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Fraudulent advertisement for job removed by UNM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The University of New Mexico has removed an apparently fraudulent ad from a student employment website and forwarded the information – along with fake money orders totaling almost $3,000 – to campus police for investigation.

UNM also has enhanced its screening of ads before they can be posted on the site, and is considering strengthening advisory language to student job-seekers about potentially fraudulent postings.

“The ad has been taken down,” said Brian Malone, director of the university’s Student Financial Aid Office, which oversees the Student Employment Office. “The UNM Police Department will contact (a student who complained about the ad) and will conduct an investigation.”

UNM’s previous measuring stick before posting an ad was, ” ‘Is this misleading?’ or ‘Is it too good to be true?’ ” Malone said. “If we have reason to believe an ad is ‘too good to be true,’ we check phone numbers and websites to filter it out. We have never made any claims about the legitimacy of ad posters, but now there is a higher level of checks.”

The off-campus ad that prompted the investigation was posted in January. It claimed to be from “Bullard Designs” and gave an Albuquerque address. Job seekers were advised to contact “Mary Kennedy, Human Resources Manager,” by email. The job description seemed credible.

The Journal contacted Bullard Designs, a Garden Valley, Calif., company found through a Google search. Randy Bullard said the “very small company” had not posted any ads at all in New Mexico, “so I would think it’s a bogus ad.”

A heavily accented man answered a call to the phone number listed in the ad. He said the caller had won a $100 voucher that could be redeemed at more than 200 retailers nationwide, including Walmart, Target and Home Depot. The representative, who claimed to be in Virginia, said that once a name and phone number were provided, the caller would be given the “correct” phone number of the business.

A UNM student who emailed “Kennedy” was initially interested in the job, which offered $13 per hour. But when told she would be receiving a check in the mail for running certain “errands,” she became suspicious and sent another email saying she no longer wanted the job.

“Mary, I must clarify that I will NOT be accepting this job position,” the student wrote. “Do not send me a check because I will not be doing any errands for you. Thank you.”

However, the student received three fake money orders in the mail, each for $970. The money orders, dated Feb. 6, were mailed from New Jersey.

A disclaimer on the UNM web page advises in part: “Due to the volume of jobs received by this office, we are unable to research the integrity of each organization or person that lists a job with us. Therefore, you are urged to undertake the responsibility yourself.”

Malone said UNM will re-evaluate the disclaimer to see if it could be made stronger or clearer.