The employment picture is improving slowly. But many of us are still stuck at home, looking for work. Scam artists know this and continue to pitch sketchy, get-rich-quick, work-at-home schemes.
The basic come-on involves a one-time or recurring consultancy fee. You may also be required or pressured to buy other services and goods from the consultant. The bottom line is the service and materials are basically worthless.
Before you bite on such an offer, have a look at these two advisories from the Federal Trade Commission. Phony business opportunities were recently subject of a massive government crackdown. Internet businesses are especially ripe for fraud.
Job scams aren't new; they're nearly a decade old. But, when times are tough and jobs are hard to come by, the scammers find easy prey in millions of people looking for work. Often, job-seekers hoping to earn a living and pay the mortgage end up losing hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
The FTC and the attorneys general of several states are looking out for you, though.
Operation Bottom Dollar
In a joint effort, the FTC and several state attorneys general made a nationwide sweep to crackdown on job scams. "Operation Bottom Dollar," targeted dozens of work-at-home and other job scams, such as envelope-stuffing, medical billing, and rebate-processing schemes, just to name a few.
The result? Over 60 federal and state criminal actions have been filed against the scammers. And some officials, such as Ohio Attorney General Rob Cordray, are doing everything possible to get the job-seekers' money back.
In Ohio, Bottom Dollar targeted a company called "Job Line." According to Cordray, the company's scam involved charging job-seekers $250 for "exclusive" job openings. However, Job Line didn't have exclusive relationships with any employers. Rather, its clients got job openings that were readily available to the public, out of date, or outright lies. The scam is very similar to one we reported on recently.
Other companies or businesses involved in the crackdown include:
Government Careers Inc. It promised to help people get jobs with the federal government, such as post office, border patrol, and administrative jobs
Real Wealth Inc., which sold job-seekers "information" about how to earn money by applying for government grants and by running a home-based business mailing postcards and envelopes
Darling Angel Pin Creations. Here, victims bought a "starter kit" for $20 to $50 on the promise of making up to $500 a week assembling angel pins, which required no experience or special tools. Many victims, however, paid hundreds of dollars more for materials needed to make the pins
Abili-Staff, Ltd., sold consumers listings for work-at-home "opportunities," which were bogus, for fees ranging from $30 to $90 per list
These are just a few of the companies targeted by the FTC and state attorneys general.
Despite this nationwide crackdown, there are still hundreds if not thousands of job scams out there. If you're one of the millions of US workers looking for a job or some extra money, you need to know how to spot and avoid the scams:
- Don't pay upfront for "job lists" or "employment leads," and be very suspicious of a company offering "exclusive" job openings or openings "not advertised to the public"
- Be suspicious of any job offer that requires you to buy or pay for a starter kit or training materials
- Get a detailed description of the work involved with the job before you agree to take it
- Don't give any employer access to personal information, like bank account, credit card, and social security numbers
- If you're given an "employment contract" or some other agreement to sign, make sure you read all of it very carefully. Take it to an attorney if you don't understand anything in the contract
- Check out the company with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) in the city or state where it's located
- Report suspicious job offers to the FTC and your state attorney general's office
Being out of work with a family to feed or a mortgage to pay is stressful enough. Don't make matters worse by falling victim to a job scam.
Questions For Your Attorney
- How do I let the FTC or attorney general know that I was a victim of one of the scams they've targeted?
- If I can't get my money back from a job scam, can I at least take a tax deduction as a job search expense?
- What can I do if my credit card company won't remove charges made to my credit card by scammers?