This article has two parts. The first is information from the Federal
Trade Commission (FTC) and the second is by the Better Business Bureau.
The reason you are visiting this site may be a
strong desire to work abroad. But why? Perhaps the stories of easy money and romantic
adventure drive you to leave the United States and find happiness in a foreign culture.
These same stories give scam artists the fuel they need to bilk countless people out of
millions of dollars.
Often it is not easy to spot a scam, especially
about something unknown like jobs supposedly available overseas. You will see
advertisements in prestigious newspapers and magazine, which make legitimate sounding
claims of excitement and excellent salaries. The ads sound like others you might find in
your local employment classifieds. But there are telltale signs that may indicate a scam.
1. They ask for money up front.
2. They use post office boxes, instead of office addresses.
3. They make promises of employment and guarantees of refunds.
4. They charge fees for giving you a job lead.
To see how these scam artists operate, consider the following three cases taken from the
files of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
CASE NUMBER ONE:
The Federal Trade Commission charged a Las Vegas partnership with conducting a deceptive
overseas job placement scam. According to the FTC's complaint, this company and three
individuals allegedly offered overseas employment matching services. They claimed to match
consumers' qualifications and skills with companies that were hiring Americans in
Australia and other countries. They typically sold their services for $290.
The FTC's complaint charged that company falsely claimed that:
-- clients were very likely to obtain overseas employment in Australia or other countries;
-- they had existing relationships with numerous firms that have jobs overseas;
-- they derived most of their income from fees paid by hiring companies; and
-- they had located specific employers interested in hiring, or prepared to hire,
This company also represented that it would refund the fee to any client who was not
satisfied with its services. However, according to the complaint, the company frequently
refused to refund fees, or made refunds only after clients filed complaints with
governmental or consumer protection agencies.
In addition, the company sometimes had employees or associates contact potential clients
and falsely represent that they were prospective employers interested in hiring the
client, according to the complaint.
These misrepresentations "caused substantial financial injury to numerous individual
consumers," the complaint alleged.
The U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada, at the FTC's request, issued a
temporary restraining order, froze the assets of the company and the individuals, and
appointed a temporary receiver to run the company. The Commission also asked the court to
issue a permanent injunction against any misrepresentations in the sale of job placement
or resume preparation services or any other products or services, and to order the
defendants to pay redress to consumers at the conclusion of the case.
The investigation and litigation were handled by the FTC's San Francisco Regional Office.
The Commission received substantial assistance in the investigation from the Nevada Labor
Commission and the Better Business Bureau of Southern Nevada.
CASE NUMBER TWO:
The Federal Trade Commission charged Company B with conducting a fraudulent telemarketing
scheme that promised to place consumers in overseas jobs, but which had bilked
approximately 70,000 consumers out of an estimated $25 million. According to the
complaint, Company B and its two owners and officers, XYZ and his wife, ABC, allegedly
offered overseas employment matching services. They claimed to "match" job
applicants with a computerised data base of actual current job openings and to send
customers' resumes to companies which had job openings matching the customers' skills.
Company B sold its services for $395 to $550, and advertised in national and local
magazines and newspapers, by telephone and by mailed promotional materials.
The FTC's complaint charged that owners falsely claimed that:
-- customers were very likely to get overseas jobs through their placement services. In
fact, the complaint alleged, many or most of the customers did not obtain jobs through
-- they had information on 10,000 to 15,000 or more currently available overseas job
openings. According to the complaint, they actually had information on substantially fewer
than 10,000 openings.
-- they maintained "close working relationships" with hundreds of companies
which had overseas jobs
available, and that they discussed individual customers' applications with those
companies. The complaint charged that they had no such "close working
relationships," and that on few, if any, occasions had they discussed individual
-- they matched customers with at least three prospective employers within the time
specified in the contract, and made refunds to customers who were not provided matches. In
fact, the complaint alleged, they did not match all customers with three prospective
employers within the time limit and did not provide refunds.
