Searching for a job online can put you in a few risky spots. Every day, thousands of job applications are sent out and applicants expose their personal information to websites, companies, and individuals who may or may not have their best interests in mind.

Applying to the right jobs means paying attention to where you're sending your personal information. Throughout the hunt, you'll find opportunities everywhere on the web on thousands of different platforms and products. As a result, it can be difficult to differentiate a legitimate opportunity from a scam to steal or sell your personal information.

But armed with the right knowledge, the online job hunt can be both safe and rewarding. Here are some tips that will keep you safe during your search.

Separating fact from fiction

Do you want to make $2,000 dollars a week from home? Sure you do. But that sounds just a little too good to be true, doesn’t it?

The Internet isn’t so different from the real world. When something sounds a little too good to be true, it probably is. Too many fake job listings prey on people’s hopes that they’ll find easy work for high pay, but unfortunately, the world just isn’t that convenient of a place most of the time.

Most jobs (real ones, at least) require some real expertise in highly specific areas. Protect yourself by always being skeptical of job offerings, especially if they seem to have vague requirements and offer uncharacteristically high monetary rewards. If you find them on shady-looking websites, move on or try to find them elsewhere to confirm their legitimacy. Be on the lookout for poor grammar in job postings, as this is frequently a sign of a scam.

Be careful when communicating over email and make sure that the address of the person emailing you matches up with the company you applied to. Email can be one way for scammers they try to isolate prospective victims and ask for personal information. Be particularly aware of emails from fake recruiting firms that ask you for such information.

If you’re not sure about a job listing or a company, consider seeking reviews on Google. A simple search of a business or employer should give you some informative results. You may find a positive Better Business Bureau rating, or a bunch of scam reports. Company review sites like Glassdoor will give you information on what the company's employees think of working there, as well as how the company conducts interviews. A lack of results can also say a lot by indicating that a business is either very new, or very fake. Use discretion.

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Your online presence

A lot of job sites today have resume databases where you're asked to either upload the latest copy of your resume or fill out a form with your work information. While these services offer up a way to easily and quickly apply to jobs, or an avenue for recruiters to discover you, they also open up a way for scammers or spammers to target you.

Stay smart about the way you respond to this sort of outreach. Always do your research on resume database sites or recruiting agencies before replying. If you find a job-related email in your spam folder, it's probably best to leave it there and move on. And never submit your sensitive information, such as a Social Security Number, driver's license number, or even login information over unsecured or untrustworthy connections, such as email.

Stick with reputable websites

If you’re just starting out, it’s especially important to go with basic, proven websites. Stick with the big and trustworthy job boards, or the top job boards for your niche. For online and remote work, consider using an intermediary, such as UpWork or Guru, to find opportunities.

Beware of fake websites masquerading as the real deal. Always check the web address you're accessing in your browser, and don’t immediately follow hyperlinks from unproven sources. Instead, try to organically reach the site you're being asked to go to by typing in the URL yourself or finding the company on Google. Phishing websites are designed to look just like the real thing and typically ask for login information, passwords, and may even go as far as to request a Social Security number (all for the purpose of identity theft).

Protect your devices

We use many different devices to access the net during a job search. Whether you’re applying using your laptop, a mobile device, tablet, or a traditional home computer, you’ll want to keep that access point secure. Only a world of trouble awaits the casual job seeker who winds up giving away their identity to a bunch of scammers.

Most of us are familiar with anti-virus software, and if you haven’t done so already, you should make sure it’s installed on any device that accesses the net. Anti-virus programs come in both free and paid flavors and can be found on your friendly phone app store or with a simple Google search. Do your research and go with the better-safe-than-sorry approach to any job search downloads or apps that seem shady.

Protect your job search accounts

Beyond virus protection, password safety is just as important for your job search. You'll be uploading your resume everywhere and creating tons of accounts, so some best practices must be used to keep your details safe.

Year after year, the same awful passwords keep coming back as the most popular. Every year, it seems like “password” is on the top ten list, and we wonder why accounts get stolen. You don’t need to be another statistic on the identity theft list just because someone guessed your login details.

Opt for a strong password that includes a mixture of different elements, such as uppercase letters, numbers, symbols, and spaces. For single-word passwords, longer is better, and you should really avoid using words in the dictionary. If you must use words, consider a passphrase instead, as it’ll be easier to remember, but much longer and harder to figure out. And most importantly, don’t re-use passwords for multiple accounts. Tweak or completely change your password for every major account you own.

Keep your personal information safe by protecting your devices and being smart about how you work online. Doing so will make the experience considerably more rewarding, and you'll land the job of your dreams without having to worry about identity theft or scam jobs.

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