Mar 242011

Guard Your Identity Info

Your behavior during a job hunt should follow the same safety guidelines against the identity theft as in any other situation. Beware of scams – they do exist and some of them pick on unemployed people and their eagerness to sell on the workforce market.  Most of us want to land a position ASAP, but sometimes it may be wise to obtain more information about your correspondent’s credibility before giving away all your numbers, addresses, references (respect their privacy!), accounts and particularly your social security number.  Here are two examples from my experience:

Example 1: I received a call from a “recruiter” who sounded very resolute, almost commanding, stating they recruit executives, and that a major company’s CEO would do a phone interview with me next week.  Meanwhile they needed to know how much I was making at my old job.  Once I gave them the amount (that’s not a secret since I was a public servant), they said that was below their range and quickly ended the conversation.   Ha!  What a business savvy company.  From this I concluded they either were an income research service using someone very proficient in social engineering, and possibly criminal experience, or someone who only wants to make huge commissions (the latter doesn’t make sense, as I was already at six figures).

Example 2: I receive a call from a “recruiter” at 7 p.m. Saturday evening (RED FLAG – they usually call during regular business hours) stating that they want me to show up for an interview on Thursday next week. When I ask about the position they are not able to give me more information (RED FLAG). They only give me the name of the agency and ask me to choose one of two preferred locations in Chicagoland. I choose one and they give me a single phone number to call if I get lost and need directions, but no email or other information (RED FLAG). A day before the interview I receive a phone call from the same person stating that my interview has been moved to the other location (RED FLAG).

When I looked up the phone numbers, the one they gave me for directions was in New Jersey, while my original caller was in California (RED FLAG). So come the interview day I look up the address on Google Maps and realize the business name doesn’t show. Oops, it could be a red flag, but it can also be a brand new office. Then I Google the exact address and office suite number and see that it’s “been around the block” because the search returns plenty different business entities at same address/suite (RED FLAG). Then I looked up the building owner at both locations and it turned to be the same business that temporarily rents offices to companies that need to look impressive, probably even by the day or maybe even by the hour (RED FLAG).  Then I call the number from which I was called and get the generic no-name voice mail (RED FLAG!) stating the mail box is full of messages and I can’t leave any more (RED FLAG).  I call the other number for directions and I get no answer and get the voice mail again (RED FLAG).  I leave a message, but don’t get a call back. (I managed to reach them later and asked questions when it was too late for the interview and I definitely wasn’t comfortable going there, so I asked them to reschedule until I do more research on their company).  At this moment I am at that stage, but I wanted to share this here, as everybody needs to carefully look into what’s really being offered instead of immediately accepting any amount of birds in the bushes.

I wouldn’t mind working for a startup company but I expect to be told upfront what I’m up against. Interviews for a no name job from an unknown company in an “office rented by the day” are a bit freaky and if these were the old times from few hundred years ago I’d be scared that someone was going to “Shangai” me (“volunteer” new sailors for ships sailing to orient).  Whenever you have a concern about something fishy, even if it’s just your intuition or just one bit looks like a red flag for a scam, pause, step back and don’t do it until you get more information. If it looks too good to be true, it is. Don’t give away your info eagerly. Ask for more facts and a web site (or why they don’t have it), an email address and an email message.  A lot of scams, phishing attempts and Nigerian money transfer schemes from a “big” or “successful” company are actually sent using gmail, yahoo, hotmail, and other free email services.  You’d expect that the big and successful company would have their own email servers and user email addresses at their own domain instead of,,,, etc.(just a few examples, but there are many more free email services).  This is always a huge red flag.  You can check the real sender of the email message if you look for more message details as the scammers, phishers and spammers will sometimes try to mask the email address with a deceptive name. Let’s say you receive a message that looks it’s coming from Microsoft Corporation. If you look into message details and see the first name to be “Microsoft” and “Corporation” as the last name, and if you look into details and discover that the address from which this was sent was from a cryptical user name at some totally unrelated domain (the part of the address that comes after the ‘@’ sign), don’t mess with it, but report it as spam.  If you’re not sure about the message origin or whether it is a known scam or spam, ask your computer techie friends, or you can even ask in forums online, as people often share these dangers with one another. Also, you can paste and Google several sentences from the email’s body – this is how I confirmed that an email job offer message I received recently was definitely a scam after suspecting why a big and growing international company is sending me a message using free gmail service without their domain name, all that about an offer that is too good to be true.  Here you can see another post with some samples of email scams I recently received.

Even though I’m unemployed, I don’t need to deal with messy recruiters.  In fact that’s one more reason to be very careful who I’m dealing with, as they may ruin my reputation in their sloppiness.  I’ve interviewed with a number of good recruiters out there and they are well informed and all compete on the same market and most see and list the same positions, so we should be more selective who we want to do business with. Experienced and trustworthy recruiters will always tell you what kind of position they have available for you. Expect no secrets and no I don’t knows, or if there is an I don’t know, their next sentence should be “I can ask the employer”.

A caller who’s trying to set up an interview but can’t give me more information about the position and the employer makes it look suspicious.  In addition, to me it looks like they’re secretive trying to drag me into their place to persuade me to jump into something with questionable or risky results requiring a considerable investment to start making “great money” after considerable time spent on paid training, license exam, hundreds of phone calls with no hot leads, and thousands of miles on my car. I’m a job candidate, not an investor. They must understand my concern and show willingness to answer my questions and provide more information when required.

When you get a phone call from someone who doesn’t sound credible, don’t hesitate to ask for more information and/or more time to do your research. I usually state my concern and reasons for it openly. If the recruiter or the employer who contacted me is a legit and reputable one, they will understand. Most smart employers would rather hire a security savvy employee (or manager) than a likely victim of social engineering, somebody who does anything for anybody without any questions. Just because they want to eliminate any risk before they hire you, you should eliminate any risk before you apply and agree to go for an interview, so ask your basic questions before you go there and see whether the answers are credible. If you get too many red flags, walk away.

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