Companies promising jobs with the U.S. Postal Service are breaking federal law said the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Postal Service as they announced a national effort to "Stamp Out Job Fraud." Eleven law enforcement actions and a comprehensive national consumer education campaign are the components of the effort aimed at stopping private companies that falsely promise Postal Service jobs at generous wages. These companies, through classified ads and telephone pitches, mislead consumers by masquerading as the Postal Service and implying they recruit for jobs in the areas in which the ads appeared. The FTC and the Postal Service said that these classified ads generate hundreds of thousands of calls per month to the target companies in the agencies' law enforcement effort.
The U.S. Postal Service is the largest civilian employer in the United States, with more than 768,000 career employees. Approximately 489,000 persons occupy career positions with the Postal Service -- positions as clerks or letter carriers and other entry level mail sorting and processing jobs -- which require a written exam, known as Test 470, be taken to be considered for hire. Test 470 is not offered to the public on a regular basis, and when a local postal district needs to hire new employees, which may occur only once every several years, it announces that it will offer the exam and applicants must submit the proper form during a brief window of time. Persons who achieve a passing score on the test are placed on a hiring register in exam score order (with veteran preference added for those eligible). Eligible disabled veterans who pass the test are placed at the top of the register irrespective of their actual test score. Persons are then considered in register order and must go through the rest of the hiring process which includes a background check, interview and drug screen.
"People looking for honest work with the Postal Service should never have to pay for information about a job," said Jodie Bernstein, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "The FTC and the U.S. Postal Service are working together to stop scam artists from taking advantage of consumers looking for postal jobs. To avoid employment rip-offs -- and to find out if jobs are available -- consumers should call their local post office directly."
"The Postal Service is serious about stamping out postal job fraud. Today, we are putting companies engaging in these false activities on alert that we intend to use all legal remedies available to the Postal Service to end these scams," said Mary S. Elcano, Senior Vice President and General Counsel, U.S. Postal Service.
THE ALLEGED SCHEME/THE LAW ENFORCEMENT EFFORT
The companies and their principals named in the cases operate in similar fashion. They place advertisements in the classified sections of newspapers -- both major dailies and smaller publications -- across the United States. The ads announce that jobs are available with the U.S. Postal Service at generous wages and benefits and invite consumers to call a telephone number (often toll-free). When consumers call, telemarketers answer with phrases such as "employment information office," that suggests Postal Service affiliation. Callers are asked a number of questions to "pre-qualify" them for jobs with the Postal Service, such as whether they are "looking to start work right away?" Consumers are then asked to pay -- usually by credit card or automatic debit of their bank account-- fees ranging from $45 to $70 plus shipping and handling, to receive materials such as practice exams, application forms, registration cards, and a manual outlining job duties and pay scales. The telemarketers further represent that consumers who purchase and review the materials are likely to receive a high score on the exam and thereby receive permanent employment with the Postal Service.
In addition, the telemarketers often state that callers who do not receive jobs within a short period of time will receive refunds.
In each of its three cases -- see attached list -- the FTC asked the courts for and has obtained a temporary restraining order. The courts froze or otherwise restrained assets in all three cases and in two cases appointed receivers. No trial dates have been scheduled.
The U.S. Postal Service has filed charges against eight promoters of postal job scams under 39 U.S.C. § 3005 -- see attached list. That statute is the mechanism by which the U.S. Postal Service attempts to make sure that people or companies who solicit money or property through the mail do not do so based on false representations. The Postal Service will seek an order prohibiting the delivery of mail to the offending parties as well as cease and desist orders which would prohibit future false representations.
THE CONSUMER EDUCATION CAMPAIGN
The FTC today is issuing an updated Consumer Alert -- "Federal and Postal Job Scams: Tip-Offs to Rip-Offs," with some hints for consumers before they respond to an ad offering employment opportunities. In addition, the U.S. Postal Service is developing a "Guide to Postal Employment" and a "Postal Exam Preparation Guide," which will provide all the necessary information for persons interested in applying for postal employment or who will be taking Test 470.
