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Employment Scams: Preying on Retired Workers

Millions of people over age 50 are looking for jobs. And there are many reputable employers looking to hire them. But there are also many dishonest, unethical organizations looking to track down these same people - but not to provide jobs. Instead, these organizations are trying to cheat and steal from these mature workers with some creative, deceptive and all too appealing employment scheme or scam. Let's review what to beware of as well as what safe resources you can use to find a legitimate and rewarding job.

Work-at-Home Scams

You are told that you can earn $500, $1,000, even $5,000 a month, working from the comfort of your home. Work-at-home scams are far and away the most widespread. If the ads are vague, emotional, lack detail, exaggerate and appear amateur - they are scams! There are actually very few legitimate employers providing real work-at-home opportunities - and none of them require up-front fees or investments by you. Some of the most common scams are:

  • Light Assembly and Envelope Mailing- "Work from your own home and assemble products or stuff envelopes." If this is an ad by a company with a plant or office you can go visit, it may be true. Otherwise, don't believe it! If they also tell you that you need make only a small investment or pay fees, walk away - it's a scam!

  • Medical or Commercial Billing- "Make calls, mail invoices or collect payments." Again, if it is a real medical practice or company that has an office or plant, they could well be looking for extra help with billing and collections. But if you're asked to buy or rent office equipment before you can get started, say no - it's a scam!

  • Telemarketing and Customer Service- Same rules apply: if you are asked to pay any money up front, steer clear. Some may be legitimate - check them out. Most are a scam to separate you from your savings.

  • Complete Marketing Surveys- "Get paid to participate in phone and Internet surveys and earn $500 a day! Pay only $2.95 to become a registered survey participant." Rubbish! These are the newest variation on a plain and simple scam.

If a work-at-home arrangement were such a fantastic opportunity, why wouldn't all the smart money and big investors set up a company to do the work? They don't because most all are scams.

Advertised and Online Employment Agency Scams

Posing as private employment agencies, scammers offer to, and even guarantee, they will get you a job. The jobs are often civil service, government and postal jobs. They are looking for two things from you - money or personal information. You will be asked to pay an "advance placement fee" or provide personal information such as Social Security number, bank accounts and credit card accounts. Some will tell you this is needed to complete pre-employment reference checks. There are even very bold scammers who will actually have an office, interview you, help with your resume or summary of experience, promise you a job, take your money - and do nothing else! If anyone asks you for money or personal information up front - tell them, thanks but no thanks!

Self-Employment and Franchises

There are many excellent franchise opportunities for mature and retired people. There are even more crooks and scammers. They advertise in newspapers, magazines, posted signs and on the Internet. Sometimes, it can be difficult to tell legitimate from scam. If the company does not have a recognizable name, be careful. Never enter into any franchise or self-employment contract without consulting an independent attorney - and never send money or personal information to anyone in advance.

Traditional Employment Agencies

There are employment agencies that have been in business for years making money by charging job seekers to help them find a job. Stay away from them. There are plenty of reputable and effective employment agencies that make their money from the employers they service.

Four Golden Rules to Avoid Being Scammed

  1. Never Send Money or Divulge Personal Information- Anytime you are asked to pay any money in advance for anything or give anyone your social security, credit card or other personal information - assume it is a scam and walk away. Period!

  2. Know What is Being Offered- "You'll pay me to do what?" If you are not crystal clear on what work you will be doing and how you will be paid - assume it's a scam and walk away.

  3. Check Them Out- Check with the Better Business Bureau, call your local or state government, call your state attorney general, call an attorney, call a friend, call a family member, but be sure to verify whether this is a real company. Ask to see their office or plant. Do not take anyone's word for anything! If you cannot confirm the promises being made, walk away.

  4. Too Good to Be True- If it sounds too good to be true - it's because it most certainly is. The scammers know that hope and trust spring eternal - don't believe their promises - you will lose.

Four Things You Should Do! You've heard about what to avoid and what not to do. If you are looking for a job and a paycheck, here is what to do!

  1. Use Government Agencies- State and local government and social service organizations offer job training and search help. Contact them. Don't know whom to call? Call you local town or city hall and ask.

  2. Reputable Private Employment Agencies- Contact established and reputable private employment agencies - they are listed in the yellow pages under "Employment Agencies." There are agencies for full time, contract and temporary jobs. Call several and go visit them now!

  3. Known Employers- Look in the Want Ads. Make a list of the companies in your area. Read the business section of the newspaper. If they have an office, they have a Human Resources or Employment department. Call them and submit an application. No jobs? Ask them to suggest other appropriate employers. Be sure to check out AARP's Best Employers for Workers Over 50 - these companies have been recognized for their efforts and commitment to employing you!

  4. Online Job Postings- Stick with the known, reputable online job posting boards. The good news is that employers are waking up to the wealth of capable mature and retired workers looking for jobs. There are several posting boards targeted at workers over 50 - even retirees looking for part time jobs close to home. A leading site is Sites such as these provide information, services and job postings specific to the needs of mature and retired people.

Robert Skladany is Vice President of Research & Certification at He has focused his career on the issues of mature and retired workers and the particular value they bring to the workplace and to employers in search of stable, productive and positive employees.


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