Facts for Consumers from the Federal Trade Commission

Job Ads, Job Scams, and "900" Numbers -- September 1992

I saw an ad in the newspaper for a construction job. The ad said to dial an "800" toll-free number for an application. When I called, I was told to dial a "900" number to find out about job openings in my area. When I called that number, a recording told me to send a stamped self-addressed envelope to have a job application mailed to me. All I got was a one page generic job application and a "900" number charge for $39.00 on my phone bill. ... paraphrased from a sample complaint letter to the FTC.

Beware of employment ads directing applicants to call "900" telephone numbers. You will be charged either a flat fee or a per-minute charge for each "900" call, and the charge usually is much greater than the toll for an ordinary long-distance call. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently sued two companies advertising jobs in the U.S. using "900" numbers. These companies not only failed to disclose the cost of each call, which ranged between $10 and $18 per call, they also provided little, if any, information that would lead to a job. Some consumers had to call back several times to write down the recorded information and were billed for each call.

The FTC also sued two other firms that advertised they would find overseas jobs for upfront fees of as much as $600. One of the companies claimed 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. The FTC charged that few, if any, of the company's job seekers received even an interview, much less a job.

How to Protect Yourself

The FTC suggests the following precautions before you spend money to respond to job ads or sign job placement contracts.

Know what a "900" number call will cost before you make the call. Reputable employment-service companies will state these costs upfront. If you have problems with charges on your phone bill for "900" numbers because of calls made to a fraudulent business, contact your telephone company immediately. You can ask your phone company to delete the charges, although it is not legally obligated to do so. AT&T cannot disconnect your phone for failure to pay. For policy information related to other carriers, call the carrier or the Federal Communications Commission.

Realize that employment-service firms can only promise to help you find a job; they cannot guarantee that they will find you a suitable one.

Check with your local consumer protection agency and the state Attorney General's Office to see if they have received any complaints about an employment company with whom you intend to sign a contract. Ask for a company's references and call them.

Most important, read your contract carefully before you sign it. If the employment-service representative makes claims that are not in the contract, remember the contract is what counts.

If you are looking for a job and want assistance in doing so without spending much money, consider the job information resourc

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