Commission Alleges False and Deceptive Marketing Practices
The Federal Trade Commission has charged an employment-opportunity scammer and his three companies with marketing a fraudulent U.S. Postal Service employment program. The program offered consumers help in getting jobs with the Postal Service and guaranteed them job placement if they were able to get a certain score on the Service’s entrance exam. In reality, jobs, or even the opportunity to apply for jobs, were not available through the defendants. For many consumers, the advertised postal jobs were not available in their area at all.
The FTC alleged the defendants, Sean Terrance Asberry and his companies, National Testing Services, LLC; Exam Preparation, LLC; and Future Planning, LLC, doing business as Exam Prep, LLC and Registration Department, put classified ads in newspapers across the country. The ads, which read $ ATTENTION $ Now Hiring for Postal Jobs and offered hourly salary rates, paid training and full benefits, led consumers to believe the defendants were connected with the U.S. Postal Service and the hiring process. When consumers called the toll-free numbers listed in the ads, they were told there were jobs available at their local post office. The defendants offered consumers an exam-preparation package and told consumers they had to pay a “one-time refundable fee” for the study materials. According to the defendants, the materials would assist consumers in getting jobs with the Postal Service by helping them pass the required entrance exam. The defendants also told consumers that if they scored high enough on the exam, they would receive immediate job placement.
The defendants said that their product would include an employment application, a book entitled “Exam Prep Guide,” 12 practice exams, and a copy of the actual exam. Customers who ordered the defendants’ products did receive some of the materials, but did not get the practice exams or a copy of the actual exam. In addition, the defendants’ materials did not address the current postal entrance exam for many of the jobs they claimed were available. According to the FTC, the defendants have no connection to the Postal Service. In many areas, the jobs the defendants described simply were not available. When consumers attempted to have their money refunded, they found out additional terms of the refund policy that hadn’t been disclosed before.
The FTC has filed a complaint and asked the court for consumer redress and to stop the defendants’ allegedly false and deceptive selling practices. The FTC charged that the defendants violated the FTC Act by misrepresenting: they have an affiliation with the U.S. Postal Service; the availability of jobs with the Postal Service; that consumers who use their materials are more likely to pass the employment exam than those who do not; that achieving a certain score on the exam will guarantee employment; and their refund policy.
The FTC received invaluable assistance in this matter from the Nashville office of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, arising out of a December 2004 law enforcement conference.
In its brochure, “Federal and Postal Job Scams: Tip-offs to Rip-offs,” available at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt013.shtm, the FTC offers additional information on postal service job scams. Information about postal jobs is available from your local post office or the Postal Service Web site, www.usps.gov. In many areas, the Postal Service offers a job information hotline with current hiring announcements.
The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the complaint was 4-0. The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, Nashville Division. The court issued a temporary restraining order August 8, 2005.
NOTE: The Commission files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The complaint is not a finding or ruling that the defendant has actually violated the law. The case will be decided by the court.
Copies of the complaint are available from the FTC’s Web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish (bilingual counselors are available to take complaints), or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357), or use the complaint form at http://www.ftc.gov. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2161 or 202-326-2472
FTCs Southeast Region