FTC, state attorneys general crack down on work-at-home and other job scams

The Federal Trade Commission and Ohio Attorney General Rob Cordray announced a crack down on the growing number of work at home and job search scams aimed at exploiting job seekers.

A sweep, known as "Operation Bottom Dollar," has already resulted in 44 criminal actions at the federal level and 18 at the state level. Settlements have been reached with four other companies, including Job Safety USA (charges were brought against the company in Maryland), Career Hotline, Inc. (charges were brought against the company in Tampa, Fla.), Penbrook Productions (doing business in Irvine, California) and International Marketing (charges were brought against the company in Puerto Rico).
"Instead of making money, victims end up losing hundreds if not thousands of dollars," Cordray said during the video conference.

Ohio-based Job Line was one of the company's sued as a result of the operation. The company, which is based in Cincinnati, claimed it connected job seekers to exclusive tips on job openings for a $250 fee. However, the Attorney General's Office discovered that the company did not have exclusive relationships with employers and was merely posting openings that were either publicly available already, outdated or even fake. The state of Ohio is seeking restitution for the job seekers, as well as penalties.

"This is just one example of this type of scam. We know that there are hundreds if not thousands more out there," said Cordray at the press conference. "The problem is identifying and tracking the scam artists who often work in the shadow of the Internet."

The FTC has announced actions against the following companies as part of "Operation Bottom Dollar":
  • Government Careers Inc. (charges were brought against the company in Tucson, Ariz.)
  • Real Wealth Inc. (doing business in Lee's Summit, Mo.)
  • Darling Angel Pin Creations (charges were brought against the company in Tampa, Fla. )
  • Abili-Staff, Ltd. (charges were brought against the company in San Antonio, Texas)
  • Entertainment Work, Inc. (doing business in Palm Beach Garden, Fla.)
  • Independent Marketing Exchange, Inc. (doing business in Absecon, N.J.)
  • Preferred Platinum Services Network (doing business in Bayville, N.J.)
Scams that prey on the desire of people to get back to work have increased during the recession. Work at home scams, in particular, have run rampant, making the recent top 10 scams of 2009 list released by the National Consumers League.

Avoiding Job Placement and Work at Home scams can be difficult, especially for consumers who want to get back to work, but if you follow these tips from the Ohio Attorney General's Office you'll avoid losing time and money to scams.
  • Don't pay for help finding work. Be suspicious of companies that make you pay for "exclusive information," mandatory training sessions, starter kits or other materials, especially if they ask you to wire transfer money to a foreign country.
  • Don't trust unrealistic salaries or vague job descriptions. Demand a detailed description of the work involved before you commit to a job.
  • Beware of lengthy contracts. Don't sign a contract without reading the fine print. Scam artists may try to slip in certain clauses, hoping you won't read them. Written contracts generally are binding, so take the contract to an attorney or trusted friend to review and don't sign until you fully understand the agreement.
  • Take your time. Don't give in to high-pressure tactics. If a company doesn't give you enough time to review a contract or make a decision, don't do business with it.
  • Be wary of suspicious interviews. Be skeptical of group interviews and representatives that seem to be selling the company to you. If you feel pressured, walk away-you probably have good reason to be suspicious.
The FTC also released the following video which details the problem and includes examples and warnings from individuals who lost money to Work at Home and similar scams.



If you have a question about a job opportunity check with your local State Attorney General's Office to make sure it isn't a scam.

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