Consumers had suffered "substantial injury" as a result of these actions, the
The U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, in Los Angeles, at the
Commission's request, issued a temporary restraining order, froze the assets of the
company and the individuals, and appointed a receiver to run the company. The Commission
also asked the court to issue a permanent
injunction against any misrepresentations in the sale of employment matching services and
to order the defendants to pay redress to consumers at the conclusion of the case.
Company was based in Los Angeles, and has maintained
offices in Boise, Idaho; Newark, N.J.; and Tampa, Fla. The Commission had the cooperation
of a number of state and federal officials in developing the case.
A federal district court has prohibited Company C of Coral Springs, Florida, from falsely
promising that it had found jobs for individuals, was hiring workers on behalf of other
firms, or that it would fully refund deposits applicants had paid to hold purported jobs.
The court order followed earlier Federal Trade Commission charges that the company had
engaged in a deceptive scheme offering jobs in the Caribbean. The order also applies to
company directors ABC, also known as XYZ, and also known as OPQ.
The court order stemmed from an FTC lawsuit filed in the court. The FTC alleged that
Company C placed help-wanted ads in newspapers throughout the United States inviting job
seekers to call an 800 telephone number for information about construction employment
featuring high pay -- $70,000 to $85,000 a year -- and good benefits. According to the FTC
complaint detailing the charges, the defendants charged job seekers $289 each as a
"refundable good faith" deposit for placement in a "guaranteed"
position. In fact, the FTC charged, applicants received neither the promised jobs nor
refunds of their deposits. Company C was not hiring for construction jobs with any firm in
the Caribbean area, nor had the defendants reserved any construction jobs for the
applications, the FTC charged.
At the time the FTC filed the complaint, the court granted the agency's request to freeze
the defendants' assets to preserve any funds for consumer redress. After the defendants
failed to respond to the complaint as required, the court entered defaults against them.
The court order was a default final. In addition to the prohibitions on future conduct,
the judgment required the defendants to pay $45,373 in redress, but the FTC said it was
not certain how much of the judgment would be collected.
The judgment also included various reporting requirements to assist the FTC in monitoring
the defendants' compliance.
The FTC's San Francisco Regional Office handled the matter with substantial assistance
from the Florida Attorney General's office, which provided an Assistant Attorney General
to help in prosecuting the case. The Coral Springs Police Department, the Broward County
Sheriff's Department and the U.S. Postal Service also provided assistance.
According to the Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission, you can protect
yourself against overseas employment scams by using common sense, and following a few
1. You should ask for references.
2. Check them out in the state they list as an address.
3. Get everything in writing.
4. Forget about companies with no legitimate street address.
5. Be very skeptical of overseas employment opportunities that sound "too good to be
6. Never send cash in the mail, and be extremely cautious with firms that require a money
order. This could indicate that the firm is attempting to avoid a traceable record of its
7. Do not be fooled by official-sounding names. Many scam artists operate under names that
sound like those of long-standing, reputable firms.
8. Avoid working with firms that require payment in advance.
9. Do not give your credit card or bank account number to telephone solicitors.
10. Read the contract very carefully. Have an attorney look over any documents you are
asked to sign.
11. Beware of an agency that is unwilling to give you a written contract.
12. Do not hesitate to ask questions. You have a right to know what services to expect and
the costs involved.
13. Do not make a hasty decision. Instead, take time to weigh all the pros and cons of the
situation. Be wary of demands that "you must act now."
14. Keep a copy of all agreements you sign, as well as copies of checks you forward to the
Overseas Job Scams
Consumer Information Sponsored by Better
Job seekers, interested in overseas employment that promises high pay,
good benefits, free traveled adventure, should beware that there are unscrupulous
operators who have devised elaborate and very convincing scams to bilk unwitting, and
often desperate applicants.
