Federal authorities filed civil suits against a Tampa business and 11 other U.S. companies as part of a nationwide crackdown on con artists who prey on jobless Americans.
The Federal Trade Commission announced the nationwide sweep during a Washington, D.C., news conference Wednesday to highlight the growing trouble with job scams that have taken tens of thousands of people during the economic downturn.
In a complaint filed in U.S. District County in Tampa, the FTC accuses Shelly R. Olson, president of Darling Angel Pin Creations Inc., and her partner Judith C. Mendez of making false claims that consumers could earn as much as $500 a week by assembling angel pins at home.
Her company required consumers to pay between $22 and $45 to get started. Some consumers paid hundreds more for supplies needed to make the pins, but in the end they received nothing in return, according to authorities.
The company required consumers to have one of their assembled angel pins approved by the company before they could make any money, but almost all of the pins were rejected regardless of how well the consumer put them together, authorities said.
The FTC joined with state attorneys general, Monster.com, Microsoft, Craigslist, the search engine Bing and various local law enforcement agencies to fight the growing problem of job scams.
Tens of thousands of consumers have complained about con artists making job offers.
"Federal and state law enforcement officials will not tolerate those who take advantage of consumers in times of economic misfortune," David C. Vladeck, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. "If you falsely advertise that you will connect people with jobs or with opportunities for them to make money working from home, we will shut you down.
"We will give your assets to the people you scammed, and, when it's appropriate, we'll refer you to criminal authorities for prosecution."
The FTC has prepared a consumer education video in English and Spanish to help job seekers avoid these scams. Visit ftc.gov/jobscams and youtube.com/ftcvideos.
Ivan Penn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 892-2332. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Consumers_Edge and become a fan of Consumer's Edge on Facebook.