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Scammers targeting homeless, unemployed

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POSTED: January 7, 2012 7:00 a.m.
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If you suspect you've been targeted by a scam artist you are encouraged to contact police, whether you live in the city or county.

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The homeless and those who’ve been unemployed for a long time can become vulnerable to those who would take advantage of them, including scammers, according to Daisy Jones, coordinator for Hinesville’s Homeless Prevention Program.

“One of our clients recently told us she had gotten a job,” Jones said. “We were excited for her until she told us more about this job she’d learned about from an online job service.

“Our client is a very young lady whose entire work experience has been in child care and food service, and yet she was being offered a supervisor’s job with the (Georgia Department of Labor) in Atlanta. What’s more, this job required special training in Utah, paid for by the state, and the job included a relocation allowance. She also had been sent a list of rental property in Atlanta, but so far, they haven’t asked her for any money.”

Jones said her staff immediately was suspicious and contacted Gary Varner, the manager of the DOL’s Hinesville office. Varner told her staff it was very unlikely their client had been offered a job with the DOL. He said Georgia’s DOL does no training in Utah, and in his 20 years with the department, he’d learned of no relocation-assistance programs for employees.

“I told them to advise her not to give them any money,” Varner said, admitting he had heard nothing about this apparent scam until he was contacted by Jones’ office. “We hear about these kinds of scams once in a while. It’s a shame there are people out there willing to prey on people looking for real help. Usually, they try to get money from you up front. There was a scam I heard about down in Brunswick a while back where they wanted money up front for work uniforms. I always tell people not to give out your personal information (online or over the phone) and never give them any money.”

Varner noted that an employment application, which usually includes the address and, more importantly, the person’s Social Security number, potentially could be used by a bogus job service company to get more than money. They could steal someone’s identity. He said the old warning about something being too good to be true often is just that — too good to be true.

Jones said her department works with the DOL as well as local organizations that help the homeless and the underemployed. She said the goal of Hinesville’s Homeless Prevention Program is to help homeless families become self-sufficient. The 15 homeless families her staff currently is helping are required to locate, maintain and improve their employment status, she said. They’re also required to participate in life skills development classes, most of which focus on personal finances. A class already scheduled for this month, however, includes job searching skills, Jones said.

 

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