Company Promised High-Paying Jobs Were Locally Available
A federal district court has issued a Temporary Restraining Order against Federal Data Service, Inc. (FDS), a Margate, Florida company, and its principals, Stephen Tate and Spencer Golden, following Federal Trade Commission charges that the company falsely claimed that entry-level Postal Service positions and federal wildlife jobs were available. According to the FTC, the company placed classified ads in the "help wanted" section of newspapers across the United States. The ads announced that jobs were available at generous wages and invited consumers to call a toll-free number to receive application and exam information. When consumers called, they were told that for a fee ranging from $46 to $80, they would receive a list of available jobs, information on when and where required exams would be held, and practice tests to prepare for the exams. The company's telemarketers falsely promised consumers that the fee was fully refundable if consumers did not obtain a job, as long as they applied for one in good faith.
"Consumers shouldn't believe anyone who guarantees entree to a government job for a fee," said Jodie Bernstein, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "The plain truth is that if you want a job with the government, call the government agency you want to work for. It's the best source for the most current hiring information -- and it's free."
Although applicants for most entry-level positions with the Postal Service are required to take a written exam, known as Test 470, the exam is not offered on a regular basis. 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 requires applicants to submit the proper form within a specified time frame.
Federal job vacancies are announced through the Office of Personnel Management's USAJOBS website - www.usajobs.opm.gov - and telephone information system. There is no single Civil Service exam for federal jobs, and for most positions, applicants are not required to take an exam.
The FTC's complaint alleges that the company misrepresented:
- that postal or government wildlife positions for which little or no experience is required were available in the geographic areas where the classified ads were placed;
- that consumers who purchase and review the materials will be able to apply for and are likely to obtain permanent positions;
- the starting salaries for those jobs; and
- consumers' ability to obtain refunds.
Additionally, the FTC charged that FDS charged or debited consumers' credit cards, debit cards or checking accounts without their consent.
The Commission has asked the court to issue a permanent injunction and order the defendants to pay consumer redress. The Commission vote to authorize staff to file the complaint in federal court was 5-0.
The Commission filed the complaint, under seal, in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida, Fort Lauderdale Division, on April 3, 2000. The seal was lifted on April 13, 2000.
The FTC has issued a Consumer Alert: "Federal and Postal Job Scams: Tip-offs to Rip-Offs," with hints for consumers:
- Information about job vacancies with the U.S. Postal Service and the Federal government is available free;
- Federal agencies and the U.S. Postal Service never charge application fees, or guarantee that an applicant will be hired; and
- If positions require a competitive examination--and many do not--hiring agencies typically offer free sample questions to consumers who sign up for the exam.
If you have concerns about a company's advertisement for employment services, contact:
- Federal Trade Commission, toll-free, at 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357).
- U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS). Your local USPIS office is listed in the blue (Government) pages of your telephone directory.
- Your state attorney general, or your local Better Business Bureau.
The FTC expresses its thanks to the City of Margate Police Department, Margate, Florida; the U.S. Postal Service; and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management for their assistance in this matter.
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 case will be decided by the court.
Copies of the news release and complaint, and the Consumer Alert are available from the FTC's web site at http://www.ftc.gov and are also available from the FTC's Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 877-FTC-HELP (877-382-4357); TDD 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.
(Civil Action No.: 00-6462-CIV-FERGUSON)
(FTC File No.: 992 3028)
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-3719 or 202-326-3030
Bureau of Consumer Protection