This article is the archived version of a report that appeared in June 2009 Consumer Reports magazine.
When Dan Quigley, of Woodinville, Wash., was laid off from his engineering job with Motorola, he posted his résumé on several major job-search sites, entering personal data such as his name, address, and educational background. He didn't want to leave anything out, but he also worried that "with that info up there, I was essentially painting a target on myself." And soon, Dan began receiving a lot more employment-related spam.
Trying to help in her husband's job search, Pat Quigley visited a legitimate-looking site that promised jobs, but it turned out to be malicious. Then the Quigleys noticed that Pat could no longer access security software sites. Her computer had become infected. Ultimately, the couple was forced to erase Pat's hard drive.
The Quigleys aren't alone. "We've seen a big spike in complaints about work-related scams, and they're often over the Internet," says Rob McKenna, Washington State's attorney general. "What unemployed people, people in foreclosure, and the elderly all have in common is that they're more vulnerable, more anxious, and they set aside common sense."
Job scams come in a variety of guises, according to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, a partnership between the FBI, the Bureau of Justice Assistance, and the National White Collar Crime Center.
Some scams appear to be offers to process payments, transfer funds, or reship products but are actually fronts for operations that cash fraudulent checks, transfer illegally obtained funds, or receive stolen merchandise for shipment to criminals. Even users of well-known employment sites can be at risk. User IDs and passwords were recently stolen from the internal databases of job sites Monster and USAJobs.
Avoid job listings that ask you to pay money up front. Make sure that online job-search services you use offer privacy options. Monster, for example, lets you post a confidential version of your résumé that hides your key contact information, among other things. Never post a résumé that includes your Social Security number. Avoid job offers that claim to pay a lot of money for little work.