Release Date: August 21, 2002
American Career Services, Inc. (ACS), a Mobile, Alabama-based corporation, and Douglas Holcomb, its president, have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that they made false and deceptive claims in connection with the Internet marketing and sale of postal employment materials. The settlement requires Holcomb to pay $10,000 as disgorgement and permanently prohibits misrepresentations in connection with the promotion or sale of any employment good or service.
This is the twelfth case in Project "Stamp Out Job Fraud," a continuing joint effort between the FTC and the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to stop the fraudulent sale of employment services. Previous job/employment scam cases generally involved in-bound calls placed in response to classified ads; in this case, the defendants used the Internet to market their postal employment materials.
According to the FTC’s complaint, the Web sites that the defendants used to market their $39.95 postal employment packages contained, among others, the following statements:
The FTC’s complaint alleged that the defendants misrepresented that: the USPS was affiliated with or endorsed their employment services; consumers who purchased the defendants’ materials were likely to obtain postal positions within a short period of time; consumers who purchased the defendants’ materials were likely to receive scores of 95 percent or higher on the postal entrance exam; and the defendants paid refunds to each consumer who purchased their materials and did not receive at least 95 percent on the exam and a job within 30 days of his or her interview.
The settlement permanently bans the defendants from making the misrepresentations as alleged in the complaint. The settlement also prohibits the defendants from: failing to disclose in a clear and conspicuous manner, prior to charging a consumer for any good or service, all material terms, conditions, and limitations of any refund policy; violating any provision of the Telemarketing Sales Rule, or assisting others who violate its provisions; and selling their customer lists. In addition, the settlement requires the defendants to make certain affirmative disclosures in their marketing materials, including that:
Finally, the settlement contains various record-keeping and reporting requirements designed to assist the FTC in monitoring the defendants’ compliance with the order.
The FTC has a new Web site, to inform consumers about federal and postal job scams, work-at-home schemes, and consumers’ credit rights. In addition, the FTC Consumer Alert, "Federal and Postal Job Scams: Tip-offs to Rip-offs," gives consumers the information they need to spot and avoid job scams.
The FTC offers some reminders to those seeking any government job:
If consumers have concerns about a company’s advertisements for employment services, they should contact the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, toll-free, at 1-877-382-4357; or visit the FTC’s Web site at . Information about employment opportunities with the federal government is available from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management Web site: . The USPS has published the Test Orientation Guide for Major Entrance Examinations, which is available from the USPS Web site, www.usps.com, at no charge. This document provides sample exercises and other information to help interested individuals do their best on the major USPS entrance examinations. It also provides accurate information about the USPS selection process and employment requirements.
The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the complaint and settlement was 5-0. The case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama, in Mobile, Alabama on August 5, 2002. The judge signed the stipulated final order for permanent injunction on August 15, 2002.
NOTE: Stipulated final orders are for settlement purposes only and do not constitute an admission by the defendants of a law violation. Stipulated orders are subject to approval by the court and have the force of law when signed by the judge.
Copies of the complaint and stipulated final order as well as information on Operation "Stamp Out Job Fraud," 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, 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.
(Civil Action No.: 02-CV-593)
(FTC File No.: 002 3009)