Help Wanted: Take These Steps to Avoid Job Scams
The classified ad that ran in The Washington Post and other newspapers promised work as a movie or TV extra making $100 to $300 a day. Trouble was, the company advertising the positions failed to disclose that the jobs listed were outdated, out of the area or unrelated to work as an extra. Federal investigators said the company also failed to disclose that the trial membership fee job seekers were required to pay to learn more about the positions couldn't easily be canceled unless applicants forked over additional money.
For those and other reasons, in February 2010 the Federal Trade Commission sued the company, Entertainment Work Inc. (PDF). In a settlement announced on March 2 of this year, the company agreed to stop marketing employment products or services and also to stop making misleading claims when advertising or selling anything.
The action was part of Operation Empty Promises, a year-long investigation by the FTC and other state and federal agencies into nine separate job scams that bilked more than $49.5 million dollars from people throughout the country "struggling with unemployment and diminished incomes as a consequence of the economic downturn," according to the agency.
Although the nation's unemployment is easing somewhat, many people remain out of work, and that's just the opening job scammers are looking for, says Frank Dorman with the FTC. "Unfortunately, as long as unemployment remains high, scammers will try to take advantage of people who are looking for work," Dorman says.
If you're looking for work, the No. 1 thing you can do to protect yourself is avoid dealing with companies that guarantee they can get you work, especially if they charge you a fee for the privilege, Dorman says. "Avoid high-pressure sales tactics and take your time to read the contract," he says.
Here are other tips from the FTC and employment experts on how to avoid job scams:
1. Beware of companies that want you too much. You might be the best worker in the world, but if a company is willing to hire you without an interview, it's a sign that all's not right, says Charles Purdy, career expert at Monster.com.
2. Don't share personal financial information. Never give out your bank account, credit card or Social Security numbers or other financial information to a company you can't find out about, Purdy says. "These numbers can be used to steal from you or launder funds stolen from others."
3. Don't pay for services. Beware of employment services firms that require you to pay upfront, even if they guarantee a refund, according to the FTC's Money Matters blog.
4. Ask questions. Especially if you're considering taking a work-from-home position, Purdy suggests asking the company to list exactly what the job entails. Other questions to ask: Will I get a salary or be paid on commission? Who pays me? When do I get my first paycheck?
5. Read the fine print. Don't agree to anything before reading a copy of a job service or headhunter's contract. Understand what services the firm provides, what you'll be responsible for doing, and the terms and conditions of their refund policy. If verbal promises are made but don't appear in the contract, think twice about working with the firm, says the FTC's Money Matters tip sheet.
6. Eliminate the middleman. The FTC advises that you follow up with any company or organization mentioned in an employment services firm's advertising to find out if the company is actually hiring.
7. Trust your gut. If your initial research on a potential employer makes you feel even the slightest bit uneasy, follow up with a more thorough investigation, including checking with your local consumer protection agency, state Attorney General's office, Better Business Bureau or Fraud.org. "If you feel uneasy about any job opportunity or job offer, trust your instincts and walk away," Purdy says.
8. Take action. If you think you've been the victim of a job scam, call the FTC's complaint hotline at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357) or visit its online Complaint Assistant. You can also follow the agency on Facebook and Twitter.The bottom line, says Jennifer Sullivan Grasz with job board CareerBuilder.com: "If it looks too good to be true, it probably is."
- FTC Money Matters blog - Job Hunting Scams
- MSN - How to Avoid Job Scams
- CareerBuilder.com Trust & Site Security - Examples of online job fraud and how to spot them
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