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The upfront fee and other warning signs for job hunters

With unemployment still hovering above 10 percent, expect some questionable job offers.

They can pop up most anywhere: Craigslist, e-mails, advertisements.

Over the last month, investigators with the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office and the county consumer protection agency wrestled with the operations of AtlanticPacificOnline, a Clearwater company operating in a strip mall that advertised jobs for $27.50 an hour for experienced carpenters.

It turns out that several potential hires didn't get what they expected after forking over $42 for a background check.

Know this: whenever a company is requiring fees up front for such things as jobs and loans, question it immediately.

Sometimes we get in a rush or driven by emotion, and we make a hasty decision. Trust me, I've been there. But consumers should do a thorough check at the beginning to avoid an abundance of problems at the end.

"Beware of anyone requiring them to pay a fee in advance," said Doug Templeton of the Pinellas County Department of Justice and Consumer Services. "We're always telling them beware of anything that comes in unsolicited."

The state Attorney General's Office received about two dozen complaints about AtlanticPacificOnline. And Templeton's agency received seven complaints about AtlanticPacificOnline that were referred to the sheriff's office.

Cecilia Berreda, a spokeswoman for the sheriff's office, said the problems her agency was reviewing have been resolved.

"We had some complaints," Berreda said. "Everybody has been reimbursed."

When the operation is a fly-by-night scam, consumers might never get reimbursed.

Templeton recommends several precautions when considering a job solicitation.

Here's the Edge:

Visit the location. If it's some place you can visit, check the place out before doing business with the company.

Read what you're signing. It's tough with all of the fine print, but it will help you in the long run.

Ask yourself what the company is really doing for you. Is it something you really can do for yourself?

Ivan Penn can be reached at or (727) 892-2332.

The upfront fee and other warning signs for job hunters 07/18/09 [Last modified: Saturday, July 18, 2009 4:30am]
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