2009-10-16 / Columnists

Notes On Consumer Affairs

Commentary By Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer

AUDREY PHEFFER AUDREY PHEFFER One of the unfortunate signs of the weak state of the economy is high unemployment. Many people are currently struggling to find a job in order to make ends meet. If you are one of these people, you should be aware that there are a number of scams that target the unemployed.

One type of scam involves job offers that require up-front fees. The employer will claim that in order to apply, the applicant must pay a small fee to cover the costs of running a background check. Potential hires may also be told that they have to pay for any training or testing that the job requires. These are not real jobs, but are instead scams. While the required fees may be small and seem insignificant, the total amount taken in by the scammer can be quite substantial. Legitimate businesses will absorb these costs themselves; job hunters should never have to pay money to be considered for employment.

Job hunters should also be wary of job placement centers that ask for large upfront fees. These can range from the low hundreds into the thousands of dollars. Many of these firms advertise on employment web sites and Craigslist, and their ads sometimes look like job postings. Their sales pitch sounds too good to be true: they guarantee that you will find a job, that they will cut your job-search time in half, and that they have access to a "hidden job market." However, the services they provide often amount to little more than editing resumes and suggesting you cold-call employers yourself. These types of firms rarely give out refunds and can be difficult to locate. Attorneys General in several states have taken action against them. Many legitimate recruiting firms assist consumers with resume drafting, building networking skills, and locating job openings. These firms often do not charge consumers as they receive their revenue from companies that need help finding employees.

A third scam involves phishing e-mails. The scammer sends out a spam e-mail offering what looks like a great job opportunity. The consumer is then directed to a web site that installs malicious software on his or her computer or is solicited for his or her bank account or Social Security numbers. Some of these e-mails seem to be from well-known companies. Consumers should not click on any links until they have confirmed that the e-mail is from a legitimate source. While employers need your Social Security number for tax purposes and your bank account number for direct depositing of your paychecks, an honest company will not ask for such information until they have already hired you.

If you are unsure about a company, you should always research its standing with the Better Business Bureau at www.bbb.org and the New York State Attorney General at www.oag.state.ny.us. These websites also provide additional advice on avoiding scams and frauds.

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