The FTC and the USPS offer some reminders to those seeking a job with the Postal Service:
As part of the Consumer Education Campaign the agencies offered the following
TIP-OFFS TO RIP-OFFS:
If consumers have concerns about a company’s advertisements for employment services, they should contact the Federal Trade Commission at 202-326-3128, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (local offices are listed in the blue pages of the phone book), or the National Fraud Information Center at 1-800-876-7060.
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 cases will be decided by the courts.
The Commission vote to authorize filing of the three complaints was 4-0, with Commissioner Mary L. Azcuenaga not participating.
Copies of the complaints, and a consumer alert about federal and/or postal jobs scams are available from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 202-326-3128; TTY for the hearing impaired 202-326-2502. To find out the latest news as it is announced, call the FTC NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710. FTC news releases and other materials also are available on the Internet at the FTC’s World Wide Web site at: http://www.ftc.gov (no period). Information about the U.S. Postal Service is available at http://www.usps.gov (no period).
Each of the complaints contain similar allegations that the defendants misrepresented:
Think Achievement Corporation, with offices in Merrillville and Crown Point, Indiana, (near Chicago) and three affiliated Nevada companies: National Answering Service, New Age Advertising Corp. and H.D. Davidson Advertising Corp. Think Achievement and National Answering Service also do business under the following names: Employment Information Office, Employment Opportunity Guide, Career Guides, Postal Career Guides, and/or Employment Network Center. Individuals named as defendants are: Patricia A. Harris, President of Think Achievement; Harry D. Brankle, Sena Rager, and Tillwanner “Tee” Jackson, managers of National Answering Service; Ferron F. Harris, president, secretary and treasurer of National Answering Service; Steven F. Stucker, president, secretary and treasurer of New Age Advertising and also the secretary of Think Achievement; and Jill Robinson, president, secretary and treasurer of H.D. Davidson Advertising. (Filed under seal in the U. S. District for the Northern District of Indiana, on January 15, 1998. The seal was lifted Jan. 21. Civil Action No: 2:98 CV12 JM. FTC Staff Contact: Jeffrey S. Galvin, Bureau of Consumer Protection, 202-326-3505);
Asher Afriat, Abraham Avi Afriat, Oren Afriat, also known as Yizhak Afriat, and Rachel Edery, individually, and doing business as American Labor Services or ALS, based in the Los Angeles, California area. (Filed under seal in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, in Los Angeles on January 14, 1998. The seal was lifted Jan. 21. Civil Action No: 98-0282 LGB (Ex). FTC Staff Contacts: Jan Charter or Scott Bialecki, Denver Regional Office, 1961 Stout St. Suite 1523, Denver, CO 80294; 303- 844-3564.); and
National Job Center, Inc. of Coral Springs, Florida. Robert W. Gawne, Jr., president, treasurer, and secretary of NJC; and Richard Rebollal, a manager of NJC. (Filed under seal in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Fort Lauderdale Division, on January 20, 1998. The seal was lifted Jan. 21. Civil Action No: 98-6040; FTC Staff Contact: Anthony E. DiResta or Ingrid Whittaker-Ware, Atlanta Regional Office, 60 Forsyth Street, SW, Suite 5M35, Midrise Bldg., Atlanta, GA 30303; 404-656- 1364.)
John Graff, President
Aurora, IL and NW Indiana
Highland, IN 46322
Federal Job Locators
P.O. Box 50236
Pompano Beach, FL 33074
Federal Data Services
5200 Coconut Creek Parkway
Margate, FL 33063
National Career Council
P.O. Box 626
San Jacinto, CA 92581
Federal Career Services Corp.
P.O. Box 190045
Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33319
American Career Services
P.O. Box 160007
Mobile, AL 36616
Career Network Inc.
41 West 78th Place
Merriville, In 46410
Employment Information Center
136 W. Canon Perdido St., Suite A
Santa Barbara, CA 93101