Scam Artists Target the Unemployed: How to Avoid Being a Victim

Scam Artists Target the Unemployed, UnluckySome people kick you when you're down, and with the effects of the recession lingering on through the jobless recovery, there are plenty of people down there to kick. Scams targeting the unemployed and cash-strapped are on the rise, and the con artists are getting more creative and sneaky.

The Federal Trade Commission and its partners recently announced that they have brought more than 90 enforcement actions in a stepped-up campaign against scammers who falsely promise "guaranteed" jobs and opportunities to "be your own boss" to those who are struggling with unemployment and diminished incomes as a result of the recession.

"Working for a nonprofit credit counseling agency, we see too many people who are taken in by these scams because they are desperate and looking for a way out," says Linnea Stephan, a certified financial planner with Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota. "That means that the rules on what to look for change, as the scammers will do whatever they can to look and sound legit," she adds.

Earn Big Money on the Internet!

For example, Ivy Capital and 29 co-defendants allegedly took more than $40 million from people who paid thousands of dollars believing Ivy Capital would help them develop their own Internet businesses and earn up to $10,000 a month. According to the FTC complaint, Ivy Capital's telemarketers asked consumers how much credit they had on their credit cards, then talked them into using a substantial portion of their available credit to purchase a business coaching program.

But the promised products and services were worthless, the complaint alleged. Ivy Capital's "expert" coaches lacked the promised knowledge and experience, its website-building software programs did not work properly, and the lawyers and accountants whom the defendants said would provide assistance were nonexistent. People paid up to $20,000 for a business coaching program and related products and services, but got very little in return.

As alleged in the FTC's complaint, Ivy Capital's telemarketers called people who responded to email and advertising about work-at-home or Internet business opportunities from companies such as Jennifer Johnson's Home Job Placement Program and Brent Austin's Automated Wealth System. The ads originated from fictional companies Ivy Capital created to generate sales leads -- potential customers' names and phone numbers -- for its real operation. The complaint further alleged that in calls that could last for more than an hour, telemarketers used high-pressure sales tactics and unrealistic promises. Shortly after signing up for the program, Ivy Capital's customers received sales calls from companies affiliated with it offering additional business services, including access to credit and expert tax advice that could cost thousands of dollars more. Ivy offered a refund program that, in practice, made it difficult for people to get their money back if they canceled.

Ivy Capital defendants allegedly misrepresented their program's earning potential, the goods and services they would provide, and failed to fully disclose and honor their refund policy, in violation of the FTC Act. They called telephone numbers on the Do Not Call Registry, and did not pay the fee for accessing the registry, in violation of the Telemarketing Sales Rule.

Fake Jobs, Fake Connections, Real Fees

In another scheme, the National Sales Group, Anthony J. Newton, Jeremy S. Colley and I Life Marketing, also doing business as Executive Sales Network and Certified Sales Jobs, allegedly made false claims to people about employment opportunities.
According to the FTC's complaint, they advertised nonexistent sales jobs with good pay and benefits on and other online job boards, and their telemarketers falsely told people the company recruited for Fortune 1000 employers and had a unique ability to get them interviewed and hired.

The FTC alleged that the defendants charged fees they said covered background checks and other services, and often overcharged, taking $97 from people who agreed to pay $29 or $38. They also charged some people recurring fees of $13.71 or more per month without their consent.

According to other documents filed in court, the operation generated more than 17,000 complaints to law enforcement agencies, online forums, and job boards -- dropped the company from its website due to complaints -- and defrauded people of at least $8 million.

'Miracles Do Happen, but Not Via Spam.'

Those with their guards down can be unwitting pawns to predators. "Desperate times make believers out of otherwise reasonable people," says Christine Durst, a home-based career and Internet safety expert, and co-founder of, which offers screened work-at-home jobs. "The recession certainly plays a key role in the increased gullibility factor," she adds.

But there are signs that should make you stop in your tracks despite your situation. "Don't fall for unbelievable pay -- 'Make $5,000 a week working part-time!' Exaggerated claims of income are a sure sign of a scam," says Durst.

Be leery of an ad that arrives as spam in your email. "As if by a miracle, an ad for home-based work just landed in your email box. How would this man from Romania have known you were looking for home-based work? Miracles do happen, but not via spam," she says.

