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Don't be Fooled

Job scams target the desperate
Are the opportunities with American Income Life as boundless as they claim?

Job scams target the desperate

Looking for a job? Be aware that while those big job search sites on the internet can be wonderful places to find employment, posting your information on those same sites can lead you into a world of trouble. After posting my resume on several job-search sites recently, the most blatant fraud came in the form of an email from Najib Banbang. Sure, I suppose it’s possible that a lawyer in Malaysia actually picked me from the several hundred thousand other folks who share my last name. I guess that he might really want my help to free up and share in a huge inheritance left behind by a deceased client with the same name. I could be that lucky. Still, it seems unlikely.Similarly, I won’t be accepting the second offer sent to me by David Greg of “A Step Above Service Evaluations.” This company is ostensibly a “mystery shopper” firm that wants me to deposit their cheque into my bank account, keep $300 and send the remaining $3,000 to a third party in the USA. While wiring this money, I’m supposed to pay careful attention to the customer service I receive.However, it occurs to me that, since I have to perform this function within 24 hours of receiving the cheque, it will preclude the funds from clearing my bank before I take money from my account and send it to points unknown. Bad idea.These sorts of scams prey on the greedy or desperate, but anyone with a lick of common sense isn’t going to get cheated.However, that brings me to a couple of far more insidious enterprises; job offers that are not what they seem and are much more difficult to detect or even label as fraud. Strictly speaking, these are not scams, nor are they illegal, but neither are they what they claim to be when they first contact potential . . . um . . . let’s call them employees.One such firm is currently alive and well in Victoria. Again, this company finds its new prospects by skimming resumes from internet job sites. I received a call from an American Income Life representative who told me that he’d received my application for the position of “Outlet Manager” and that I seemed perfect for the job. I couldn’t recall applying, but the gentleman was so effusive about how I was just who they were looking for that I let it slide to see where it was heading. Where it was heading was an in-person interview. I couldn’t resist. After Najib and Greg’s internet hijinx, I was curious about anyone willing to meet me in person. The nice man gave me an interview time and the address of their Quadra Street offices. I was instructed to dress in business attire as this was a very professional organization.Still, as you may have guessed, I’m a bit of a cynic. My first move was to look up the company name coupled with the word “scam” on the internet. Dozens of warning messages and postings popped up immediately. What was alleged by the people posting was that this was a strictly commission sales opportunity with a pyramid scheme flavour.  There was no management job and you would be charged up front for training.Of course, you can’t always trust what you read online. I went to the interview, dressed in my second best suit. (As it turned out, it was a better suit than the Human Resource professional who’d cautioned me to dress well.) The office had no name on the door, and the only indication that showed I was in the right place was a typewritten note taped to that door at a bit of a jaunty angle. It advertised employment opportunities. The gentleman sat me in an office and proceeded to ask a few perfunctory questions. After filling out a one-page information sheet, I was in business. Training would start almost immediately, but I would be required to pay for it. My first fee would be nearly $400. I was also asked for the names of several references who could be contacted to verify my character. When I asked if these people would be contacted for marketing purposes, my interviewer was evasive.He was similarly evasive about the salary. My initial phone call promised a management level salary of between $50,000 and $70,000 per annum. After some insistent questioning, my interviewer admitted that all compensation was structured on an “incentive and performance driven model.” “Sounds like commission sales to me,” I ventured. He shrugged and smiled, then proceeded to say that it was a very complex system and would be explained during my $400 training session.After leaving the office, I waited outside and managed to talk to an existing trainee. To date he’d paid over $2,000 for training and certification, but is now finally being given “leads.” He’s set to hit the streets to start trying to sell. I wish him luck.A little research online and you can find a lot of enterprises that operate on some variation of the one used by AIL. For example, there are a few companies who recruit people to be car salespeople. They imply that jobs are immediately available and all that’s necessary is for you to take their sales training to qualify. The training is provided, but the jobs don’t exist. I know one fellow who fell for this a few years ago and is still bitter about the experience.Here’s a few tips when looking for a job online.n If you’re called by a recruiter for a job for which you haven’t applied, forget it.n If you are offered an opportunity that seems too good to be true, it is. Run away.n You should never have to pay to get a job. That includes the cost of training, certification, uniforms, and anything else they pull out of their hat. It’s a job. They pay you.These are tough economic times and finding a good job can be challenging. Using the internet makes sense — it’s a great tool. Still, the predators are out and they make the job-search jungle far more dangerous than it should be. MTim Collins is a Victoria freelance writer. He spends his time haunting the Inner Harbour and exploring the offbeat aspects of life on the West Coast.