Scam Alert: Job scams flourishing, be careful out there!

Now that unemployment is reaching levels not seen since World War II ended and getting closer to the time of the Great Depression, people desperate for work are getting caught up in job scams. The FTC had 6,000 complaints in 2007 and is expecting more this year. Most ripoffs require an upfront fee of $40 to $200, but some phony executive-search firms may demand thousands. If you post your resume on a job board, you become a prime candidate for the scam artists.

Often these scams can be employment-related ID fraud. The FTC says those types of frauds rose to 14% of identity fraud complaints in 2007, up from 12% in 2005. I suspect those numbers will jump as more and more people become desperate for work. When the scammers get your Social Security number, date of birth and other confidential information, they can do a lot of damage to your credit history.

Common scams include:

  • Phony executive-search firms that demand thousands in upfront fees before ostensibly beginning to seek a job for you. Don't pay any fees to a search firm until you have a solid job offer. In most cases, if the search firm is actually recruiting for a company, the company will pay the fees. If not, you can negotiate fee payment as part of the offer.

  • Emails or calls promising referrals to government jobs for a fee. There are no secret sources for government jobs. You can find federal jobs listed for free at www.usa.gov. Positions open working for your local or state government can be found on the state, county or city official websites. Many even allow you to apply online from those websites.