Home > General > Bogus Employment Posting Preys on Job Seekers Around the Country

Bogus Employment Posting Preys on Job Seekers Around the Country

Like many job hunters, Jim Sterns pored over the want ads for re-employment opportunities. He thought he found it in a listing for a warehouse job.

But when the Lee’s Summit, Mo., resident paid a $195 job-search fee _ and despite the job “guarantee” he was promised over the phone _ he found he was the victim of a phony job-placement company.

“Big old dummy, me. I did it,” Sterns said. “I was out of work. I’d been looking for work since I moved to the area in January. There just weren’t any jobs, so the ‘guaranteed’ got me.”

Federal authorities say Sterns was sucked into a scam that charged job hunters across the country for access to jobs that never materialized.

The operation, Career Hotline Inc., misled consumers by promising $25,000-a-year jobs but not providing any, the Federal Trade Commission said Wednesday.

A U.S. District Court in Florida has halted the company’s operations and frozen its assets.

Those actions came too late for Sterns, who paid the company in April after seeing a newspaper advertisement.

The FTC complaint against Career Hotline and its principal, Susan Bright, of Seminole, Fla., was based on ads placed in newspapers around the country and on Craigslist.org.

“This was a large scam, affecting consumers all over the country in the middle of a painful recession that has left many, many people without work,” said Betsy Lordan, public affairs specialist at the FTC.

The commission didn’t say how many people or how much money was involved. But in a recession, such scams tend to proliferate.

In addition to sham job-finding companies, perpetrators prey on the desperate by offering credit rating repairs, foreclosure rescues, and home-based businesses that aren’t legitimate.

Legitimate human resource practitioners say job hunters should never have to pay for job leads.

“To exploit the hopefulness of a person urgently seeking a new position transcends ethics or legality _ there’s a cruel inhumaness to this scheme,” said Gary Abram, partner in HCap Search, an executive search firm in the Kansas City area.

Sterns, 38, said in an interview that he had a couple of follow-up phone calls with the Florida-based Career Hotline company but never received a single job lead.

“I kept calling their 1-800 number every day, sometimes 10 times a day for about a month and a half,” Stern said. “I couldn’t talk to nobody … I never got e-mails. I never got nothing.

“I was ticked off at them and at myself for allowing it to happen. Money’s tight anyway, and that’s another $195 I don’t have.”

David Doty, 38, of Buckner, Mo., also was lured in by the promise of “guaranteed” warehouse work, but fared slightly better.

“Right after I sent my check, I looked up the company online, and the only thing I found was a Web site with a bunch of people complaining about it from all over the country,” Doty said.

He immediately stopped payment on his check.

“They must not have realized it, though, because I got four or five e-mails from them, each with several links to different company Web sites,” Doty said.

But when he followed up on those supposed job leads, he found no available jobs. In fact, one of the links was to Smurfit Stone in Blue Springs, the company that had laid him off a few weeks earlier.

“I knew they didn’t have any jobs,” Doty said. “The way the job market is right now, it’s not right what (Career Hotline) did. I feel sorry for the people who got taken.”

A typical ad posted by Career Hotline appeared legitimate. One said, for example:


Will train. Must be able to lift 20 lbs.

FT position for immediate hire.

$20-$30 per hr. Full benefits:

medical, dental, 401(k)

Call 1-800-921-4557″

The ad doesn’t mention a job guarantee or the up-front fee the company required. But when people called the phone number, they reached pre-recorded messages that promised job interviews within 48 hours upon payment of the “guaranteed placement fee.”

The company claimed to work with more than 5,000 employers and have “a level of trust that is unmatched in this industry.” Thus, its messages claimed, “we have a 100 percent guarantee that you are placed with one of these Fortune 500 companies.”

In addition to shutting down Career Hotline, the FTC’s complaint seeks refunds to consumers and “the disgorgement of ill-gotten monies.”

Doty has since obtained a warehouse job through a temporary help agency and works a 3 p.m. to 3 a.m. shift.

Sterns has since studied for and passed a Missouri state licensing exam to sell health and accident insurance through Premium Services, a company based in Dubuque, Iowa.


Authorities advise:

Be very suspicious of any firm that “guarantees” or “promises” a job.

Be skeptical of any firm that charges up-front job-finding fees. Job hunters shouldn’t pay for job leads.

Get a copy of the firm’s contract and understand exactly what you’re paying for, if you agree to pay for career advice services.

Shy away from any company that offers access to “secret” or “undisclosed” jobs.

Don’t do business with any firm that is difficult to contact or that won’t answer your questions.

Check with state attorney general offices, the Better Business Bureau, and the Federal Trade Commission to ask questions or file complaints.

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