If you receive unsolicited job offers in your email, they are probably the result of a scammer having "harvested" your email address from another location frequented by people who are seeking work. "Move it into your trash file without using the 'remove me from this list' link you're likely to find at the bottom of the page. The links are often used to confirm that your email address is active, and using them can result in even more spam," she cautions.

Think twice about any request for your numbers -- be they credit card numbers, social security numbers or bank account numbers.

The 'SCRAM' Principles

Bethany Mooradian, author of I Got Scammed So You Don't Have To!, shares her "SCRAM" principles.

• Scrutinize the source. What time of day did they contact you? (Overseas contact happens when you're sleeping)? What is the IP address of the company located?

• Check for affiliate links, fees and surveys. If it has affiliate links, those affiliates are earning a commission.

• Research the heck out of every detail. Google the company, check out the Better Business Bureau (, and, for starters, she says.

• Ask for more information.
Mostly it's scammers who will want to talk more to you about the job or opportunity. Real employers are too flooded with resumes to talk to you, adds Mooradian.

• Mouse over images and links.
You can see the real destination image and link simply by hovering your mouse. "That way if a company is using Bank of America's images to claim legitimacy, but in reality the links go elsewhere, you'll see beforehand," she says.

If you remember nothing else, remember this: "If you have to pay for anything," says Joan Mershon, an employment and life skills trainer, forget about it.

For example, look out for "alleged resume writers" who claim to be connected with recruiters and charge fees of $800 or more for resume writing that results in nothing, says Alexis Moore of Survivors in Action, a nonprofit that serves victims of crime. "There are many organizations that will provide free resume help," she adds.

Career coach Michael Coritsidis also gives thumbs down to alleged temp agencies that "guarantee" you a job, but require money up front. "Most legitimate agencies are contracted by companies who pay them a fee," he says.

Lastly, trust your gut. Says Coritsidis: "If it's too good to be true, it's too good to be true!"

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AZ Stang

Hey- scam artists, identity thieves, illegal aliens and other criminals are "just trying to make a better life", even if they have to steal it from you. You must be racists, and it's all Bush's fault. Did I miss anything? It's a big effin' deal? haha

March 31 2011 at 1:02 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply


March 30 2011 at 8:47 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

If it sounds to good to be true, it is. I wouldnt trust anyone on the web.

March 30 2011 at 8:16 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

I'm unemployed for almost 2 yrs. and I get these scam e-mails sent to me on a daily basis. There are NO JOBS coming to anyone on the internet. They are ALL scams. You have to get up, get dressed, grab a cup of coffee and go out of the house and fill out 100's of apps. to find a job.

March 30 2011 at 6:25 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply









March 30 2011 at 5:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Here's a job scam offer I received last week:

"We have received your lead from Adecco Staffing Agency ( Based on the information provided, we believe that you might be a good candidate for this part-time position.

NeoLine LLC are searching for independent agents who will represent our company in different regions. Two to three hours a day performing your duties over the Internet will be sufficient to fulfill the requirements of this position.

The main strategic aim of our company is to provide quick, easy, efficient and secure ways for art lovers to fulfill their dreams by helping sellers and buyers find each other locally, nationally and globally.

The goal of our company is to ensure both, the most reliable security level and simplicity of use and availability.

We are happy to offer you the Payment Processing Agent position.
Here are some of the job requirements:
- 18 years of age or older;
- Internet access to promptly reply to emails;
- availability by phone (1-2 hours a day);

We welcome competent and reliable approach to work, responsibility and initiative in search of the most efficient ways of job implementation.

At the beginning you will be hired on a probationary basis for 30 days. Given your performance is satisfactory you will have a choice to be employed full time and earn more.

Your salary during the training period amounts to USD 2,300 per month plus 8% commission from each transaction completed. Total income, given the current volume of clients, could easily amount to USD 4,500 per month. After the training period, your base salary will increase to USD 3,000 per month plus 8% commission."

A bit of Internet searching revealed that the NeoLine LLC web site is hosted in Russia ... and a Payment Processing Agent receives bogus checks and hacked account transfers ... subtracts their 8% commission on the transaction and forwards money from their own account to a third party ... only to have the original bank realize that their transfer of funds was bogus ... and void it leaving you short on covering the net funds you forwarded out of your own account. There's a long line of scammed job seekers that didn't check it out before they lost thousands to this outfit and at least half a dozen other companies with a similar pitch.

