Advance Fee Job Scams Exploit a Tough Labor Market

Guaranteed job, for a price

Advance fee employment scams are generally found overseas. Foreign nationals are offered the opportunity to be slotted into lucrative U.S. jobs, but first must pay some type of fee to the employment "recruiter." The jobs, of course, don't exist.

With jobs hard to come by in the U.S., more and more U.S. citizens are falling victim to this kind of set-up. Garfield, of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., said he responded to a newspaper advertisement for a job as a security guard.

"I was told to come in on April 3, which I did, and told to pay $75 for to register," Garfield wrote in a ConsumerAffairs post. "I paid the $75 and was asked if I had a security license and any certification. I told them I had a current security license. I was told I needed a fire guard certificate and was given a booklet to read and answer a few questions, which I did."

Guaranteed job, for a price

The following day Garfield said he got a call from the recruiter telling him she had a front desk position paying $13 an hour. If he were interested, she told him, he should come in the next day and pay a balance of $189 to be placed in the job. Garfield said he paid, but quickly learned he wasn't being placed in anything.

"All I got was a list of security companies for me to go around applying for jobs, which are not even hiring," he wrote. "I don't have time to travel around applying all over, and if I did I wouldn't need to pay them almost $300 for that."

Absolutely not. While some employment services do, in fact, charge up front fees, the law requires them to provide some real service to the job seeker. In Garfield's case, they apparently didn't.

Here are several different kinds of employment services and the service they provide:

Private Personnel Placement Services - These agencies seek to successfully match applicants with prospective employers. Fees for this service are collected only once the applicant has found a job and may be paid entirely by the employer or applicant. In some cases, the employer and applicant may both pay a portion of the fee.

Career Counseling Services - These agencies are designed to help job seekers make career decisions and refine their job search and application skills. Job placement is not guaranteed by these services. Fees are often required in advance and may cost as much as $4,000.

Job Listing and Advisory Services - These agencies sell information about getting a job in the United States or overseas. This information often includes tips on creating effective resumes and conducting successful job searches. These agencies often require an advance fee.

Public Employment Services - An alternative to private services, public services are available nationwide. Public services provide lists of job openings, employment counseling, screening, and referrals to appropriate educational and training services. Additionally, trained staff provide help with resumes, interviewing techniques, and skills assessment. No fees are required for this public service.

You will notice that none of the above services "guarantee" job placement. If a company does make that guarantee, you should consider it a big red flag.

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