Feature Article
Mark Pribish
How to Protect Yourself from ID Theft and Job Search Scams
By Mark Pribish
Vice President and ID Theft Practice Leader

Just two months ago (in my March 2011 ID Theft article), I reported on how "imposter scams" by ID Theft criminals pretend to act as family, friends, businesses, charities, or government agencies, in an attempt to defraud consumers.

I also wrote on how this imposter category made it into the top 10 of the March 2011 Federal Trade Commission (FTC) annual Consumer Sentinel Network (CSN) report reflecting ID Theft and Fraud statistics from 2010 (http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2011/03/topcomplaints.shtm).

Just this morning, I received a telephone call from a business network contact (for the sake of privacy I will call him John) who is in the process of a new career search. John called to inform me that he accepted a new U.S. based position with a Maritime Shipping Company, whose corporate offices are in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Since the company identified and contacted him through Monster.com, he believed the opportunity was qualified and legitimate.

However, while John researched and completed due diligence on the company including a website search prior to accepting this new position, he soon learned that this opportunity was a job scam. Fortunately for John, he did not share any Personally Identifiable Information (PII) like his social security, driver's license or bank account numbers.

Whether the Maritime shipping company is a fraudulent company, or is being used by ID Theft criminals without their knowledge, there is an important lesson here – and that is how on-line job searches have created a new risk for job seekers and a new opportunity for ID Theft criminals.

With all the headline news of identity theft and data breach events over the last several years, most of us know by now not to share personal information over the phone or on-line – as most legitimate organizations will not call or email you requesting this information.

While it is virtually impossible to eliminate the chance of ever becoming a victim of identity theft or a job scam when completing an on-line job search – I have listed below some warning signs that may be helpful including:

  • Ask the prospective employer for its contact information, corporate history and names of its leadership team before responding to a request for personal information.
  • Search engine a prospective employer's company information to verify years in business, names of business or individual clients, and history of business or consumer complaints.
  • Search engine the name of the individual contacting you – as most legitimate human resource and business executives will have some type of on-line and website exposure.
  • Take caution when a request is made to complete a background check early on and until you have been offered the job in writing – as most organizations (except a government agency like law enforcement) will not want to pay for the cost of a background check if they do not yet know that you are a qualified candidate.
  • Never provide your social security, driver's, passport, or bank account information, until you know for sure that you are dealing with a legitimate business and that said business really has an open position.
  • Carefully review career websites and business websites ranging from privacy policies to the credibility and legitimacy of each individual business.
  • Potential red flags for job scams can range from good pay with little responsibility to being asked to spend personal money for business equipment to opening a new bank account to test a wire transfer service.

What to do if you've been a victim of identity theft or a job scam:

  • Please see the attached March 2011 FTC Consumer Alert on spotting an imposter and how many ID Theft criminals and scam artists (http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt111.shtm) use the names of government agencies like the FTC, trusted companies, or friends and family to steal personal information and money from unsuspecting individuals like you and me.
  • You can contact the FTC which established an Identity Theft Toll-Free Hotline, 1.877.IDTHEFT (1.877.438.4338) and an ID Theft Website (www.consumer.gov/idtheft) to file a complaint and to educate identity theft victims.
  • You can file a police report with local law enforcement and file a complaint with your state's Attorney General Office.

To learn more about these threats and how to protect yourself and your family from Identity Theft, you can read my past newsletters at the Merchants Identity Theft Educational Website at www.idtheftedu.com.


Scam Central

RFID Enabled Cards Are Airing Your Private Information

It has been around a decade since someone came up with the brilliant idea of storing information on a microchip which acts as a transmitter, with another device acting as a receiver to pick up the information and aid in some sort of transaction. Sort of like a wireless barcode scanner if you will. Typical broadcasting ranges are as minimal as a few inches to exchange information. These transactions range from a simple inventory check at a hardware store to scanning passports at airports. A simple wave of the chip-enabled device in front of a receiver provides the receiver all the information it needed to complete the transaction.

It didn't take long for the convenience of such devices to become evident, and now all kinds of products are equipped with a Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) chip embedded. However, without knowing it, your wallet or purse is more than likely already broadcasting your valuable information to any listening device that comes within range. Clever identity theft thieves didn't take long to figure out how to steal your broadcasting chips information without you knowing.

How It Works:

Concealing a receiving device in what looks like a notebook, binder, or even their pocket, an identity thief can simply walk next to you and without touching you, wave this device near your purse or wallet and grab the information stored on any device with an RFID enabled chip you are carrying. Some of the information received may include credit or debit card types and numbers as well as expiration dates. In addition, if you happen to be carrying a new passport, you may be giving away your birthdate, social security number, address, and other personal data. This is all the information an identity thief needs to create a fake card and rack up a large amount of debt, leaving you to foot the bill, or create a bogus passport for international travel.

Your Defense:

The first step is to identity whether or not you have any chip enabled credit or bank cards. If you are unsure how to tell, check with your financial institution. If you happen to have one, all is not lost. There are a few different options for combating the theft of your chip enabled credit or bank card.

You can always call your bank or credit card provider and request a non-RFID chip enabled card. It will take several business days to arrive and in some cases, there may be an extra charge for a new card, so be prepared.

Another option for avoiding having your information swiped is to purchase an RFID shielded credit card holder or wallet or passport holder. These products have integrated shielding material into the container, which blocks the transmission of your chip enabled card or passport.

While these products were originally designed with convenience in mind, they have left our personal and credit card information readily available to anyone with an RFID scanner when in close proximity. Before you become a victim, understand and identify the risks and take the appropriate measures to protect yourself and your information.

If you believe your identity has been stolen, call 866.SMART68 today.