Scams prey on jobless in Colorado |

Scams prey on jobless in Colorado

Allison Sherry
The Denver Post

As desperate job-seekers look for work, law enforcement agencies are warning of companies that take advantage of the unemployed by misrepresenting the jobs available or engaging in outright fraud.

Both the Colorado attorney general and the Denver district attorney say complaints of job scams are up. In the past month, the AG’s office has received a dozen complaints about job scams. The Denver DA economic-crimes unit says job-related fraud complaints have jumped from a couple a month to as many as five a week.

And at staffing agencies and support groups, the unemployed are bemoaning deception and time wasted going for jobs that turned out to be something different than they had been led to believe. Often the scams come from jobs that workers find online or because they posted their resumes online.

Take Dustin Waite, a 24-year-old former environmental consultant, who thought he was applying for an entertainment marketing job in Denver. He was granted an interview where he was told he’d be setting up campaigns for businesses.

It turned out he was expected to sell coupon books door to door.

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Or Eric Kirchner, a 25-year-old former inventory analyst, who got a call from a courier company asking him to fax an application to be a “delivery carrier.” The application asked for his Social Security number and a couple of forms of ID, including a copy of his birth certificate and passport. The Las Vegas company’s website had gone dead when he went to check on it.

“People are so vulnerable right now,” said Kate Culligan, a career counselor working with dozens of unemployed people. “Some are truly preying on people.”

Deputy Attorney General Jan Zavislan said scams always increase with an economic downturn or a national disaster, such as Hurricane Katrina. “They look for people who are desperate for work,” Zavislan said.

Zavislan said his office looks for patterns and abusive practices.

“I know times are tough and people are desperate to find some work to put food on the table, but it’s not worth getting further in trouble,” he said. “If places are offering to hire you, sight unseen, then you ought to be suspicious.”

Job-hunters say one of the biggest problems is jobs that aren’t what they appear to be.

Before the coupon books door-to-door job, Waite interviewed for a job with a company called Superior Solutions. Nowhere on the job ad did it say what the work was, and in a quick phone call, Waite learned nothing.

He did an Internet search and found the job was really selling Kirby vacuum cleaners door to door. “There are little things that we could get straightened out by a clear job description,” said Waite, who is still looking for work. “You can’t let it bother you to the point where you stop trying . . . but it’s frustrating.”

John Pedraza was laid off last spring from a county human-services job. He received an e-mail a few months after he applied for a job online from RMC International, which said he’d be a good candidate for the company. They asked him to come in for a consultation.

When he got to the offices on South Colorado Boulevard in Denver, he says, he was told that if he paid $4,999 and went through the training program, he could find work. Though the company never guaranteed him a job ” Colorado law forbids charging people upfront to find work ” RMC said it would negotiate with the new employer to reimburse him for the fee he paid.

He trained with career counselor Loretta Gallegos. He took a couple of days of seminars, and the company helped him rewrite his resume. Gallegos, now a vice president at Lon Morris College in Jacksonville, Texas, said RMC doesn’t promise people jobs, but “they market it in such a way that you believe them. You believe that they’re going to find you a job.”

Company president Dennis Richardson says the company is straightforward about not promising work and about fees it charges for services.

“We bend over backwards to try and help them,” Richardson said. “We try to give them as much information as we can. . . . Nobody can guarantee a job. I’m not God, and I don’t have a crystal ball.”

Pedraza is still unemployed and says the money paid to RMC was not well spent. They sent him to free networking groups run by county workforce centers and looked up jobs for him on common websites.

Tom Druggish, a laid-off chief financial officer, was driving to an appointment when his cellphone rang and a New York number popped up. The man said he was from a company called ACT and that he had a good job for him, if only Druggish met him for coffee and paid him a fee.

When called by The Denver Post, the man said his work was confidential and he couldn’t disclose who he worked for and what he did.

“It’s disrespectful,” Druggish said. “There is legal and illegal, and there is right and wrong. If it’s not illegal and they’re doing it, it’s still wrong.”

Judi Kent Gervasini, who runs a staffing agency that collects fees from employers ” not employees ” for job placement, said she hopes her industry isn’t marred by people trying to make a quick dollar.

“It’s all coming out of the woodwork right now,” said Gervasini, who advises people away from quick job and pay-to-work schemes. “Good recruiters are worth their weight in gold. I don’t want this to reflect on our industry.”

Allison Sherry: 303-954-1377 or

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