Everyone should keep your scam detectors on high alert these days, especially in tough economic times. Why? Because there's always someone out there trying to take advantage of you, even when you're looking for a job.
Last week, the Federal Trade Commission charged a nationwide marketing operation with violating federal law by deceiving consumers into buying materials they thought would help them land federal postal jobs.
A federal judge issued a preliminary order prohibiting U.S. Work Alliance, Inc., d/b/a Exam Services, Tyler Franklin Long, and Brenda Long, all based in Norcross, Georgia, from misrepresenting that they are affiliated with, or endorsed by, the U.S. Postal Service.
According to the FTC's complaint, the defendants falsely advertised that postal jobs paying an average of $20 per hour or $57,000 per year are available. Consumers were told to call a toll-free number in response to the defendants' ads, answer some questions to "qualify for a position," and then informed that jobs are open in their geographic area.
Consumers were also told that, for a fee ranging from $120 to $140, they will receive a book recounting the history of the postal service, exam instructions, and some "practice exams" that will help them pass the postal exam. They're also told that if they pass they'll be hired by the USPS. The materials they receive include nothing about exam dates or job openings.
According to the complaint, typical ads say:
U.S. Postal Service now Hiring. Avg. Pay $20hr or $57K annually
including Federal Benefits & OT. Paid Training, Vacations.
PT/FT 1-800-538-1859. USWA.
Just remember that you never have to pay for information about job vacancies or employment opportunities with the U.S. government or U.S. Postal Service. Postal Service hiring takes place at the local level through 85 district offices. If someone tells you that postal jobs are available, check with the USPS to determine if hiring is taking place and if an exam is required for eligibility. The tests usually are offered every few years in any particular district because of the high volume of applicants.
Federal agencies and the USPS never charge application fees or guarantee that an applicant will be hired. The FTC says that if positions require a competitive examination - and many do not - hiring agencies typically offer free sample questions to consumers who sign up for the exam.
Be safe out there.