A Franklin, New Hampshire, woman charged by the Federal Trade Commission earlier this year with deceptively marketing employment services as a telemarketer for a “job placement” firm, has agreed to stay out of the job placement business permanently as part of a settlement she has signed to end the FTC litigation against her. Katherine M. Howard, also known as Cassandra Stone, was a sales representative for Metro Data, Inc., an Orlando, Florida- based telemarketing operation caught up in the FTC’s Project Career Sweep, an enforcement effort targeting fraudulent employment services scams that charge consumers up-front fees in return for “special access” to specific job openings, but which typically provide little if anything of value.
An FTC brochure titled “Help Wanted . . . Finding a Job” cautions consumers that fraudulent firms often place classified ads touting specific positions in the employment sections of newspapers. The red flags, the brochure states, are when the firms charge up-front fees coupled with refund guarantees, or when they require credit card or bank account information while promising that no immediate charges will occur. The brochure is available at ConsumerLine on the FTC’s web site at http://www.ftc.gov (no final period).
In the Metro Data case, the FTC charged the defendants -- the company, Howard, and two other individuals -- with falsely representing that they had arrangements with employers throughout the country to “pre-screen” and “pre-qualify” candidates to fill job vacancies. They charged $495, and induced consumers to send checks or give their credit card numbers to Metro Data, allegedly promising not to cash the check or charge consumers’ accounts for 30 days, during which consumers could cancel their memberships. In fact, the FTC charged, Metro Data had no relationships with prospective employees, and the firm typically cashed consumers’ checks or charged their accounts immediately, refused to cancel memberships and routinely denied requests for refunds. The FTC litigation against the other defendants in the case continues.
The settlement with Howard would bar her permanently from offering any job placement services or assisting others in offering such services and, as back-up provisions, contains specific prohibitions on the types of false claims allegedly made by Howard and the other defendants in the case. It also would bar Howard from selling or otherwise transferring any customer lists developed in course of marketing Metro Data’s services, and bind her to her promise to fully cooperate with the FTC in preparing for any trial in this matter against the remaining defendants.
In addition, the proposed consent order, which requires the court’s approval to become binding, contains various record keeping and reporting provisions that would assist the FTC in monitoring Howard’s compliance. Based on financial disclosure documents Howard filed with the FTC, the settlement does not require Howard to pay any redress, but it would permit the FTC to reopen the matter to seek redress should those documents be found to have misrepresented Howard’s financial status.
The Commission vote to approve the settlement for filing in court was 5-0. It was filed on Dec. 10. in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Orlando Division.
NOTE: This consent order is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission by the defendant of a law violation. Consent orders have the force of law when approved by the court.
Copies of the consent order, as well as other documents associated with this case and Project Career Sweep, 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 FTC news as it is announced, call the FTC NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710. FTC news releases, many related documents and other materials also are available on the FTC’s web site at http://www.ftc.gov
(FTC File No. X960112)
(Civil Action No. 96-641-ORL-22)
Bonnie Jansen or Victoria Streitfeld
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2161 or 202-326-2180
Sondra L. Mills
Bureau of Consumer Protection