Home > Akron blog > Jobseekers Beware — Silly Me (Almost) Scammed

Jobseekers Beware — Silly Me (Almost) Scammed

Head vs. Heart in the Worst Economy Since the Great Depression

As many of you know, I’m a multi-platform journalist trying to find full-time writing/web/radio/newspaper/PR/communications/whatever work that doesn’t involve moving out of Ohio (silly, I know, but I have my reasons).

Hundreds, maybe thousands of job queries into this process I have been angry, depressed, confused, hopeless and hopeful — sometimes all in the same day.  Today, however, was unique. I ran into someone/something out there I believe was trying to rip off me (and you). Since I’m a pretty darn decent reporter with lots of time on my hands these days, I’m hoping that anyone reading this will learn by my example and benefit from the red flags I’ll post at the end of my story.

Am I embarrassed? Sure, but thankfully bells went off before irreparable damage was done. The truth is, reporters find news with their heads. Jobseekers, all too often, look for work with their hearts and with their egos. Today, I’ve been both.

I’m blogging about this rather than trying to pitch it to an editor for money (which admittedly is somewhat counter-productive, since I’m currently jobless) for three reasons: 1) I can warn fellow jobseekers quicker this way. 2) I can tell you what I know now — enough that you should be wary, maybe not enough to withstand a newspaper’s lawyering.  3)  It’s my blog, I’m mad and I can curse and rant here if I want to. Maybe I won’t, but right now I really, reeeeeeealllly want to.

The Job Search/Freelance Juggle

Every Monday I set aside whatever freelance assignment I have working to devote myself to finding another full-time job. It’s a pretty good system. The rest of the week I spend mornings scanning the Web for news and I check email to make sure I handle follow-up calls and notes. Afternoons are spent writing or trying to sell short-term freelance pieces and the book I’ve promised to finish by this fall.  The Monday job search day is eight to 14 hours of quality time on task. On that one day, I average five to 10 new job applications. I also tweak resume versions (reporter, researcher, copy editor, proofreader, community outreach, media relations/communications officer, Mistress of the Universe, etc.) and try to sleuth out the hiring managers who are hiding from waves of applicants behind blind Web want ads.

Nameless suits are the frustration of every Internet job searcher, (Do these people even exist? Is the job still open?). Faith is the evidence of things not seen, my Aunt Norah used to say, so each Monday I cast new resumes out onto the electronic waters.

So you can imagine how I felt when I logged on this morning to see an email about a recent job that is local, kinda in my salary ballpark and would even give me a chance to learn some new skills.

My Pal, Blaine

At first glance, the note was brief and encouraging, like others I’ve received to indicate that I had passed an initial screening.

Thank you for your interest in the XXX job posted on Craigslist.  After reviewing your resume we believe you would make a great potential candidate for this position.  To expedite the application process, please click on the link below and complete the online application.

http://careernetworkcanton.com?506679

Thanks again for your interest and best of luck.

Blaine XXX

I’m used to companies asking applicants under early consideration to provide additional information to their company web sites, so much so I hit the link by rote and had pasted in my resume before I realized that I had just linked to yet another job board instead of an actual, job-offering company.

From that point, instead of providing specific details about my hoped-for new opportunity, the Careernetworkcanton Web site informed me (in small print) that the job was an “aggregate” and that by clicking on the link I was applying for some untold number of similar positions (untold, like we’re not telling you are are none, really…). And even though I specifically stated that I was not interested, the site routed me to page after page of not very elegant attempts to interest me in at-home business opportunities and broaden my earning potential with a degree from Joe-Bob’s college of massotherapy. (OK, that wasn’t the actual name of the school, there were ads from the host of maybe-maybe not kosher “colleges” that used to advertise on the back of matchbooks.)

It took about 10 minutes to find the tiny x that allowed me to log out. Literally minutes after my cell phone (listed on the resume, remember) voice mail was maxed out with sales calls for franchise opportunities, home refinancing, continuing education — and the high-interest student loans to pay for it.  Since replying to the site, my email has been jammed too. Here’s two of more than two-dozen examples that roll over quicker than twitter updates. (Each of which I will have to manually unsubscribe.)

