Downturns in the economy bring their own scams, which, sadly, prey on those who can least afford another blow. Those desperate for jobs are a ripe target.
With more than 9 percent of the US labor force (about 7.6 percent in Massachusetts) officially unemployed, thatís a lot of potential for a con artist. And because most unemployed Americans are eager to get back to work, they are vulnerable to offers of training and employment that sound far better than they really are.
Itís usually not apparent at the outset, but most of these pitches Ė they frequently come by email or appear in online classified ads Ė will involve an upfront payment.
The Federal Trade Commission has halted several operations that go after unsuspecting job-seekers with the promise of work and some type of conjured certification or training that never takes place. But those running these scams are nimble and are often overseas, creating the illusion they are located in the United States.
Here are some warning signs of an employment scam:
- An offer guaranteeing youíll get a job by participating in a program.
- Charges in advance of any service being provided.
- A promise of insider information on federal jobs or some unpublished list of jobs that you would have to pay to see (Federal job openings are posted to USAjobs.gov).
- Someone offering opportunities at a company you didnít apply to.
Itís important to verify who you are dealing with when a random job or training opportunity is tossed your way. Sometimes a simple web search of the email address can reveal a host of complaints. Many times it wonít, but donít assume that the operation is legitimate. Email addresses connected to scams change constantly.
Of course, there are ways to get real job training. Above-board companies will have track records that can easily be verified. Also, check with the state career services offices for training and education programs offered by the government.
If you avoid random sales pitches. and research training opportunities carefully, youíll be in a much better position to avoid having an already tough situation turn worse.
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About the author
Mitch Lipka is one of America's leading consumer journalists and advocates. He is an expert in product safety, recalls, scams, and helping consumers get out of jams. He is a nationally known consumer columnist and runs TheConsumerChronicle.com. He lives in Worcester. You can find him on Facebook or reach him at ConsumerNews@Aol.com