Entry-Level Job Scams

I suppose this post technically isn’t about scams, per se. A scam, in its simplest form, is when someone takes your money without giving you anything in return.

But what would you call a job listing that misleads you as to the nature of the job, promises a fat paycheck that will never materialize, and comes from a company that dodges basic questions about salary, benefits and basic descriptions of the job?

What would you call a job that promises entry-level employment in the sports or entertainment industry, but really entails going door-to-door for 12 hours a day, selling coupons (that may have something to do with a sports or entertainment venue)?

I know what I’d call it: a scam. Plain and simple.

These advertisements are often found in the Classifieds section of the newspaper, but I’m told they’re just everywhere on CareerBuilder and Monster (as well as every other job search website in the universe). They’re aimed at recent college graduates, but people from all walks of life fall for them. In the current economy, with unemployment running wild, I’m sure more people than ever are applying for these jobs.

So, how do you avoid these less-than-honest job offers?

  1. Warning Sign #1: The advertisement promises entry-level work in the professional sports or entertainment industries. Sometimes they will list sports teams that are “clients.” Here’s a trade secret about real entry-level jobs in sports and entertainment: they’re all taken. It doesn’t matter when you’re reading this. They’re taken.
  2. Warning Sign #2: When you call the phone number, they won’t say the name of the company. That’s because they often work under many different names.
  3. Warning Sign #3: Your first interview is over the telephone. During this interview, you’re told that you’ll “just have to see for yourself.” You will always be granted a second interview. You can tell them you’re an escaped serial murderer, and they’ll still grant that second interview.
  4. Warning Sign #4: Your second interview consists of being picked up in a junk car and driven to the worst neighborhood in the universe by another employee. You’re handed a stack of coupons and told to take one side of the street. Essentially, you’re working for free that first day. You could also end up stranded in The Worst Neighborhood In The Universe if you protest. And, since you showed up in a suit because you thought it would be a real interview, everybody in TWNITU thinks you’re a banker trying to take their house.

The best defense is just to not answer these ads in the first place. Nobody is handing out jobs in the music business in this (or any other) economy.

Your other best defense is to be informed. Do the following Google search: “[name of company]” scam. You might find out everything you need to know with that one step. Trust your instincts, too—if something about a job offer or interview doesn’t seem quite right, it probably isn’t.

I found a couple excellent articles on this topic, both written by Willy Franzen at One Day, One Job, a site for post-college job hunters:

As far as I’m concerned, both articles are required reading for yourself and for any people between the ages of 16 and 30 you might know. The Landers Group is a company that operates under about a thousand different names, and runs a lot of these schemes.

Is it a true scam? No. Ultimately, it is a job, and I suppose if you sell a lot of coupons in The Worst Neighborhood In The Universe (or elsewhere—they don’t only stick to TWNITU), you might be able to make a few dollars.

Should you avoid it anyway? Yes, yes, and yes.

One more thing you should do: when young people come to your door selling coupons or magazines (“Mag Crews” are a whole other topic, not really fraud-related), be nice to them. They’re very probably stuck in a terrible job very far from home, with no money or way to get back.

Fraudulent advertisements: anybody can do it!

Here is a list of things that literally anyone can do:

  1. Run an advertisement in the classified section of the newspaper
  2. Start a website
  3. Send an email message
  4. Tape a poster or sign to a telephone pole

This is an important fact to remember when you’re considering whether or not to call a phone number or give your name and other personal information out over the Internet.

I was reminded of this when I heard that the U.S. Postal Service jobs scam I wrote about just the other day had showed up in one of the newspapers here in Northwest Indiana. An employee here at REGIONAL called the number, just to see if it was the same rip-off I posted about. She told me, “The first thing out of her mouth was, ‘It’s $129.95. Will that be credit or debit?'”

There is no vetting process in the classifieds. Newspapers do not check out alleged businesses before running their ads. I could call them up right now and, as long as I paid for it, run an ad that said, “Build your own flying saucer out of household materials! Capable of inter-planetary travel. Seats 4 adults. Plans only $99.95” and they would run it (just like they would also run one that said, “Be a secret shopper! $483/day!”). They just don’t have the resources to verify the claims of every advertiser.

The Internet is the same way, only worse. Anybody can create a website, and make it look very slick and professional. There is absolutely no physical barrier to lying on a website, or setting up a fake business that just steals money or personal information.

Heck, I could say this site is “as seen on MSNBC,” even though it hasn’t been. Yet.

Actually, when you link to a CNN.com article, as I’ve done a few times, a link to your article shows up at the bottom of their page in the “From the Blogs” section. So I could say the Fraud Prevention Unit is “as seen on CNN,” right?


Okay, fine. I’ll have to wait for my Larry King interview. Or maybe an hour-long special! Or…

U.S. Postal Service Job Scam

Finally, an employment scam post that isn’t about mystery shopping!

I signed up for the Indiana Attorney General’s Office consumer alert messages a while back. I strongly suggest you do the same. I’ll just print the full text of today’s alert, since it’s short:

Attorney General Greg Zoeller and the U.S. Postal Service caution Hoosiers about a scam that offers a study guide to help pass a postal exam with the promise of a full-time job. There is no truth to this offer. The U.S. Postal Service is not currently hiring any full-time workers. Furthermore, the information found in the study guide priced at $129.95, is actually offered free of charge at libraries around the state.

This is a classic scam: charging money for information that’s available free of charge. Throwing in the promise of a full-time position is just a tactic to get people who might be looking for work to act quickly.

I’m guessing there’s a reason the Post Office isn’t hiring at the moment: anybody who already has a full-time P.O. job is going to hold onto it for dear life until the economy straightens out, even if they were considering quitting or retiring before.

I don’t blame ’em, do you?