it from time to time. Placing that information online may invite scammers to victimize them, too.
6. Check Them Out
Are you considering applying to a company you have never heard of? Do some research! For example, JobsInMD.com maintains a free database of +siRegion+ companies. Or, run them through Google. Don't respond with personal details to a company that you can't confirm.
7. Beware of Phishing and Data Mining
Many scammers pose as an employer to get you to reveal sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and answers to security questions. Stop and think whenever you are asked for this type of information.
8. Protect Your Personal Computer
If you plan to spend time searching websites, then it is critical that your anti-spyware and virus protection software is up-to-date. It's worth the investment.
Now that you have an understanding of online safety, learn the basics of getting your resume online.