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 CareerBuilder.com 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 -- CareerBuilder.com 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 RatRaceRebellion.com, 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 (www.bbb.org), and www.badbusinessbureau.com, 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
nrwlbt

PLAIN AND SIMPLE,IF IT SOUNDS TO GOOD TO BE TRUE IT ISN'T.

March 30 2011 at 8:47 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
hopestreet11

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
Dottie

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
rsnow2001

SIX STEP PLAN
FREE 6 $TEP PLAN NO $$CCAAMM .

#1 DO WHAT U DO BEST AND HELP OTHERS
EVERY 1 HAS A TALENT.

#2 BELIVE IN THAT TALENT LOV WHAT U DO BEST HELPING OTHERS

#3 IF YOU WORK FOR A LIVING DONT KILL YOUR
SELF WORKING TAKE SOMETIME 2 SMELL THE ROSES :)

#4 DONT BE 2 GREEDY ASK A FAIR PRICE FOR YOUR $ERVICE/TALENT.

#5 GET PAID $$$ AND EARN A LIVING EVERY 1 HAS 2 BRING HOME SOME
BACON.

#6 TREAT OTHERS AS U WOULD HAVE THEM TREAT U .

THIS SIX STEP PLAN NO SCAM HAS WORKED FOR THOUSANDS OF OTHERS
AND CAN WORK FOR U 2 AND ITS FREE THATS THE BEST PART .
PASS IT ON AND SERVE OTHERS .

March 30 2011 at 5:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
bj414z

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

"We have received your lead from Adecco Staffing Agency (www.adecco.com). 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
Mark

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
bassmanjoe

In 2002, experiencing very little business after starting my own web site design business, I thought at the minimum, I'd pick up a part-time job. I saw an ad in our local newspaper for postal carrier exams being given for a fee of (I think ) was $200. I took the test and even interviewed with a person at their office (which I mistakenly thought was affiliated with the US Postal Service) who told me I scored very high on the test, was a prime candidate, and await a phone call. Turned out from their web site, that they in fact, had NO affiliation whatsoever and there was some "fine print" to that effect that I overlooked. Lesson learned: Be sure to ask LOTS of questions and read EVERYTHING.

March 30 2011 at 1:28 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Carl & Lucy

Beware of this one... It is sort of a scam on the unemployeed. Contractors who are going to bid on big jobs, especially government jobs will place "Help Wanted" ads. You will go through their interview process and they will lead you to believe that you have a the job. They send you home to wait for their call. What they don't tell you is that they don't even have the contract yet. They make their bid, they lose and then when you wait and wait and finally follow up with them they give you some stupid reason why they didn't hire you. Save yourselves a lot of grief and waiting for nothing by determining if you are being interviewed at a real company job site, if not then ask if they are just getting ready to bid on a contract. My son did this twice thinking he had a big job lined up..he finally got smart and asked the right questions. These people don't care that they built up your hopes......its kinda cruel. I am retired now and so happy I don't have to deal with it all.

March 30 2011 at 12:29 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
VMP3080

I don't feel sorry for any of these people. It's constantly on the news and papers about these scammers. I recently received a mail from someone at Virtual Staffing and they also go by other alias. They went on how I had an interview scheduled etc... Sent them a real nasty letter and they responded in kind. Last mail sent I wrote "You *hore. One more mail and contacting the FTC!!" No more mails. THERE ARE NO At-home positions UNLESS the company directly hires you as a tele-commuter. It is NOT a real job if they are asking for money.

March 30 2011 at 11:13 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply