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Job search site works overtime to get personal info

Ellen MarksTaryn Powell of Albuquerque was at wit’s end.

About a month ago, she started receiving an onslaught of calls and texts with information on how her son could apply for jobs or student loans.

Several things were wrong about this, Powell said. One was that her son is 15 and not in the market for a job or a college degree. The other was that the calls and texts came from a variety of numbers — many from a 505 area code — but all of them misspelled her son’s name in the same way.

Powell, a nursing case manager, at first just deleted them all but then decided to take action because her identity was stolen about a year ago and she says she is “super-paranoid.”

She tried to stop the deluge by contacting the solictors via email, phone calls and texts. When she followed a link in one of the texts, she was directed to StartJobs.net — a job aggregator with lists of employment opportunities that has been the target of Better Business Bureau complaints. The site has since been taken down.

An investigation by the AIM Group, a classified advertising consultant, found that StartJobs.net and its affiliate OnlineResumeBuilders.com were collecting personal information from applicants such as current mortgage rate, home ownership and debt level along with the basics such as name, phone number, address and email address. Hidden in the fine print, StartJobs discloses that it might use the information for direct mail or telemarketing, according to the AIM Group.

“The emails and texts start within moments of submitting an application,” the group said in a report.

One person who complained to the BBB said he used the site to apply for a job at a Costco call center in New Jersey, only to learn that no such facility existed. Costco told the AIM Group it does not work with StartJobs.

The BBB says it has given both an “F” rating because it has tried to contact them without success. The AIM Group said the physical address listed is for a mailbox at a UPS store in Miami.

Powell says the deluge started after her husband used on online resume service, but she doesn’t know how his efforts revealed her son’s identity to the people who were contacting her. She said last month that she’s been blocking the calls, but some are still getting through.

And there’s another local connection to this tale: When an AIM Group representative called a phone number listed for StartJobs in October, she got a man who said he didn’t know where the companies were based but that he was working in the Albuquerque area.

Powell said the episode has been difficult and that she is always “hyper-vigilant” about identity theft after a scammer tapped into her bank account “and cleaned us out for $2,000.”

If you’re using online resources to look for jobs, here are a few tips to protect yourself:

— Make sure the company supposedly advertising actually exists and verify that it has a facility in an advertised location. “It’s a huge red flag if you can’t identify the company’s contact information, owner, headquarters or even product” from an online ad, the BBB says.

— If you are offered a job without a formal interview or job application, it’s most likely a scam.

Watch out for free trials that aren’t free.

The Federal Trade Commission has issued a consumer alert after a court order temporarily halted advertisements for free personal care products and dietary supplements online that actually charged consumers the full price. The defendants also enrolled consumers in “negative option” plans in which customers had to continue paying for products unless they opted out in advance, the FTC says.

Ellen Marks is assistant business editor at the Albuquerque Journal. Contact her at emarks@abqjournal.com or 505-823-3842 if you are aware of what sounds like a scam.

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