How job hunters can avoid identity theft

08/25/2013 12:00 AM

08/24/2013 6:45 PM

Many job applications ask for your Social Security number and date of birth.

You don’t have to give that information when you apply. You don’t have to give it until after you’ve been interviewed and received a conditional job offer.

Because it might eventually save time in background checking, many employers ask on applications for personal information that employment law attorneys say they really shouldn’t get at an early stage in the hiring process.

Depending on how much you want the job, you’ll have to weigh choices. You could give out personal information and hope to avoid identity theft or discrimination. You could leave blanks where you don’t choose to share and hope they won’t toss your application. You could try to tell the employer why you’d prefer to give that information when they want to hire you.

If you decide to fill in the requested blanks, do it with care. Some tips:

•  When applying online, be sure the Internet site is secure. Look for the tiny lock icon or a site URL beginning with https instead of http.
•  Before responding to an email or phone call, be sure the company and job possibility are real. Scammers pretend to be employers, recruiters or people who will file unemployment claims for you. Don’t be fooled into giving out personal information.
•  When filling out a paper application, hand it directly to someone in the human resource department or the hiring manager. Don’t just leave it with anyone in the building.
•  Consider creating a separate email address and perhaps buying a temporary cellphone to use solely for your job hunt. That protects your real contact information from phishing scams.
•  When signing on to job search sites, use a different username and separate password from any of your other accounts. And make it a strong password that’s unlikely to be guessed.

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