The largest U.S. online job board, a division of TMP Worldwide, sent e-mails to its users this week telling them that fraudulent job positions were being posted as a way to obtain personal information. The e-mail offered suggestions to prevent theft, such as never revealing social security, credit card or nonwork-related information to potential employers.
The e-mail is nearly identical to a posting on the company's Web site.
"It's part of a larger 'be-safe' campaign to educate users," said Kevin Mullins, a Monster.com spokesman. He added that the e-mail notice was not the result of any specific theft.
Identity theft has been a growing problem, both online and offline. Earlier this year, the Federal Trade Commission said ID theft complaints rosefrom the previous year. Identify theft accounted for 43 percent of all consumer complaints in 2002. Oftentimes, the source of ID theft is insiders seeing or stealing consumer account lists, the FTC said.
On the Internet, ID thieves sometimes send e-mails disguised as alerts from popular Internet service providers such as America Online and Microsoft's MSN. These e-mails often ask recipients to re-enter their account names and passwords to solve a false problem on their service. The technique, called "social engineering," is a simple, yet sometimes effective, way for identity thieves to invade accounts or steal credit card numbers.
Sometimes identity thieves send instant messages to potential victims pretending they are service administrators and asking for account information.
To their credit, ISPs often display messages reminding people that their online representatives will never solicit personal information when logged on to their service. AOL, the world's largest ISP, hasto battle ID theft by watermarking the e-mails it sends to its members. Online auction site eBay also has worked to ID theft through education and warnings to its customers.