The protection of private data is no laughing game. Just look at recent breaks in digital security with companies like Facebook, Google, and Yahoo — there’s a lot on the line when it comes to providing personal info like your home address, phone number, or, in some cases, extremely private information (your social security number, for example).

Just like anything else on the Internet, you want to make sure you’re doing your due diligence before hitting apply to the next opportunity you find online. Postions on Handshake and Careerbuzz are pre-screened for your safety but anything found through third-party sites like Monster, Indeed, or Google is subject to be some form of a “lead generator”.

But what is a “lead generator”?

Let’s put it this way: Leads are the equivalent of prospective business. They can be people, companies, or general contacts — it’s anything that can help move a company’s specific product or service forward.

The “leads” in this case refer to you and your information. There are a number of online applications collecting your information for the sake of sharing you as a potential lead. In other words: Some online applications are sharing your data to connect you with companies interested in your business.

This could lead to things like spam emails, robocalls, or continuous recruitment/engagement from particular groups or companies.

How can I keep my info safe?

The Federal Trade Commission recently wrote a piece on what you can do to keep your info safe.

The most important consideration is the application itself. Ask yourself: Does this look legitimate? Is this officially connected with the employer I’m interested in?

The FTC recommends you do the following:

  • Check out the URL before you click. Search online for that URL, plus the words “review” or “complaint.” Do the same thing with the company name, if you can find it. That will tell you what other people have experienced with that site.
  • Look for sites with “.gov” in the URL. Of course, there are many reliable, non-government, online sources. But government sites are the safest bet. So, for example:

For more info from the FTC, check out their full write-up. If you find positions you are uncertain of applying to for the sake of maintaining your personal data, please contact the Career Development Center immediately.