What's cooking? Data mining your resume for fun and profit.

More spam mail (allegedly) from Careernetworkcanton.com

It Could Have Been (Waaaaaaay) Worse

Here’s what I learned from the research I should have done before I pressed that link.  A simple Google search finds complaints similar to mine about  Career Network Inc. The company is said to be the franchise/phishing/marketing arm of Three Stars Media. Aggrieved job seekers say the company offers nonexistent positions then sells applicants’ personal info to marketers like the cooking school and loan companies that have been rushing the internet to help me out. Folks who weren’t scared away by the initial contact said they were asked by phone and email to divulge additional personal info like social security numbers and credit info — details worth lots of money to identity thieves. (You all know to never, never, never never give out that kind of stuff to strangers, right?) There’s also a lawsuit filed in Federal Court in Indiana that I’ve yet to read. Federal court filings are available on line, if you’re interested.

My pal, Blaine hasn’t responded to my angry email of this morning. To be fair, it wasn’t so much a query as a colorful request that he burn my resume, lose my personal information and a warning that I would (and have) complained to the Ohio Attorney General, the Better Business Bureau and spread a warning to every social network I possess.  On blogs and various Web consumer and employment sites, other Career Network representatives have said the company offers a free service to match employers and jobseekers, and that they make the sites accessible to advertisers to keep the lights on, as it were. No comment I could find confirms or denies the selling of applicant info or responds to allegations of identity theft.

Beware, Be Warned, Red Flags that Should Pique Your Spidey Sense http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=spidey%20sense

So, just like your mom says, do as I say, not as I um, did…

1. Read everything associated with your job search carefully — then read it again. Even in Ohio’s dismal job market (currently nearly 12 percent unemployment) it’s a bad idea to do anything on autopilot. Web sites often contain one familiar word (like the city where you hope to find work) on the chance that you’ll click the link, and like me, your information will be their information even if you close the program.

2. Don’t link to job sites at the request of  other job sites. There might be a good reason to repost personal details to a blind job search, but it’s more likely the company is interested in the marketing value of your personal info.

3. These days everybody has email and a Web site. In other words,  if you can Gmail or Yahoo, they can too. Blind job ads are commonplace, initially. But once you’re in the running for a job, expect to be contacted by a real company representative with a real company email and phone number.

4. Web job searches are the new reality. If that weren’t the case,  I’d still be working at a newspaper with a thick classified ads section. And bunches and bunches of Internet job boards are useful and legitimate. That said, it never hurts to plug a web site or company name plus the word scam and/or ripoff or complaints into your favorite search engine. What pops up will be information you can use to start your own due diligence.

5. If there’s a problem, spread the word. Write your Attorney General, check out the local Better Business Bureau and Chamber of Commerce, use the blogosphere to contact friends and colleagues.

Next Monday I’ll be back on the Web looking for a new job…and I’m considering renting a billboard on the major highway that runs between the three largest cities near my house. Just in case you’re not driving down Interstate 77 anytime soon, here’s the text for my low-tech solution.

Veteran writer/editor/author/all-around good egg seeks transition from traditional to business, government or industry-specific media.

Skills:

Web/print/broadcast deadline writing

Copy editing/proofreading

Interviewing

Blogging

Media Tracking

Researching

Social Media

Self-taught Video and Photo Editor

Mac and Microsoft Operating Systems

Interested? Email me at khagelberg@neo.rr.com (Thanks to Careernetworkcanton, everyone else is)



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  1. Bob Philpot
    March 16, 2010 at 8:47 am

    This is the first time I ever read a blog. I resisted getting internet access until I was forced into it, and was warned about Facebook and the data mining that exist there. The news today says that newsprint is done for because of istuff. I took a class at Kent State last year about IT and one of the text books was “No Place to Hide” by Robert O’Harrow, and all I have to say is that we ain’t seen nothing yet. The peril from information “THIEVES” comes from the legitimate authorities that we entrust with the custody of our personal info. I have a strange story about the electric company and their insisting that I hit a telephone pole. I took months to clear myself from this mess. I will have to tell you all about it if you want to hear it.

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