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:
- Information about job vacancies with the USPS is available free;
- USPS never charges an application fee, nor do they guarantee that an applicant will be hired; and
- It is deceptive for anyone to guarantee you a high score on Test 470 -- it is a general aptitude test, not a test of knowledge, and practice questions, attending workshops or studying exam techniques will not assure you of a top score.
As part of the Consumer Education Campaign the agencies offered the following
TIP-OFFS TO RIP-OFFS:
- Classified ads or oral sales pitches that imply an affiliation with the federal government, guarantee high test scores or jobs, or state that “no experience is necessary.”
- Ads that offer information about “hidden” or unadvertised federal jobs.
- Ads that refer to a toll-free number. Often, in these cases, an operator encourages you to buy a “valuable” booklet containing job listings, practice test questions, and tips for entrance exams.
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).
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2718 or 202-326-2176
Roy A. Betts, Media Representative
U.S. Postal Service
FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection