By James Limbach
ConsumerAffairs.com

August 21, 2009
A U.S. district court has halted a phony job placement operation that allegedly stole money from job seekers by promising them full-time work, with benefits, that never materialized.

The court shut down the job placement operation, Career Hotline, Inc., and its principal, Susan Bright, who also does business as Unique Flowers, until a hearing on a preliminary injunction can be held, and froze its assets. According to a complaint filed by the Federal Trade Commission, the scam took out ads in local newspapers around the United States.

The ads urged job seekers to call an 800 number, where they got a pitch from telemarketers urging them to provide information about their work histories and to pay a placement fee that ranged from $89 to $195.

The FTC complaint charges that the defendants misled consumers by guaranteeing that they would land jobs making at least $25,000 a year if they paid the placement fee and provided the work history information.

Consumers who did this did not get the promised jobs, however. Their repeated efforts to follow up with the defendants or ask for a refund were fruitless.

ConsumerAffairs.com recently reported on a warning from Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett that Internet job scams are on the rise. He warned "falling for these schemes will not only leave you unemployed, but victims can also lose thousands of dollars and find themselves targeted by identity thieves."

These kinds of scams, and variations thereof, are fairly common, if the complaints received by ConsumerAffairs.com are any indication:

• Tommy from Gonzales, California, says he was offered a job and schooling, made a deposit of $150, but was never contacted about job placement by Hunter business school of academics. He says after calling and being put on hold for as log as four hours, "I just realized they are a scam and getting sued by the state so I am in desperate need of getting my refund back."

• Richard of Las Vegas, Nevada, tells ConsumerAffairs.com, "I graduated in 2005 from ITT Technical Institute with highest honors and they promised to have lifetime job placement when you graduate from their school, which they did not do that with me and I have over $80,000 worth of student loans that I need to pay back but can not due to the fact of not getting a job like they promised."

• Angela of Brooklyn, New York, says she attended Katharine Gibbs of New York from 2001-2003 and has not been able to find employment in the field in which she majored. "As I was told in the beginning," she said, "Gibbs GUARANTEED a lifetime of job placement. All it turned out to be was some lame internships at start up companies that would never hire and would not even pay a minimal fee. When I confronted someone at the job placement department, they basically told me that I was not their responsibility of what kind of jobs they placed people in, their job was to simply provide a job ad and that they did not guarantee the actual job or pay."

Susan Grant, Director of Consumer Protection at the Consumer Federation of America, says that given the state of the economy and the labor situation, "solicitations to help you find a job are probably more attractive that ever."

Grant says the real tip-off that a job placement offer may be a scam is the request for an up-front fee. She says, "That's not something legitimate employment agencies do." Grant says placement agencies should tell you what services they will be offering. "If that's not clear," she concludes, "I would stay away from it."