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Job seekers: Beware of employment scams

Editor's note: The following was provided by the Office of Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson.

In this troubled economy, thousands of Minnesotans are without work. The state faces some of the worst unemployment figures in decades. Other people report that their hours have been cut back, or they have received cuts in pay or benefits that have made it harder to pay for the rising costs of health care, housing, and other living expenses.

People who are out of work or looking for supplemental income are sometimes targeted by unscrupulous employment agencies or other job scams.

Tips for job seekers

Beware of companies that charge up front fees, and guarantee to get you a job. Although some agencies make "money-back guarantees," it may be difficult to obtain a refund if the company goes out of business.

Get it in writing. Thoroughly review the contract; do not take the company's word for it. Know what you are agreeing to and exactly what services are provided. Make sure verbal promises match up with what's on paper.

Research the company. Employment agencies are required to register with the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry. Check with the department to make sure an entity is registered before agreeing to do business with it. You may also check with the Federal Trade Commission and Better Business Bureau to obtain more information.

Be wary of companies that respond to your online resume, but provide little information. Agencies may claim they are following up on your online resume for a given company, or that they work with specific companies hiring people who match your skill set. Ask the agency what companies it works with, and check with the employers to make sure they are really hiring and actually work with the agency. If the agency is hesitant to give you information or answer questions, think twice about doing business with them.

Don't be rushed. Some employment agencies may use high-pressure sales tactics to get you to agree to purchase their services. Don't be blinded by claims that you may miss out on a given job or opportunity if you do not hire the company immediately.

Beware of other

employment scams

Consumers should also be on guard against other employment scams such as "mystery shopper" or payment processing scams, in which the scam artist sends the consumer a "check" and convinces him to cash it, send an excess amount to a third-party (usually outside of the country), and keep a remaining amount as a commission. The "check" turns out to be fake, and the consumer's bank account is debited for the loss.

Other employment scams are predicated on the phishing scam - a scam operator convinces a consumer to disclose personal information such as Social Security number or banking information, in order to either "verify identity" for an "interview process," or to set up a payment process for the "new hire." Don't be fooled into giving out such information over the Internet or telephone.

For more information on employment scams, work-at-home scams, or other scams targeting job seekers, contact the Minnesota Attorney General's Office at 1-800-657-3787.