The president and chief financial officer of a Goleta, California-based firm that marketed job search services -- Stratified Advertising and Marketing, Inc., which also does business as Intelinet Data Services -- have agreed under settlements of Federal Trade Commission charges to post $100,000 performance bonds before entering any telemarketing business for the next 10 years. In addition, the settlements negotiated by the FTC would bar these defendants, Robin L. Murphy and Thomas F. Frontera, from making any false statement in order to induce a consumer to purchase any product or service, including false statements about the conditions for obtaining any refund, or that a consumer will receive a list identifying jobs in a chosen field and/or geographic area. The consent judgments, which require the approval of a federal district court judge, also would require the defendants upon mentioning any refund policy to consumers, to clearly disclose all material conditions of the policy.
The FTC first filed charges in the case in June 1996, alleging that Stratified, Murphy, Frontera and one other individual, Patrick Donaghy, advertised government jobs in newspapers nationwide, misrepresenting both the availability of jobs in consumers’ fields and geographic areas and the ease with which consumers could obtain a refund. The defendants charged an advance fee of $59.50 for their services. (Donaghy settled the FTC charges under a similar consent judgment approved by the court last October, and the court recorded a default judgment against the corporate defendant after it failed to file an answer to the FTC complaint.)
The FTC filed the charges in the Stratified Marketing case as part of an enforcement sweep against nine companies and 16 individuals allegedly engaged in fraudulent marketing of employment services for up-front fees of $35 to hundreds of dollars.
In announcing the sweep, the FTC cautioned consumers that a request for up-front fees coupled with a refund guarantee can be a red flag that a job search firm is acting fraudulently. The FTC also cautioned consumers to be wary of firms that require consumers to provide credit card or bank account information, but promise that no immediate charges or debits will occur. A free FTC brochure for consumers titled "Help Wanted....Finding a Job" offers these and several other tips to help consumers become victims of job search services fraud.
The Commission vote to approve the settlements for filing in court was 5-0. They were filed April 7 in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Western Division. The FTC’s Los Angeles Regional Office handled this case for the FTC.
NOTE: A consent judgment is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission by a defendant of a law violation. Consent judgments have the force of law when signed by the judge.
Copies of the "Help Wanted" brochure are available from the FTC’s web site at http://www.ftc.gov; both the brochure and other documents related to this case are available from the FTC’s Public Reference Branch, Room 130, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 202-326-2222; TTY for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. To find out the latest news as it is announced, call the FTC NewsPhone recording at 202- 326-2710.
(FTC File No. X960067)
(Civil Action No. CV-96-4142 TJH (VAPx))