With the unemployment rate rising and living costs going up, more people are looking for new jobs or second jobs. These are ideal conditions, it turns out, if youre an identity thief.

Job seekers will register with employment agencies, check employment ads, mail out unsolicited resumes, network, post resumes on job search sites and search Craigslist.

In fact, the UK Association for Payment Clearing Services which tracks the prevalence of fake job ads said that fake ads are up 345 percent over the past three years. Unfortunately identity thieves are taking advantage of these uncertain economic times to scam job seekers and gather personal identifying information.

The Identity Theft Resource Center offers these tips:

• Protect your Social Security Number by limiting how many people see it. Never put your SSN on a resume. Let a company ask for it when they consider you a serious applicant. To minimize your risk, you also may want to not list your home address and just put your city and state on the resume.

• Consider opening a separate email account for your job search and keeping your primary email address private. Placing your email address on a resume could open the door to spam and phishing, account verification, and other email scams. (The recent Monster.com breach exposed resumes and email addresses. If you had placed your Social Security number or home email address on your resume, you could have made yourself a target.)

• Check out a company you found on a website carefully before giving them your information, for example Craigs List. Anyone can create a website, but it doesnt mean that they are a real company. You can find information on a company through the Better Business Bureau or the State Attorney General where the company is located. You can also Google the business to find out more about them. Most reputable companies will have a significant presence on the Internet, not just a few mentions.

• Avoid any website that requires you to pre-register with your SSN, home address or drivers license number. Also, you should not be required to prepay to view job listings. Both these requirements are strong indicators of a scam.

• Update your computer security prior to emailing resumes and receiving email correspondence. Making sure your computer security is currently updated against viruses, Trojans, and other types of computer malware can help to protect you from any intrusion in an attachment you might receive.

• Make sure the person who contacted you actually works at the listed company and is not someone who has posted a job pretending to be part of a company. Does the URL address include the name of the company? If not, who actually sent it? Call the company involved, and ask for the Human Resources Department. Some companies recommend not responding via email to any person asking for more information, but rather to call the company directly. Rarely does a company hire someone sight unseen.

• Be wary of some common job scams. Avoid any company, especially a foreign company that wants to hire you as a payment representative or accounts receivable clerk. This scam indicates that you get to keep a percentage of all checks or money orders you place in a bank account for them. Do not open a bank account for a company. You will be the responsible party should any money laundering occur, or if checks bounce. This is called a money mule scam.

Another scam is to notify you that you are one of the finalists for a job, and they need your Social Security number to do a background check. If you have not had a face-to-face interview with the company, you should be very skeptical. No one gets a job based on a resume alone.

Finally, watch out for the work-at home scams, especially those that ask you to forward packages you receive to a third party. That package may contain stolen goods or illegal drugs. There is rarely need to have a private party as a freight forwarder.

The safest ways to job search are to use local want ads, visit the unemployment office, use temp employment services, tell friends and family about your search, and network via professional groups and business acquaintances. When contacting a local company you can meet them, see the facilities, and ask acquaintances in that industry about their reputation. Consider not contacting foreign companies, especially those from Nigeria, Russia and third world countries.

Should you decide to use the Internet, ITRC strongly recommends that you read the safety tips on job seeking websites and report any suspicious posting to the website concerned.