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Many job seekers find themselves guilty of applying to every open job they run across without researching the company or checking if they are a direct fit for the job.  It can be tempting with the high rates of unemployment and stiff competition to try to land any job that comes your way, but you may be putting yourself at risk.

Job seekers, now more than ever, need to be aware of the rising number of job scams and fraud targeted towards them, especially as technology continues to influence the recruitment and application process.  And, applying to jobs en mass or without proper research could open applicants up to a bevy of fraudulent identity theft schemes.

Identity thieves have been targeting unsuspecting, naive, and desperate job seekers for years, but their tactics change with the times.  As a job seeker, it’s necessary to get smart about the companies you are applying to in order to make sure your personal information lands in the hands of a reputable firm and not a scammer.

The Better Business Bureau ranks job scams as seventh in their Top 10 Scams list of 2011 (check out their infographic to see their pick for top job scam to be aware of. )  Here are just a few of the job scam scenarios you should be aware of if you’re not already:

Work from Home Scam:  This is probably the longest running identity theft job scam.  It can include anything from medical billing, online survey taking, at home customer service, to mystery shopper gigs.  Now there are legitimate jobs like these out there, but for every legitimate online posting for home-based jobs, there are 60 scams out there.

Do your homework to see if it is a legitimate posting before you respond.  If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  If they ask for money up front, financial information, or strange requests such as shipping or receiving items from your home or transferring money, don’t fall prey and be their next victim–do your research.

Summer Job Scam: Students and recent graduates are the target for this common scam.  Get rich quick schemes and high wage for low experience promises lure job seekers to many of these postings.  But also be aware that the seasons may change, but this scam easily swaps summer jobs for seasonal help and holiday postings.  The Better Business Bureau does a great job of explaining what to look out for in their article Beware of Summer Job Scams.

Instant Message Scam: This scam occurs in a number of forms, but usually starts out with the job seeker applying to a fake posting where the scammer obtains your email address.  They then either reply asking you to add their human resource representative on an instant message service or will add you directly sending a request through the IM service.

The scam continues by asking for personal information as a part of the interview or asking the applicant to proceed through various tasks on the internet that can lead to identity theft, vicious malware attacks, and fraud.  Know who you are connecting with as technology becomes more advanced.  Use social media outlets like LinkedIn and Twitter to connect with businesses and verify a person is who they say they are.

Imposter Company Scam:  Speaking of verifying a person’s identity, another common job scam is for scammers to pose as a legitimate company but send  you to fake websites to apply or ask you to fill out credit reports or other forms with personal and financial information.

Check the job postings you are responding to.  If you’re in question, go straight to the company website to see if the job posting is listed and apply that way.  Never fill out any request for financial information or credit reports in order to get a job unless you have met with the company face to face and know it is a genuine position and the company can legally ask for this information.

For most companies it is illegal to make these requests in order to consider a candidate for the position unless it has direct influence on the job–such as a financial position handling money, and even this practice has become a less common occurrence since the recent economic recession.

Read more from the Better Business Bureau on Watch Out for Job Seeker Scams Stealing Business Names.

Fake Recruiter Scam:  Similar to the imposter company scam, thieves have become bolder in their approach to job seekers.  Some will  identify themselves over the phone as a recruiter and request personal and financial information or make requests for your to visit particular websites or complete a task on the company’s behalf prior to being able to be hired.

Some fake recruiters have become rather brave and brazen to solicit job seekers in-person and pretend to conduct on the spot interviews in order to solicit private information.  Consumer Reports in a recent article tells of a scammer in Columbus, Ohio who approached unsuspecting in a public library to conduct job interviews and made offers to the candidates in order to obtain information such as social security numbers and birth dates.

When the job seekers later when to the nearby company to report to work, they were alerted that the recruiter wasn’t associated with the organization and there were no positions.

Networking is a great way to find a new job, but be on the alert for job offers from strangers and if something doesn’t quite feel right, do your own investigating first.

If you ever feel pressured to apply for a job, there’s no written job description, you’re being asked for advance payments, the job promises high pay for little experience, or something just feels like a red flag, don’t be afraid to walk away.

Job scams will continue to become more sophisticated as technology and social media influence our lives and the recruitment process.  Be an aware job seeker and don’t fall prey to fraud or become a victim of a scam.

Companies must also step up and make sure they are representing themselves and their job openings so that candidates feel comfortable applying and ensure that candidate data is protected.

Have you as a job seeker or your company ever been the victim of a job scam?  What tips can you share with job seekers to stay alert?  What can a company do to improve their job postings/recruitment process so prospective applicants know it’s a legitimate opening?

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