The Federal Trade Commission is warning consumers again about scams related to the BP Gulf oil spill and clean-up effort. This time it's alerting people of fake job ads that could end up costing the consumer money or result in identity theft.
FTC officials have said that scammers will use any means available – e-mails, web sites, door-to-door solicitations, fliers, mailings and telephone calls – to use the disaster to make some money.
Watch out for those who claim to have a job lined up but ask for an upfront fee first, the agency says. Others will claim you need to pay for training or certification. Some scam artists have also lied about being authorized by BP to hire workers. Bogus ads for oil-spill jobs in the Gulf have appeared in newspapers, online and in emails. Some of these are an attempt to gain personal or financial information.
Last month, several hundred members of the Yakama Nation tribe in Washington were offered $40-an-hour jobs to help clean up the Gulf. But in order to get the job, they had to provide names, addresses and social security numbers. Some quit regular jobs in order to take advantage of the opportunity, only to find out it was a scam.
The following are red flags, the FTC says:
Guaranteed jobs or guaranteed placements.
A legitimate company does not make guarantees of placing someone in a job.
An employer or employment service firm that requires you to pay first.
Legitimate employers don't ask you to pay for training, certification or other expenses in exchange for the guarantee of a job. It's against the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidelines.
The more general the e-mail, the less likely the job is valid. Beware of emails that say "we have thousands of jobs" or "we represent BP." Report such e-mails to the FTC.
Requests for financial information.
Legitimate employers don't ask for your bank account information or credit card or debit card account numbers to interview or hire you.
Companies that charge you for lists of available jobs.
Some listing services write ads that sound like a job is waiting for you. They're actually selling information about how to find a job, which is usually available for free.
Legitimate job and volunteer opportunities do exist in the Gulf. Some require special training but stipends are available to cover the costs. For a list of these opportunities, go to the FTC's web site.
Several Gulf states and agencies have also issued their own alerts in recent weeks. The Florida's Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services sent out a warning about potential fraud associated with charitable activities. Florida officials say unsolicited emails and phone calls as well as high-pressure tactics asking for contributions are big warning signs of a scam.
To file a complaint about an oil spill-related scam:
Contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud by calling 866-720-5721 or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission by visiting ftc.gov or calling toll-free 877-FTC-HELP.
FTC warns of Gulf oil spill job scams