Before getting swept away with promises of exotic job opportunities,
make sure you have thoroughly investigated the matter and know the potential risks
involved in obtaining overseas employment.
Also, note that the scams outlined in this pamphlet may be practiced
against job applicants seeking employment within the states.
Typical Overseas Employment Scams
Unlike legitimate employment firms that have permanent addresses, many
unscrupulous operators run their so-called job placement firms from out-of-state, and may
provide only a post office or mail drop address.Although there are legitimate firms with
post office or mail drop addresses, job applicants should be aware that this practice,
when used by unscrupulous operators, makes it easier for the operators to avoid scrutiny
by their clients.
In many instances, law enforcement officials investigating a suspicious
firm have found a "fly-by-night"operation. The scam headquarters, with little
more than a desk and a telephone, may be based in one state,but operate out of other
states, making it more difficult for the officials to track the operation.
Typical overseas job scams, include:
- Firms that charge advance fees. These operations usually
advertise in newspapers and magazines. The ads most frequently offer construction jobs,
one of the industries hardest hit by a weak economy. Consumers who call the number,
provided in the ad, are generally told that there are immediate openings available for
which they are perfectly suited. But to lock in the job,they are told, they must pay a
placement fee in advance.
These up-front charges can range from
$50 to several thousand dollars. Firms that charge these advance fees often are so eager
to get the money in their hands and avoid using the U.S. mail service that they may send a
courier to pick up the deposit, or require that it be sent via overnight delivery, at the
However, more often than not, these firms actually have little, or no,
contacts with employers and can offer minimal assistance, despite their service charges.
Job seekers should not be duped by a firm's promise of a refund, if no
job or lead materializes. Most of these firms that require payment in advance do not stay
around long enough for dissatisfied customers to get their money back.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has filed charges against firms that
advertised that they would find overseas jobs for up-front fees of as much as $795. One of
the companies claimed that it had information on more than 10,000 currently available
overseas jobs and that its customers would be matched with at least three prospective
employers. However, the FTC charged that few, if any, of the company's job seekers
received even an interview, much less a job.
- Firms that charge a fee once they provide a job lead. A
disreputable firm may fabricate job leads, or bring in a third-party to impersonate a
potential employer, in order to get an applicant's fee.
- "900" number operators. A "900"
number connected with employment opportunities may charge a high flat fee, or per-minute
rate. In some instances,"900" number operators may fail to disclose the cost of
each call or, if printed, display it in fine print. As a result, callers may not be aware
of how much they are spending. Some unscrupulous operators may even increase their fees by
creating delays while the caller is on the line.
In one case, for
example, a consumer answered an advertisement instructing job applicants to call
an"800" toll-free number for more information. The message on that number
directed the caller to dial a"900" number to find out about job openings.
The"900" number, however, merely directed the caller to send a stamped,
self-addressed envelope to have a job application mailed out. The consumer complied;
received only a one-page generic job application, and was billed $39 for the phone call.
The FTC now requires, among other things, that operators of
"900" numbers provide information on the cost of the call up front. When calling
a "900" number, be sure you understand the charges before continuing with the
- Job listing services. There are many firms that make no
promises to place you in a job. They merely sell a list of job opportunities, providing
little assurance about the accuracy of the information.
instance, the information may be sold via a newsletter that features photocopied
help-wanted ads from newspapers around the world. Many of the ads may be months old,
soliciting jobs that already have been filled. In addition, the ads may not have been
verified to ensure that the jobs actually exist.
Some ads may be from countries with strict quotas that discourage the
hiring of foreign citizens. Other publications may promise access to information on job
opportunities, but provide nothing more than a listing of employers in various regions.
How to Avoid Employment Scams
Many job seekers have lost money to disreputable advance-fee placement
firms. If you decide to use an overseas job placement firm, the best way to avoid being
scammed is to learn as much as you can about the operation, by:
- Asking for references. Request both names of
employers and employees the company has actually found jobs for. Scam artists will
typically defend their refusal to provide the information, claiming it is a"trade
secret." Or, they frequently claim that if they told you where the openings are, you
would circumvent their services. These schemers may also cite privacy concerns as the
reason for refusing to provide the names of people they have placed.
