Pitfalls for the Online Job Hunter

Today’s economy, so unrewarding for job hunters, is a boon to con artists. They have a larger and more desperate pool of potential victims than they have had in 20 years.

The Internet, awash with electronic résumés, is prime hunting ground for many job cons. Most employment services are reputable, and the Web can be a useful job search tool. But it pays to know the good guys from the bad guys and how to protect yourself from job scams, especially those online.

The worst crime employment or personnel agencies might commit is to entice you to their office with an ad for a promising but nonexistent job. Other businesses make grand promises–access to “unadvertised job opportunities” and jobs with six-figure salaries. But watch out! The bigger the bait, the higher the cost of the deception.

These firms mine the Internet for résumés and send out e-mails promising you a job-winning résumé, five qualified interviews within a week, and the job of your dreams–before the month is out. All yours for a small fee, paid up front. That can cost you from $2,000 to more than $3,000, plus additional fees for “elite” services. Unfortunately, no matter how much you pay, you might get nothing but flimsy grounds for a lawsuit.

How do you protect yourself? Say no when you hear unbelievable promises or the words, “upfront fee.” Or, make sure all verbal promises appear in the contract. Ask for references from satisfied clients. Check them out on the Internet with a search engine or at a consumer advocacy site.

Your online résumé can come in handy for other cons. A common come-on, which you also may see in your local classifieds, is the opportunity to “make thousands working from your home!” Again, to get started, you have to pay that up-front fee, for which you get either nothing or a money-losing spot in a pyramid scheme.

The most dangerous con of all is the ID attack. This time, the e-mail appears to come from an employer who has gotten your résumé off the Web and wants to interview you for a job. You may even get a detailed, and credible, description of the job; and no request for upfront money. Just complete a simple online pre-employment background check. By completing that form you give them personal information, such as your Social Security number and maybe even a credit union/bank account number. That’s all they need to take your identity and create fake credit cards, borrow money, and leave you broke–and still without a job.

How do you protect yourself? Once again, listen for extravagant promises and requests for money. When you post your résumé online, don’t include personal information such as your birth date or Social Security number, phone number, or address. Even better, use a Web site that provides you with an e-mail address, so you can make your résumé totally anonymous. Don’t agree to an online background check.

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