July 6, 2010
The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has presented a whole new array of possible scams for those looking to cash in on the situation. Among them - schemes designed to steal money from people looking for a job -- especially work involving helping to clean up the BP mess.
Bogus ads for oil spill clean-up jobs in the Gulf are appearing in newspapers, online, and in email inboxes. Some promoters claim they can get you a job once you pay them for training or certifications. Others require you to pay a fee before they let you start.
Some send bogus emails that may appear to be from BP, and ask for your personal information and fees as part of the application process. Still others may falsely claim they've been authorized by BP to hire clean-up crews.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says the telltale signs of oil spill job scams are similar to the telltale signs of every job scam -- and that people who are looking for Gulf clean-up jobs have several sources of legitimate employment and volunteer opportunities.
Spotting a scam
If you're looking for a job or want to volunteer your services in the Gulf clean up, here are some red flags:
• Guaranteed jobs or guaranteed placements. Regardless of how severe the situation -- and how much you want to believe the promises -- no legitimate company makes guarantees about placing anyone in a job.
• An employer or employment-service firm that wants you to pay for training, certification, or its expenses placing you with a company. Legitimate employers and firms don't ask you to pay them for the promise of a job. In fact, it's against the U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines for employers to charge employees for training.
• Vague offers. The more general the email "job" description, the less likely there is a valid job. If you see phrases like "We have thousands of jobs" or "We represent BP," consider it a problem. Report it to the FTC. Send a copy of unwanted or deceptive messages to firstname.lastname@example.org and then delete it. The FTC uses the unsolicited emails stored in this database to pursue law enforcement actions against people who send deceptive spam email.
• You're asked for your financial information. No credible employer needs your bank account information or credit or debit account numbers to interview you or hire you. Scam artists can use this information to commit identity theft.
• Companies that charge you for lists of available jobs. Some listing services and "consultants" write ads that sound like they have jobs waiting for you. But they're selling information about how to find a job, and that's generally available for free.
If you're interested in getting involved with the clean up, here are several sources for legitimate opportunities. Remember some jobs do require special training, but stipends are available to cover those costs.
• Deepwater Horizon Response -- 1-866-448-5816
• Alabama -- Environmental Cleanup
• Florida -- Florida Attorney General
• Mississippi Department of Employment Security or 1-800-224-1388
State volunteer opportunities
If you're interested in volunteering, call the Deepwater Horizon Response Volunteer Request Line at 1-866-448-5816 or visit these state websites:
OSHA Worker Safety Requirements are designed to ensure that oil spill response and clean-up operations are done safely, effectively and efficiently. Go here for more information about common operations, hazards, training and worker protection.