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Job applicants need to be careful with where they write their Social Security Numbers.The consequences of identity theft can be extremely costly for for victims over quite a long time. Thieves can use your stolen personal information to set up new accounts and lines of credit in your name, potentially costing you thousands of dollars and ruining your credit for years to come.

This is bad enough for someone who has a full-time job and makes a comfortable living. But what if you are out of work and looking for a job? Unfortunately, not only will identity theft hit you harder, but you may be at a higher risk. It’s all because of one simple detail that so many job seekers overlook.

Should you put your Social Security number on a job application?

Often times, job hunters find themselves in situations where they have to fill out numerous job applications within a short period of time to increase their chances of getting called in for an interview. At a certain point, it is easy to zone out and forget about all of the personal information you might be sharing on these applications. But you should definitely pay attention to who is asking for your Social Security Number.

Since firms will need all of their employees’ Social Security Numbers eventually, many try to save time by asking for them on the job application. However, even though this is a relatively widespread practice, it is also a controversial one. According to a report by The Detroit News, many employment law attorneys say that it would be better if businesses waited to require Social Security Numbers until after they made their hiring decisions. That’s because if this number happens to get in the wrong hands, applicants could soon find themselves the victims of ID theft .

Many job seekers echo this sentiment. “I always quit the application rather than make my SSN vulnerable,” one job hunter told the news source. “I will not let my teens give out this info either on applications, which often means that they are not able to apply to many jobs.”

Sometimes, applicants have the opportunity to meet with potential employers before filling out an official application. This is a good time to see whether it is possible for you to withhold your Social Security Number until later in the process. In instances when employers use electronic applications, it is important to look for signs of a security system in place — such as “https://” or the padlock icon at the beginning of the site’s URL.

But even the most secure application can still be compromised, and it simply isn’t possible to stop every instance of identity theft before it occurs. That’s why job seekers need to be proactive and keep a close eye on their bank statements, credit cards and credit reports after they apply for jobs. Don’t hesitate to put a freeze on your credit reports if you notice signs that your personal information has been compromised.

It is important to use a credit monitoring services to keep an eye out for some of the broader financial impacts of ID theft. A credit monitoring service will alert you if certain activity that may be indicative of fraud has appeared on your credit file.

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