Posted by: garispang | May 5, 2009

Jobseekers find personal details abused

op2SINGAPORE: Like many jobseekers, he thought nothing of it when his employer made copies of his identity card. After all, the 21-year-old, who only wanted to be known as Jack, had his identity card photocopied when he applied for previous part-time jobs. But the past weekend turned out to be a nightmare for Jack. His home was targeted by loan sharks: A shoe rack was set on fire on Saturday and paint was splashed on his door early Monday morning.

Jack believes he had unwittingly given his personal details as part of an illegal loan transaction. Told that his part-time job involved the securing of property loans, Jack’s “work” included picking up calls, giving his personal details and handing over money transferred into his personal bank account to his employer.

Jack, who has lodged a police report, is not alone. TODAY understands that at least eight people may have fallen victim to this alleged employment scam. A police spokesperson said investigations are ongoing.

Other jobseekers who have disclosed their personal details have found themselves on the receiving end of unsolicited sales pitches of insurance and other products.

Last month, Mr Jason Lim received three calls from insurance agencies after his online resume was viewed by six financial advisory firms or insurance-related companies.

“I felt that my private information had been misused and it could have been worse,” said the 28-year-old. “Imagine an illegal group using the information to make a hoax kidnapping threat. They basically have all my personal information.”

Ms Jennifer De Souza, who responded to a classified ad asking jobseekers to reply with an SMS of their names and dates of birth, found herself receiving six calls within a week from companies peddling insurance and other products.

“Does MOM (Ministry of Manpower) check whether these companies have an opening or do they just collect information for a database of these applicants?” she wondered.

Pointing to the Employment Agency Licensing Conditions, an MOM spokesperson said licensed agencies cannot give, divulge or reveal to any persons, directly or indirectly, any information regarding any client without the client’s written consent. Otherwise, the agency’s licence may be revoked.

The MOM has not received any complaints against the more than 2,000 licensed employment agencies here on the misuse of client information this year, added the spokesperson.

But jobseekers enter into a grey area when they turn to online job portals and classified ads. Portals that allow employers and jobseekers to search and post job postings and resumes need not be licensed. Only those that match and place jobseekers have to be.

At present, there is no generic personal data protection law, even though there are strict provisions that apply to specific sectors. These include the Banking Act and codes for medical professionals to protect sensitive information about a person’s finances and health.

Online job portals TODAY contacted said they do not sell databases of jobseekers and have put in place measures to prevent unscrupulous businesses from mining personal data other than for employment purposes.

Mr Lim Der Shing, chief executive for job portal JobsCentral, believes the situation is worse offline. “Actually, offline, an unscrupulous business could also run a newspaper ad claiming to have lots of job positions and use the resultant databases generated for other purposes such as sales,” he said.

With the economy in the doldrums, jobseekers such as Ms De Souza and Jack hope that the authorities will crack down on unscrupulous employers.

“Please do not make us a fool, requesting a resume and not getting back to us,” said Ms de Souza, who has been unemployed since last August.

Jack, who is awaiting National Service enlistment, is enduring sleepless nights. He stays up to monitor a surveillance camera he has installed, worried that his family members may be harmed.

On Monday, the family even bought a cable cutter in case the loan sharks chain their gates. “I only wanted to earn some income and help my family. I never thought it could end up like this,” said Jack.

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