- Checking out reliability. Contact the local
Better Business Bureau, as well as the state's consumer protection agency, to find out if
any complaints have been filed against the firm.
- Avoiding firms that operate solely via telephone or mail.
Any reputable placement firm will almost certainly need to meet you before it can market
you effectively to an employer. Be suspicious of any operation that claims it can place
you with an employer,without meeting and interviewing you.
particularly wary of firms that operate outside of the state where they advertise. In many
instances, unscrupulous operators purposefully seek to distance themselves from their
clients in order to avoid closer scrutiny. If they are ultimately challenged, the distance
complicates an investigation by law enforcement authorities.
- Finding out how long the employment company has been in
business. Also, ask what is the firm's present financial condition. Compare
the company,and the services offered, with other similar firms before you pay a fee.
- Getting all promises in writing. Before you pay
for anything, request and obtain a written contract that describes the services the firm
intends to provide.Determine whether the firm is simply going to forward your resume to a
company that publicly advertised a listing, or if it will actually seek to place you with
an employer. Make sure that any promise you receive in writing is the same as what was
stated in the initial sales pitch.
- Researching any information the firm provides to you before
you make a commitment. Make certain the job actually exists before you pay a
firm to "hold" a slot for you, and definitely before you make plans to relocate.
Some unfortunate job seekers have been instructed to meet at a particular place
to fly to their new jobs, only to find no airline tickets, no job, and often, no more
- Checking with the embassy of the country where the job is
supposed to be located. Make certain that, as a citizen of another country,
you are eligible to work there.
- Asking if you will be eligible for a refund, if the leads the
firm provides you are unacceptable, or do not work out for any other reason.
If the firm has a refund policy, ask for specific written details that spell out whether
you can expect a full refund, and if there are any time limits for receiving your refund.
Even if you are promised a refund in a written agreement, read the fine print. A
disreputable firm may include "red tape" that protects its interests, not yours.
For example, one common scam is to include a require-ment that job
seekers check in regularly with the firm,at their own expense. Clients who unwittingly
fail to make the required contact may forfeit their opportunity for a refund. However,
they are not told this until they ask for the refund.
If You Are Scammed
If you have been victimized by an employment scam,you can help prevent
these types of incidents from recurring by reporting it to the proper law enforcement
authorities. They may be able to put the unscrupulous operator out of business and, in
extreme cases, fine them heavily or even put them in jail.
If you believe you have been scammed, file a complaint with
- Local Better Business Bureau;
- State attorney general's office of consumer affairs,where you live, and
the state in which the firm is located; and
- The regional office of the Federal Trade Commission, and the main
headquarters at 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, D. C. 20580.
Tips To Remember
- Be very skeptical of overseas employment opportunities that sound
"too good to be true."
- Never send cash in the mail, and be extremely cautious with firms that
require a money order. This could indicate that the firm is attempting to avoid a
traceable record of its transactions.
- Do not be fooled by official-sounding names. Many scam artists operate
under names that sound like those of long-standing, reputable firms.
- Avoid working with firms that require payment in advance.
- Do not give your credit card or bank account number to telephone
- Read the contract very carefully. Have an attorney look over any
documents you are asked to sign.
- Beware of an agency that is unwilling to give you a written contract.
- Do not hesitate to ask questions. You have a right to know what services
to expect and the costs involved.
- Do not make a hasty decision. Instead, take time to weigh all the pros
and cons of the situation. Be wary of demands that "you must act now."
- Keep a copy of all agreements you sign, as well as copies of checks you
forward to the company.
Overseas Job Scams © 1995
Copyright 1995 by the Council of Better Business Bureaus, Inc.
© 1995 Better Business Bureau®, Inc.