A Baltimore man responded to an advertisement on the Internet
by a California company promising guaranteed overseas employment for
a fee of $1,595. After signing the contract and sending a down payment
of $795, he was offered no job leads. When he tried to reach the company,
he discovered they'd moved, leaving no forwarding address and the website
was no longer valid.
A Montgomery County man called a Florida job placement agency that advertised
in a Baltimore newspaper. After the company representative guaranteed
him a job within 60 days, the man charged the $300 fee to his credit
card over the phone. When the company prepared an amateurish resume and
failed to provide any interviews or referrals, the consumer decided to
seek a refund. But by then, the company had gone out of business.
Many job seekers turn to employment agencies, career counselors and resume
services when searching for employment. Many of these agencies are legitimate
businesses that provide meaningful assistance.
However, job search scams often flourish during periods of high unemployment
when people are most vulnerable. Bogus career marketers take advantage
of consumers who, frustrated by a long job hunt, are anxious to speed
up the process. Beware if you're considering such a company. You may
find yourself paying hundreds or thousands of dollars in advance fees
for services the company misrepresents - or never provides at all.
Here's what frequently happens: You see an advertisement or receive an
e-mail promising access to the "hidden job market." The ad
or e-mail may tell you to contact an out-of-state job search firm for
this access. You receive a pitch about:
- jobs with great pay and benefits;
- jobs offering tax-free salaries
with paid food, housing and medical care in exotic locales overseas;
- fast results;
- a specific number of interviews;
- the firm's high rate of success
with past clients;
- special databases of information on corporations;
- reserving a job by sending in money right away.
What You May Get for Your Money
Many consumers complain that after sending their advance payments,
career marketing firms provide them with sloppy resumes and outdated
lists of business contacts to call. The "special database" of information
they tout is often the same information readily available to
anyone from newspaper ads or internet employment websites.
You may be charged for secretarial services by career marketers who
send your unsolicited resume to prospective employers. Meanwhile,
the job search firm has any special contacts at those companies,
so you'd be better off sending your resume yourself.
And worse, many unscrupulous career marketers close down after
a few months, eluding law enforcement authorities and job-seekers
How to Avoid Rip-Offs
Follow these guidelines when seeking employment services:
- Be suspicious of any employment services that guarantee
they'll find you a job.
- Don't pay a fee in advance. Some unscrupulous
agencies may promise you that you can reserve a job by sending in money
Don't do it. State law prohibits an employment agency from
collecting a fee
in advance of services. This is true even if the agency doesn't
call itself an employment agency, but still provides information
you to obtain employment.
- Don't give your credit card number
out, even if the firm promises not to charge your account until you
sign the contract.
Before you spend money responding to job ads or signing a
contract with a job search company:
- Check out the agency, including the owner's credentials
and those of the career counselor assigned to you. Call
and Industry at 410-767-2241 to find out about any complaints
made against the agency or if the company has a bond on
file. If a business
a prospective employee a fee, it must be bonded with the
Commission of Labor and Industry. If the business is not
bonded, do not
do work with
them, as the bond is there to protect consumers from shady
actions such as deceit, fraud or misrepresentation. Call
former and current
as references. Ask to see other resumes the agency prepared.
Ask friends and business associates what they know about
Call the Better
Business Bureau to inquire about consumer complaints.
the contract carefully, making sure you understand every term before
you sign. Get all promises in writing.
If you have
about an employment agency that charges an advance fee,
call the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation's
Division of Labor and Industry, or visit their website
- Find out who pays the fee
and how much it is. Try to find an agency whose entire
fee is paid by the employer.
Free Job Resource Information
Free sources of employment information are available at:
- Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation website at www.dllr.state.md.us.
and county human resources offices and information referral services.
- University and college career services offices.
- Employment websites.
- Newspaper ads.