Con artists target the unemployed

Posted on Jul 27, 2010

Federal officials have recently warned that employment-related scams are soaring. As the economy struggles and unemployment grows, ads for bogus jobs are on the rise. The ads are popping up everywhere from local newspapers to signs on the corner telephone pole. The Internet makes it easy for con artists to defraud victims with e-mail pitches and online job boards.

Beware of the following popular scams:

* Work-at-home scams usually require an up-front fee for training, materials, or equipment. Scam artists promise to pay for work, such as stuffing envelopes, processing medical claims, or making toys. Either the work never materializes, or workers are not paid.

* Business opportunity scams also require up-front fees. Con artists sell vending machines, software products, and other equipment that is never delivered or is of such poor quality that it has little or no value.

* Victims of phantom civil service jobs pay for study materials and exams with promises that they’ll land jobs with the Postal Service, airports, or other government agencies. Unfortunately, the jobs never materialize.

To avoid being victimized, consider these suggestions:

* Never pay up-front fees. Legitimate job agencies generally don’t ask for money until after they’ve performed a service.

* Be skeptical of “easy money” ads. If an opportunity sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

* Watch out for ambiguous ads. Legitimate companies provide detailed job descriptions about the positions they are trying to fill.

* Don’t give personal information to strangers. Con artists can use this information to steal your identity and your money.

* Be suspicious of ads with 900 phone numbers. Be aware that 900 numbers are pay-per-call, and the charges will appear on your phone bill.

* Know with whom you’re dealing. Contact the Secretary of State where the business is located. Ask if the business is registered and if complaints have been filed against it.

* Be dubious of postal box numbers. Ask for the business’s physical address, and investigate whether the business is actually located there. The local Chamber of Commerce may be of assistance.

The bottom line: Do your homework before you pay job-related fees.