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Caveat emptor redux: labor shortages are popping up. Unfortunately, there's never a shortage on scams.

AS WE MOVE further into 2004, it is becoming very apparent that this year will be better economically for all concerned. As I write this, at the beginning of January, the unemployment rate is down to 5.9% and continues to fall, more jobs are being created, the Conference Board predicts the U.S. economy will grow at an annual rate of 5.7% and there are already labor shortages in some disciplines. According to a Labor Department report, underlying inflation is running at a nearly 38-year low. And while some jobs (mostly low wage) are going offshore, in the December Fortune management guru Peter Drucker pointed out that for every low-skill, low-paying job going abroad, two to three high-skill, high-paying jobs are being imported to the U.S.!

But as the economy improves (and I have written before), fraud against job seekers is on the rise. (Talk about kicking someone when they are down.) There are now many con artists cruising newspapers, Internet job boards, TV and radio job broadcast programs. These scammers have been busy devising schemes to separate you from your hard-earned money. And now they're targeting job fairs.

I recently read of a unique job fair seam that has spread in the Northeast. One scare began when New Jersey Department of Labor officials organized a three-day job fair after a company named ELS Locators requested a list of all New Jersey residents who had filed for unemployment benefits. Hundreds of people attending this state-organized job fair unknowingly provided personal financial information to a fraudulent company. Job applicants gave ELS Locators a $42 fee, along with their Social Security numbers, bank account numbers and credit card information. Jersey City Police Chief Ronald Buonocore said federal authorities later notified him that the company was part of a multi-state scheme to steal personal information.

As a candidate looking for a job, you must be very careful what information you provide to would-be employers or recruiters. An employer or recruiter does NOT need your social security number or financial information during the recruiting process. And never pay anyone to find you a job! The old adage of caveat emptor (buyer beware) still holds true.

Here are some warning signs that you might be dealing with a scammer:

* The individual or firm wants money from you, the job applicant, as a "registration fee" for you to purchase rights to a territory, or buy inventory or work-at-home listings that promise a big income for your part-time or full-time work.

* The individual or firm claims to have access to a "hidden job market." Rest assured--no such market exists.

* The individual or firm wants your personal information early on in the recruiting process to do background checks before the interviewing process is complete or before a job offer has been made.

* The individual or firm wants to make you part of a multi-level marketing scheme. Always be wary of anyone who won't define what the company does or talks about "down lines."

Here are some basic tips for protecting yourself:

1. Never pay anyone to help you find a job, or to buy inventory, a territory, etc.

2. Never put sensitive personal information on your resume or in response to a job posting. This includes your Social Security number, credit card information, birth date, bank name, mother's maiden name, etc.

3. Do not respond to "blind" job ads in the paper or on the Internet. Be sure you know the recruiting firm or the company to which you are responding.

4. Beware of anyone wanting to run a background check until a job offer has been made contingent on such a check. Background checks generally are not needed until you have been through the interviewing process and the company is ready to make a job offer. Additionally, with the Fair Credit Reporting Act now relevant to job applications, a company must get your written permission to do a background check and report back to you if anything negative is found.

Scammers trying to take advantage of people seeking jobs will always be around. If you follow these simple rules you can avoid being taken. If something sounds too good to be true, it generally is.

TED DAYWALT is CEO and president of Vet Jobs, the Internet's largest comprehensive military job board. He has a bachelor's from Florida State University, a master's from the University of Southern California and an MBA from Emory University. Daywalt may be reached at tdaywalt@vetjobs.com.
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Title Annotation:Career Care
Author:Daywalt, Ted
Publication:Printed Circuit Design & Manufacture
Date:Feb 1, 2004
Words:747
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