For eight days the Georgia Department of Labor, or GDOL, unknowingly had a fake job posting listed on the agency's website. Nineteen people were referred to the listing.
It wasn't until a prospective employee brought it to their attention that they investigated and found it to be a fake and called people to warn them about it. But, by then, several people had already been conned out of their money.
At least four Columbus men are out of $62 are still on the job hunt after responding to the post.
Last Wednesday, Christopher Wade visited the local labor department to look for work and found something promising. Rapid Communications was hiring full-time laborers at $12.50 an hour.
An agency employee encouraged him to call the number on the posting. "Eric Webbs called and said we select you for this job, but you're going to need to send $61.95 in for a safety class," Wade recalled. The man told him to put the money on a Green Dot Money-Pak prepaid card and give him the information so he could access it.
Wade didn't find the request odd. "At the time I wasn't thinking. I was so happy I had a job... and then I got this referral from the Georgia Department of Labor so I'm thinking it's legit." Wade did it and showed up for the first day of work a few days later.
At least 15 people showed up to the address they were given but it turned out it was the location of another communications company. No one from Rapid Communications showed up and after waiting half an hour they went back to the labor department. That's where they found out they had been duped. Neither the company nor the job was real. But the scam artists had their social security numbers, dates of birth and addresses.
"Before the labor department sends you out with a referral for a job they should automatically know if this is a legit business or not. They did not do this with this," said Dwayne Penrod, another scam victim.
Sam Hall, communications director with GDOL, said before the listing was posted an employee had two separate phone conversations with two of the employers and everything seemed to check out. "The assumption was made that it was a new company. So the job order was accepted."
Even with security measures in place he said, unfortunately scams like these can happen nationwide with any organization.
But Hall said the agency constantly cautions people to be careful about giving out personal information. Warnings are listed online and on any agency referral sheet.
He said people must always be on alert. "Listen to the types of questions they ask. if they ask too much personal information to begin with that should throw up a red flag. if they ask for money up front that should throw up a huge red flag," Hall recommended.
GDOL is trying to help the victims recover their money. The makers of the prepaid card said the scam artists have an account with them and they may possibly be able to go into it and retrieve the money.
It's not a guarantee, but the victims are urged to contact the card-maker company as soon as possible.
The Better Business Bureau, or BBB, said in the last 6-8 months money card scams have become popular. Usually, they are on Craigslist, in the classifieds or used in sweepstakes or lottery scams. The BBB, said now they seem to be targeting any legitimate organization and warns people to be extra careful.
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