September 19, 2013

Maine officials warn job seekers of scam

BY SCOTT DOLAN

BY SCOTT DOLAN

Portland Press Herald

State officials are warning job seekers about a scam that uses false postings on the Maine Job Bank to trick job candidates into buying pre-paid debit cards, supposedly to pay for work uniforms.

The scammer tells the candidates to buy a $60 Green Dot pre-paid card and read the card code to him over the phone. He then tells the job seeker to meet him at a local career center.

Each time, the scammer fails to show up, leaving the job seeker still unemployed and $60 poorer, said Julie Rabinowitz, a spokeswoman for the Maine Department of Labor.

"We definitely know there are at least six people who physically bought cards and showed up at career centers," Rabinowitz said.

Those six were among 147 people overall who answered the advertisement. At least one of the six people went to the career center in Machias. Information on the other career centers where the other victims went was not immediately available, she said.

The Department of Labor and the Office of the Attorney General highlighted the scam as exceptional because the scammer went to great lengths to fool even those who vet the job postings on the Maine Job Bank, using the name of a real business with the correct federal identification number, Rabinowitz said.

"He has to have some level of familiarity with the national job bank system," she said.

In each instance, the scammer called the job seekers claiming to work for "Wipe-Out Windows and Construction" from Charleston, S.C., and claiming his name is Craig Thompson. Someone perpetrating a similar scam in Mississippi used the name Brandon Williams.

The scammer told each of the job seekers that the pre-paid card was needed to cover the cost of a uniform and training, Rabinowitz said.

"The workers didn't realize an employer doing that is illegal," she said. "He just wipes the cash off the card, and they're out $60."

Department of Labor Commissioner Jeanne Paquette called the scam a "rare but serious case where someone is impersonating a legitimate business."

The Maine Job Bank has more than 7,000 job listings from employers who have been vetted by the department, Paquette said.

"Job seekers should continue to register with the Maine Job Bank and continue to use legitimate online job banks to search for work, because that is the 21st-century method of job hunting," Paquette said in a statement. "However, if people are asking you to pay money to get a job or do not bother with a face-to-face interview, that should raise concerns."

Job seekers with questions about their rights in the hiring process are advised to call the Maine Department of Labor at 623-7900.

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