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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Beware of job scams on Web

It's so easy to apply for a job over the Internet. It's even easier to be taken in by scam artists hiding behind your computer screen. Actually, they're standing in plain view without apology, without shame, wondering why, desperate soul that you are, you are taking so long to give them your money.

There are companies, or one company going by many names, advertising for "financial directors," "accounting directors" or similar titles, looking for Americans willing to be middlemen in financial transactions.

One of these companies claims to be in Northern Ireland and has trouble handling checks from the U.S. Someone, probably with a fake name, is listed as the contact. All you have to do is let your bank account be a host for wired money, then turn around and send it to the intended person the same day. Usually for $10,000 or more, of which you keep 5 percent.

Can you say "money laundering" boys and girls? It has fraud written all over it, but sometimes good sense and reason get abandoned.

There was a sales ad by a real company over the Internet that promised a base pay of $40,000. The candidate went for an interview only to find that promise was a fraud - you were compensated for the promotional items sold and there was no base pay. Training that was supposedly included at company expense was mandated at your expense.

I'm not sure if the candidate took the company to court. I hope he did. That would have led to a whole new level of interviews for that employer.

There's a site asking for "Mystery Shoppers", promising up to $72,000 a year if you'll make yourself shop till you drop. Just pay them a fee of $39.99 - no, do it now and you only pay $19.99. With all those fees, someone will be getting a lot more than $72,000 and it isn't likely to be you.

More than once a supposed Chinese-based company appeared to think so much of me as to offer to make me a partner in its precious metals enterprise. I think it was a version of the name "Hong Kong Limited." Just for the heck of it, I Googled the company. Must have been owned by a mysterious billionaire as it was nowhere to be found.

I checked out a position advertised on a film jobs Web site for "executive director of the Arizona Film Commission." Seemed legit. Having actually attended meetings of the Arizona Film Commission in the past, I applied for the position.

A number of weeks passed. Having heard nothing I decided to call the Arizona Film Commission in Phoenix and check on the status of my application. They were mystified. The position was not open and hadn't been open for years. The online application wasn't legitimate. Who knows what they did with my information.

Then there is the whole universe of home-based businesses that give page after page of testimonials and tell you luxury cars, mansions and exotic vacations can and will all be yours. All you have to do is pay $29.99 or $59.99 or whatever the fee of the day is.

Granted, it is possible that a given home business will lead to your success. What is guaranteed is your payment has led to the seller's new house, new car and Fiji Islands vacation.

Fraudulent companies are all over the Internet. They are just as likely to be on a reputable jobs site as to slip through your spam filter. And if you are looking for jobs over the computer, there are sticky cyber webs just waiting to hold you down and rip you off. There is no really safe place. You have to be your own guardian of your time, money, emotions, effort and good name.

The advice I would give based on my own explorations and learning from the mistakes of others is:

-If it sounds too good to be true it usually is.

-Don't trustingly pay a fee for anything lightly.

-Go through the trouble via directory assistance or a search to get the phone number of a given company. This will prove if it exists and you can ask questions regarding the position and promised perks.

-Report fraudulent schemes that tried to take you in. Tell the Attorney General's office. If it is on an otherwise reputable site, tell the site someone has slipped through. If you've been fooled, do something about it to rattle their cage.

The point is to let neither desperation nor greed get the better of you. It's sad to see so many unscrupulous people out there without a conscience. Protect yourself and fight back. Don't be as dumb as they hope you will be.

Mike Shelton is a Yuma resident
and guest columnist for The Sun.
E-mail him at
Msyetry shopping jobs , mystery shoppers, secre shoppers, secretweb shoppers, shopping jobs

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