Every state has laws on consumer fraud and unfair or deceptive trade practices to protect the general public from unscrupulous business tactics. As you can see in the case against the Arthur Group, the attorney general in your state enforces these consumer protection laws. Also, many states have consumer protection agencies to help consumers who've been victimized.
There are federal laws, too. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the nation's consumer protection agency. The FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection enforces many of the federal consumer protection laws.
The old adages, "Buyer beware!" and "If it sounds too good be to true, it probably is," apply here. Before you invest your money in an employment agency, you should make sure the agency is reputable:
- Find out how long its been in business. You may be able to find this information by searching the secretary of state's business records in your state, or with your state's department of labor and industry
- Ask the agency for references from employers and hiring mangers that have used the agency to fill positions. And ask for references from job seekers that agency has placed in jobs. Contact these references for their opinions of the agency. Be suspicious if the agency is reluctant to give out references or gives you only a few
- Ask very specific questions about what services the agency will provide for the fees you're paying. Be suspicious if the agency offers you access to jobs that the general public doesn't know about, or "guarantees" that it will find you a job within a certain amount of time
If you think your rights as a consumer have been violated, you should contact your attorney general's office and consumer protection immediately. Minnesota's attorney general got involved in the Arthur Group case after receiving dozens of call and complaints from job seekers who were bilked. Today, the Arthur Group's Web site and its job postings are no longer online, the Group and Trimble can't cheat anyone else. But that doesn't mean there aren't other shady "employment agencies" out there looking to take your money. Be cautious, and if you see something suspicious, help yourself and your fellow job seekers by reporting it.
Questions for Your Attorney
- I and at least 10 other people I know think that an employment agency is scamming us. Can we all hire you to sue the agency to get our money back, or do we have to file a complaint with the attorney general?
- Do employment agencies have to have a license or employees with specialized training and education, or can just anyone open a business to help people find jobs?
- Can an employment agency "blackball" me, that is, intentionally refuse to send me on job interviews with certain companies because of some bad references from past employers?