Nine firms charged with advertising fraud FTC says they failed to provide services

Employment agencies

June 21, 1996|By Abbe Gluck | Abbe Gluck,SUN STAFF

The Federal Trade Commission said yesterday it has charged nine companies with fraudulently advertising employment services in newspapers nationwide, including The Sun.

The 16 individuals charged cast themselves as agents with access to specific job openings, the FTC said. When consumers responded to the ads, the companies required upfront fees ranging from $35 to hundreds of dollars, it said.

While the FTC does not yet have a list of all the consumers who were tricked, at least three of those consumers live in this region.

Stephen McLean of Catonsville said he saw the ad for Omega Promotions Inc. in The Sun's Sunday employment section in January.

"They were advertising for tour guides for cruise lines, they were the intermediaries," he said. McLean said he sent Omega an application, a resume and $150.

After receiving no news of a job, McLean said he called Omega a month later. By then, their phones and faxes had been disconnected.

Although none of the companies charged were based in Maryland, the schemes are typically run nationwide, via major city newspapers, said Heather Hippsley, the attorney for the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection who coordinated the filings.

At least two other people in the region were victims of Omega's fraud, said Dolores Liberatore, director of trade practices at the Better Business Bureau in Winter Park, Fla.

Liberatore said the BBB received calls about Omega from one Timonium resident and another from Alexandria, Va. The two men could not be reached for comment.

The Bureau received 191 calls about Omega since January, she said.

The FTC charged Omega with falsely advertising job openings on cruise ships, in electronics and in chemical engineering. Omega, based in Maitland, Fla., also told some clients it needed their checking account numbers to verify ability to pay for services when rendered, then illegally took money from the accounts, the FTC said.

Omega made as much as $495 per client, the FTC said.

Consumers should beware of any company that requires money upfront, said Bruce Steinberg, spokesman for the National Association of Temporary and Staffing Services in Alexandria, Va.

"There is almost never a fee involved, and almost all the time it's an employer fee," he said.

The FTC has brought several cases against such companies in recent years, FTC spokeswoman Bonnie Jansen said.

"What we seek typically is to get permanent court orders halting the operations and redress for consumers," she said.

In the most recent case, a Michigan court ordered Deborah Mink in September 1995 to pay more than $593,000 in consumer redress, Jansen said. Mink's company, International Services, was based in Monroe, Mich.

The FTC filed charges yesterday in federal district courts in California, Florida, Georgia, Michigan and Massachusetts. Two actions are still sealed under court order.

Pub Date: 6/21/96

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