Bureau: Watch for scammers

COVINGTON -- With the unemployment rate still hovering at 10 percent and out-of-work Americans still hungry for jobs, the Better Business Bureau warns that scammers are out trying to take advantage of the unemployed.

"The dismal employment rate means that a lot of people are desperate for work and may be grasping for any job, which creates a great opportunity for scammers," said Fred T. Elsberry Jr., president and CEO of the BBB Serving Metro Atlanta, Athens and Northeast Georgia. "Not thoroughly researching a job opportunity can make a bad situation even worse and a victim can lose hundreds or even thousands of dollars to any number of job-related scams."

The number of scams reported has increased with the downturn in the economy, according to Dottie Callina, manager of communications for the BBB in metro Atlanta.

A popular scam involves promising a lucrative income working from home, Callina said. Often, ads run in legitimate publications for this type of work that usually involves stuffing envelopes or assembling products.

"I've been with BBB for 26 years and no matter what the economy, people think it's a fast fix to earn money, but it's not. They'll say if you stuff 500 envelopes you'll make $1,000 a week. If it sounds to good to be true, it always is," Callina said.

When the number advertised is called, the applicant is asked for credit card or bank account information or asked to send or wire money.

"Sometimes they just get a letter saying 'Run the same type of ad and have people send money to you.' Well, that's fraud and you can be prosecuted for that," Callina said. "The only real legitimate work at home opportunities are not going to advertise like that. They are looking for highly skilled technical people and they'll never require you to pay up front."

Those who post resumes online should also beware of any responses where they are asked for personal or financial information in order for a company to check their credit. Often this is just an attempt to perpetuate a scam, Callina said.

"Always check out a company. Never give out personal or financial information," she said.

By the time the BBB is contacted, it may be too late to track down the perpetrator, as many of these fake businesses shut down their websites or P.O. boxes once they've successfully completed a scam, so it's best to be cautious up front, Callina said.

To research a company, call the BBB at 404-766-0875 or visit www.bbb.org.