be-prepared-online-safety-for-career-changers

How Career Changers Can Stay Safer While Searching Online for Work

be-prepared-online-safety-for-career-changers

Once upon a time — a short time ago — if you were researching your next employment opportunity as part of your career change and job search, you would have avoided “work from home” [WFH] postings. At least the question “Is this a scam?” would be uppermost in your mind. 

Now that WFH has become of part of everyday life for many people, choices are more complex. Staying safe online is not so easy. Increases in genuine WFH opportunities also provide more opportunities for employment-related fraud. Although scams become more sophisticated over time, there are steps that you can take to protect yourself. Read below for three ways to begin. 

1. Be Aware of the Impact of Stress and Remain Vigilant 

Under pressure, we’re all more likely to do things “without thinking.” During times of change uncertainty when demands are higher it’s easier to fall into the trap of something as simple as clicking on a link that turns out to be malicious. So how can you protect yourself? 

One step you can take is to be skeptical of all incoming messages. When you are doing research as part of your career change, you are dealing with a lot of information. You may not remember all the contacts you have made. It’s easy to be caught out by unsolicited messages that are fraudulent.  

This is one of the most common ways that scammers gain access. It pays to be particularly careful about “out-of-the” blue contacts. If you keep a communication log part of you networking and research, it will be easier to spot unsolicited incoming messages.  

Depending on your field, you may work with recruiters. If you are approached by recruiters that you don’t know, do a search and review their social media profiles before providing any personal information. 

Email is not the only form of access. In addition to phishing, you also need to be on the alert for fraudulent texts (smishing) and voice messages (vishing).    Keeping track of who you communicate with and when will not only help you stay safe, but also help you with to network and find opportunities and relevant contacts in a more effective way.  

2. Scrutinize Job Descriptions and Role Requirements

As perpetrators of employment-related fraud become more sophisticated, it can be harder to detect at first glance. Here are a few clues to possible problems.

The use of language is one indicator. Pay close attention to the language used in job postings on job boards and social media. Ask ”might this be a fake posting?” Possible red flags include generic job titles and typographical and grammatical errors. 

If you are viewing information on intermediary sites such as job boards or social media, review the original posting on the company website. Most job boards and platforms such as LinkedIn now provide their users with advice on avoiding fraud. 

Don’t be afraid to ask questions of employers. Does the posting or the career page include a contact person? It is in their interest to be alerted if, for example, they are being impersonated.  

Other indicators are “surprises” when it comes to the selection process. Reputable employers want to avoid the cost of hiring a candidate that is not a good fit, even if they meet the skill requirements. They will have established selection methods whether they are recruiting for on-site, remote, or hybrid work. 

 Other red flags include salary levels that are not realistic, or requests for, or offers of, money to pay for equipment essential for the job. Maybe you are changing fields and less knowledgeable about the salary levels to expect in your new field. Consult with colleagues or do online research so that you know the typical range for positions you are applying for. 

As perpetrators of employment-related fraud become more sophisticated, it can be harder to detect at first glance. Here are a few clues to possible problems.

The use of language is one indicator.

Pay close attention to the language used in job postings on job boards and social media.

Ask ”might this be a fake posting?” Possible red flags include generic job titles and typographical and grammatical errors. 

If you are viewing information on intermediary sites such as job boards or social media, review the original posting on the company website. Most job boards and platforms such as LinkedIn now provide their users with advice on avoiding fraud. 

Don’t be afraid to ask questions of employers and recruiters.

Does the posting or the career page include a contact person? It is in their interest to be alerted if, for example, they are being impersonated.  

Other indicators are “surprises” when it comes to the selection process. Reputable employers want to avoid the cost of hiring a candidate that is not a good fit, even if they meet the skill requirements. They will have established selection methods whether they are recruiting for on-site, remote, or hybrid work. 

 Other red flags include salary levels that are not realistic, or requests for, or offers of, money to pay for equipment essential for the job. Maybe you are changing fields and less knowledgeable about the salary levels to expect in your new field. Consult with colleagues or do online research so that you know the typical range for positions you are applying for. 

3. Know your Rights, Stay Up to Date, Consult Reliable Sources & Report Problems 

Although the number of people who experience employment scams is growing fast, the good news is that media campaigns are increasing awareness and there are more resources available to help you protect yourself. 

Background checks are often part of hiring. You may not question requests for personal information. These services are often provided by third party companies and reputable employers should be happy to provide details so that you understand their process. 

If you sense that something is not right, give yourself time before sharing personal information. Ask questions. Understand what to expect and how your information is used to make hiring decisions. 

Do you know your rights? The protections vary in different locations and legal systems. In the US you can learn more from the Federal Trade Commission.  You can also research laws for your particular state.

 In the UK, the Disclosure and Barring Service website is a good first point of contact.

If you or someone you know has experienced employment-related fraud, you can help others by reporting it. For example, in the US, the Better Business Bureau publishes a scam tracker. 

In the UK, you can report scams to Jobs Aware (formerly SAFERjobs).

Summary

For professionals seeking to change direction in their work, it’s never been easier to research and find new opportunities. But increased access comes with increased exposure to employment-related fraud. 

Although the problem is growing, the good news is that it’s easier to find advice on how to proactively protect yourself.

Take preventative action by (1) paying closer attention, (2) being particularly cautious of unsolicited incoming messages, and (3) consulting reliable sources of information to stay up to date. 

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