Columnist Olivia Garcia

The beauty of searching for a job in the high-tech world we live in is that we can easily upload our resume to various job websites, in addition to company sites.

However, there is danger lurking.

Scammers have zeroed in on online job seekers in hopes of stealing their personal information.

A few weeks ago, a local friend had posted her resume online through various job sites and received a rather interesting phone call and from an alleged job recruiter. The recruiter said he found her application online and was interested in scheduling a job interview with her. However, because the recruiter lived out of state, he wanted to conduct the formal job interview not over the phone but online.

In a follow-up text from a number that looked like it could be set up through a free messaging/texting app, he asked that the interview take place through Yahoo Instant Messenger; the job recruiter has a Yahoo email address, by the way. My friend, who asked to share this experience without her name for fear that they'd track her but provided me with proofs of the texts and IM conversation, said she thought nothing of the IM interview, thinking it was part of a new workplace trend. It was not until during the IM interview process that she became nervous and noticed red flags.

For one, early on in the interview, the recruiter asked for her age and marital status (illegal questions in job interviews, by the way) and said he would need other personal information to run an employment background check and get her eligible for a $40,000-a-year job in which she could work from home. The recruiter would need her information pretty quickly, he told her, since they were going to open an office in Bakersfield soon. My friend then asked about the name of the company, which the recruiter shared.

At this point my friend felt uneasy so she tried to buy time and began a quick search online of the company as she continued the IM. Turns out the email address that the recruiter shared on IM and the business location that the recruiter claimed to be located in was not listed on the official company website. When she inquired about this and asked for a number to talk to someone in person, the IM correspondent immediately logged off. She never heard from him again.

Finding the ideal job is hard enough, let alone dealing with scammers.

However, according to Mashable.com, there are ways to spot red flags to filter to true job opportunities versus the bogus ones.

If a recruiter encourages you to talk via IM, a non-company address (i.e. Gmail or Yahoo) or asks for personal information, avoid it, says Mashable.com. In most cases, an in-person interview is required. If it's a job out of state, then a company will do its best to fly you in for a formal interview. If not, then the alternatives are telephone interviews or Skype. But IMs are the not the way to go. In addition, it's illegal to ask for personal information such as origin of birth, first language, age, marital status or number of children, and disabilities, during job interviews.

Other clues: The scammer issues a "no experience is necessary but make a huge salary" pitch. Yeah, sure. Total red flag.

Another warning, according to Mashable.com: You are offered a job on the spot, or the job interviewer or hiring manager wants to talk to you during weird hours. In general, regular business hours are the times where a recruiter will want to chat with you.

Also, watch out if the job ad or communication is poorly written (I reviewed my friend's correspondence with the alleged IM job recruiter, and I was cringing over the grammatical errors).

Holiday reception

Mark your calendars for the Kern County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Membership Appreciation Reception, 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at The Nile on 19th Street. As part of the reception, the chamber is asking attendees to bring an unwrapped toy or monetary donation for a Christmas drive that will benefit the Kern County Cancer Fund, as well as the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Parent Teacher Organization. The reception is designed for business networking, spreading holiday cheer and collecting items for worthy causes, said Jay Tamsi, KCHCC CEO and president.

Reading list

A conversation being played out through social media centers around people's favorite books. On Facebook, people are asking friends to list 10 books that have stayed with them in some way. Bakersfield resident Michael Flores-Castaneda responded with his top 10: "She's Come Undone" by Wally Lamb; "Stolen" by Malika Oufkir; "Memoirs of a Geisha" by Arthur Golden; "The Color Purple" by Alice Walker; "The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom" by Don Miguel Ruiz; "Siddhartha" by Hermann Hesse; "The Hour I First Believed" by Wally Lamb; "Superfudge" by Judy Blume; "Where the Wild Things Are" by Maurice Sendak; and "A Day Late and a Dollar Short" by Terry McMillan.

Meanwhile, Jeff Newby and Alyson Moss, a Bakersfield couple currently living and working in Kamiichi, Toyama, Japan, responded with their list. On Newby's list: "The Rape Of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust Of World War II" by Iris Chang; "Swan Song" by Robert McCammon; "Alas, Babylon" by Pat Frank; "War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War," by John Dower; "Bystanders: Conscience and Complicity during the Holocaust," by Victoria Barnett; "I am Legend" by Richard Matheson; "Nations and Nationalism" by Eric Hobsbawm; "The Radicalism of the American Revolution" by Gordon S. Wood; "Maus I and II" by Art Spiegelman; and "The Remaining" series by D.J. Molles.

On Moss's top 10: "Ways of Forgetting, Ways of Remembering: Japan in the Modern World" by John Dower; "The Red Tent: A Novel" by Anita Diamant; "Flowers in Salt: The Beginnings of Feminist Consciousness in Modern Japan" by Sharon L. Sievers; "1984" by George Orwell; "Number the Stars" by Lois Lowry; "Well Behaved Women Rarely Make History" by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich; "Nations and Nationalism"; "A Doll's House" by Henrik Ibsen; "Ann Veronica" by HG Wells; and "The Burning of Bridget Cleary" by Angela Bourke.

What's on your favorite reading list?

Olivia Garcia is editor of Bakersfield Life and BWell magazines and a columnist of The Bakersfield Californian. These are her opinions, not necessarily those of The Bakersfield Californian. Send her tips at ogarcia@bakersfield.com.

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