Overseas Employment Scams
interested in overseas employment that promises high
pay, good benefits, free traveled adventure, should
be aware that there are unscrupulous operators who
have devised elaborate and very convincing scams to
bilk unwitting, and often desperate applicants.
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.
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.
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.
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 applicant's expense.
often than not, these firms actually have
little, or no, contacts with employers and can
offer minimal assistance, despite their service
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.
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
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 call.
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.
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
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
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
Ask 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
Check 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.
Avoid 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.
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.
Find 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.
Get 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.
Research 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.
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 company.
Check 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.
Ask 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
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
one common scam is to include a requirement 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
Tips To Remember
- Be very
skeptical of overseas employment opportunities
that sound "too good to be true."
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.
working with firms that require payment in
- Do not
give your credit card or bank account number to
- Read the
contract very carefully. Have an attorney look
over any documents you are asked to sign.
of an agency that is unwilling to give you a
- Do not
hesitate to ask questions. You have a right to
know what services to expect and the costs
- 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
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