Defendants Who Sold Information Consumers Could Get for Free Settle FTC Charges
As part of the Federal Trade Commission's crackdown on scams that target consumers in financial distress, the FTC has stopped a nationwide scheme that deceived consumers with claims that it could help them get federal government jobs by providing job listings supposedly not available to the general public. The agency alleged that the defendants charged consumers for information the federal government provides for free, and didn't provide consumers with enough information to be able to apply for a federal job. The defendants have agreed to a settlement to resolve the charges against them, including a ban on selling any employment products or services.
According to the FTC's complaint, Frontier Publishing, doing business as American Data Group, lured consumers by putting classified ads in local newspapers and employment websites announcing the availability of government jobs. Consumers who called a toll-free number were told that, for a $69 fee, they would receive access to information, applications, and job listings for all federal jobs available in their geographic area.
The FTC alleged that the defendants falsely claimed that federal job listings are not advertised to the general public and told callers not to worry about meeting the minimum job qualification requirements, because most or all of the jobs come with paid training for new employees. Consumers who paid the fee received a spreadsheet of federal jobs in their area, and a 120-page "Federal Employment Resource Workbook" that contained only general information. In addition, most federal agencies will not hire applicants who do not meet minimum job qualifications.
The FTC also alleged that the information the defendants provided to consumers is available to the general public – for free – on the U.S. government website www.usajobs.gov. Despite claiming that consumers could apply for jobs as soon as they received the defendants' information, the defendants did not provide enough information for consumers to determine their suitability for a job, or instructions about applying for the jobs. In addition, the defendants claimed that they would provide sample questions and answers for a required "Federal Employment Test," when in fact a standardized employment test is not required for most federal jobs.
Frontier Publishing and its owner, William J. Clayton, have agreed to a settlement order that bans them from selling employment products or services. It also permanently prohibits them from misrepresenting any product or service, and from violating the FTC's Telemarketing Sales Rule. In addition, the order imposes a $7.5 million judgment that will be suspended when the defendants have surrendered $100,000 within 10 days of the order. The full judgment will become due immediately if the defendants fail to pay the $100,000, or if they are found to have misrepresented their financial condition.
The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the complaint and the proposed final judgment was 5-0. The FTC filed the complaint and proposed final judgment in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. The proposed final judgment is subject to court approval.
To learn how to avoid these kinds of scams, read the FTC's Federal and Postal Job Scams: Tip-offs to Rip-offs.
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 consent judgment is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission by the defendant that the law has been violated. Consent judgments have the force of law when approved and signed by the District Court judge.
The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC's online Complaint Assistant or call
1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC's website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. Like the FTC on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
(FTC File No. 0923208)
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