March 30 2011 at 4:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If they want any money at all its a scam!

March 30 2011 at 4:50 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

From the 'Green Banana' a booklet I wrote for my children 30 years ago... .... It helped them to get better employment and NOT get con'ed...

March 30 2011 at 2:20 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Sales, sales, sales. In every newspaper you will find ads for salespeople. There are two ways to sell a product or service. The first is via advertising, the second via salespeople.

A company has two ways to hire salespeople. First, by hiring a trained professional, giving him/her good leads, a livable salary, and a commission for all sales over a minimum limit.

The other method is to work on shear numbers. Put enough untrained or semi trained people on the street selling your product and the chances are you will sell something. You offer no more than straight commission and maybe a few training sessions.

Insurance companies are great for using this ploy. Some hire dozens of people at a time, give the promise of high commissions, high earnings, free trips, certificates of achievement and such. After a few weeks training, they send you out into the world to sell, sell, sell. For a single person who is just starting out and has limited living expenses this may be an okay deal. But, if you are married, have many expenses to pay, or both, then I recommend you forget it.

Why? Because the chances are that you will starve for the first few years. Sales of intangibles or services are difficult even if you have a good product to sell. Out of ten calls, you may make a sale that results in a commission.

Most companies selling insurance, work on a high first year commission, say 70%. This is for new policies. Renewals are 5%. The average policy costs $300 to $800 per year to the buyer and is paid in monthly installments. Example: A policy costing the buyer $360 a year is paid at $30 per month. Your commission totals $21 a month. The cost of living in your area is, say $2,100 per month. You must sell $360,000 worth of insurance to make your $2,100 per month. This is from the first day you start selling. No way!

The second year you receive 5% or $1.50 per month from these policies, that is if you managed to get them all renewed, which is improbable. Thus, in the second year you have $150 a month from renewals and $2,100 from sales of new policies. You are now in a situation of having to make eight to ten calls per day just to keep even. Trust me it sounds easier than it is.

It is not until you get to the level of broker that you will start earning good money. The broker has dozens of people under him, each selling and contributing part of their sales commission to him. It will take the average person five to seven years to reach this level.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not knocking the insurance industry, or the job. It can be very lucrative and sometimes has led to people becoming very wealthy.

But, you are out of work and need money to live on, to pay the bills. A career in insurance sales is a long-term experience, not very good for immediate needs. This holds true for any type of sales that requires continuous repeat or renewal customers for support.

One of the new sales tactics, developed in the 80's is the Telemarketer or telemarketing ploy. Some of these jobs do pay a minimum wage but most are commission only. You and twenty or thirty others will be placed in a room full of telephones and telephone books. You spend eight hours a day calling people in an attempt to sell a product or an appointment.

I'm not sure what the ratio of calls to sales is but I would suspect it is about 300 to 1. Some of these places use you to generate leads for their outside salespeople. Your livelihood now depends on how well they can sell. Not a good way to get yourself back into the job market or of earning a living.

What is the point of this? Easy, be careful.

· Newspapers sell ads, not jobs.

They try to screen out the obvious con for your protection but, many jobs and operations are 100% legal, though they distinctly 'use' people. You have to scrutinize the ads carefully and weed out those offers that can cause problems and hardships. I've only pointed out a few.

March 30 2011 at 2:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Envelope stuffing; here is a good one that borders on outright thievery. 'Earn hundreds of dollars each week stuffing envelopes at home'. This does sound like an easy and fun job. They will supply you with sales fliers and all you do is fold them and stuff envelopes and mail them. You get a commission on each sale that develops from your mailing area.

Several things are improper here. First, is because you must pay for the fliers or the mailing list. This is usually a list that is not up to date or otherwise valid.

Second, you are being asked to spend $25 to $50 out of your pocket for their advertising.

Third, if there is a product, it usually is of poor quality.

Fourth, you probably are paying for the postage to mail these fliers. No, it is not a job; it is a flat out 'con' game. These people come into an area and sell their 'make money at home program' to dozens of people and then split. They made their money.

There was a perfume company commercial many years ago, may still be running. "Promise her anything, but give her Arpege." Many ads are like that. They promise the world on a silver platter and then they give skunk oil.

March 30 2011 at 2:19 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply