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Alert: Don’t Become a Fraudulent Credit Bureau Lead

By Robin Medecke

Have you responded to a job opportunity online and been asked to provide your credit score(s)?  This isn’t illegal in and of itself and many companies require credit and/or background checks on potential employees, especially in the financial industry.  Your credit scores are not considered “sensitive”, and it’s relatively safe to share them – unlike your social security number, credit card or bank account information.  But you may still be getting scammed, and you may be surprised to hear by whom.

ConsumerInfo.com Inc. (an Experian company) runs a number of sites, among them CreditReport.com and the even more familiar FreeCreditReport.com.   But it appears an undetermined number of affiliates/resellers for their credit reporting services may have expanded into the fraud business, and by fraud I mean luring consumers into paying for their services on false pretenses.

I personally had two such encounters of late while job-hunting on Craigslist, and was astonished to learn how commonplace this is.  For the sake of other job seekers and consumers in general , I wanted to share these experiences and bring it to the attention of the credit bureaus and reporting agencies who are being duped by the very companies with whom they’ve contracted to do business.  An internet savvy job-seeker may only be taken once or twice on this ride if at all.  But it’s the unsuspecting, along with the bureaus and agencies paying these resellers for their fraudulently-obtained referrals, who are the real losers in this game.

Craigslist is one of many sites where job-seekers and employers go, and it’s absolutely free (to the seekers).  On the internet, anything that is free is also generally open to every fraudster, scoundrel and con with a computer and a modem so it’s Caveat Emptor in the broadest sense.   Regardless of one’s resume format no information more personal than name, address, email and phone number should be divulged as the job-seeker has no idea as to the legitimacy of the job poster.   That having been said, it’s the job posters’ replies you need to be wary of.   I received a couple that sounded a lot like this (ok, it’s an exact quote):

“You definitely seem qualified for the position, and more so than the other 16 applicants we received resumes from. I would like to take the next step with you. However, before I am able to schedule a formal meeting, my company will require that you acquire a recent (past 14-21 business days) credit report. We started this because our company had some bad incidents with prior employees taking advantage of having access to a company credit card.”

Wow!  My resume must really have impressed them!  In another case, the poster went on to name the actual company and claim that it was a matter of policy that they enforced.   I was accustomed to credit and background checks having worked in the finance industry for all of my adult life so this did not seem at all out of the ordinary to me and besides — I was just told I was more qualified than the other applicants so far which had me pumped. Okay, what next!?!

“Both myself and [the company] heavily prefer it if you Click Here to acquire this information as they are currently offering a credit report, at zero cost to you (If you go through the link, we can cover any costs or fees). We have also found that their scores always report back the most factual and accurate information compared to others.

What a load… -ed link, I mean!  It routed me through a number of url’s that layered on tracking info before eventually bringing me onto what appeared to be a consumer-direct site for requesting a credit report from Experian.  Or was it?  No, this was CreditReport.com, one of the sites owned by ConsumerInfo.com Inc.  (and by proxy, Experian).  Undeterred, I proceeded with the expectation that I would be reimbursed for ordering my report as promised by the poster (and, I presumed, the reason for all that added tracking info).

“Once you submit all of the required information, they will show your personal report. Please print it out and save it for your records. Please do not email me the entire report, as it will have private content. We can discuss it when we meet in person. If you have a lower than expected credit score, it will never prevent you from a position with us. I had a fairly low score when I started.”

Aside from that rather poignant admission, I was only further reassured here that they were not out to steal any info from me and that my cooperation would result in the furtherance of my consideration for a position with the company.  Once again, I complied.  (I know a few of you are laughing, “Sucker!” by now, but please here me out.)

It took my research of the company’s name and/or email domain to determine that these had the appearance of legitimate companies but in fact those companies hadn’t posted the job opportunities nor were individuals within their companies the person(s) who had responded to my application.  One company official I spoke with whose name had been used in a bogus email said they had had investigated numerous complaints of this type before and found them to be resellers for the credit reporting agencies simply luring people to use their links to order reports so they could be reimbursed for their referrals.  In other words, there was never a true job opportunity or genuine interest or offer to begin with, nor any intention of reimbursement as had been promised.  I had been snookered into paying for a copy of my credit report on false pretenses.   Doh!

CreditReport.com’s affiliate program pays $24 for each referral that results in an order from their site according to AllAffiliatePrograms.com.  They use a method called “pixel code tracking” to identify the source for incoming referrals.  I sent them an email inquiring as to whether or not their affiliate contract prohibited said referrals from being obtained on false pretenses, and went so far as to ask to see a blank version.  My email will be “reviewed and answered in the order in which it was received,” the auto-responder wrote.

A day later I got a second reply to a job inquiry with virtually the same wording but a different link – this one went to ProtectMyScore.com.  It’s an affiliate/reseller program that pays $18/lead according to their description on oDigger.com.  I sent this job poster a response along these lines:

“If yours is a legitimate letter of interest and you still want me to proceed looking into your offer more closely, please reply with your name, job title, a valid company email address and  phone number, and I will happily send the requested info from my own credit reporting source.  If I do not hear back from you within 24 hours, I will assume your solicitation is nothing more than a scam and promptly report it to both Craigslist and the credit-reporting agency from whom you are attempting to collect commissions for client referrals based on false pretenses.”

That was about sixteen hours ago.  I’m still waiting… and watching the clock.  Perhaps I’ll call the bureaus and those affiliate/referral companies in the meantime.  Should be interesting to hear what they have to say.

A word to EVERYONE out there about obtaining their credit reports: Anyone can obtain a genuinely free copy of their credit report once every 12 months from each of the nationwide consumer credit reporting companies – Equifax, Experian, and Transunion – by going to the one and only secure,  government-endorsed site AnnualCreditReport.com which DOESN’T require you to give them your credit card number.  Additionally, consumers will be given an opportunity to purchase a credit score from any of the three nationwide credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian or Transunion) after receiving their free annual credit report from any of them in response to a request made through that website.   Absolutely no other web site that claims to offer these services is, in fact, genuinely free.   Despite any outward claims, there are always additional requirements such as a mandatory subscription for monthly monitoring services or membership fees.

For job-seekers and others who look to Craigslist, I would highly recommend you check FlakeList.org to make sure the person(s) you are dealing with is/aren’t on their list.  It would have saved me a considerable amount of time if I had!

There Are 5 Responses So Far. »

  1. […] here to read the rest: Alert: Don't Become a Fraudulent Credit Bureau Lead : The Implode … Tags: divulged-as-the, having-been, legitimacy, phone-number, resume-format, the-job, […]

  2. Great article Robin. I hope you were sure to cancel the membership immediately. The reason for the high lead revenue is that it allows the company to deduct a monthly fee from your account if not canceled on time. My nephew does internet marketing, and the companies that provide the offers have strict rules that affiliates must follow.

    As to job hunting on Craigslist, I would advise against it. Craigslist is rife with scammers. Linkedin is a better source of leads, but you have to be careful there too. A legitimate company will pull their own credit report when they complete a background check. The background check is something that will be done after the interview process and both the company and candidate feel that there is a good fit.

    As with everything, always be on high alert for scamsters.

  3. I received the EXACT same reply from a craigslist job ad / offer. Noticed the reply had a email signature from a guy named Bill Starway with no phone number, no company name, nothing. I looked at the email address it came from and it said public@western-hr.com but I go to that site and there’s no phone number wither (western-hr.com). Now I look more closely and did a Google search for western-hr.com and it asks if I mean western-hr.com and shows a DIFFERENT state listed as the address…… very, very suspicious now.

    Funny that I got a letter with the exact same message yours has!
    I smell a BIG time scam here…..folks be cautious, very cautious.

  4. I received the exact same message as others have on craigslist. I was suspicious that any job would request a credit scrore or report as an interview screen. Also it seems fishy that it says he says he needs a credit score to prevent corporate card abuse, but then in the email states that even a low score won’t discredit you as a candidate. It definetely was another red flag to me. Companies should only request background check/ credit report/check after the interview process is moving forward and an offer is being made.

    Googled the company name which was public@western-hr.com. The website looks somewhat legit, but anyone can create a website in a few hours. There is not any contact info or phone number available. Googled Bill Starway and the internet is flooded with this scam. Glad I didn’t click on the link provided for the “free credit check”. I emailed him back and let him know about the information I found. I intend to report him to craigslist, FTC, and BBB. Sorry to anyone that got scammed by this guy 🙁

  5. in response to Alert: Don’t Become a Fraudulent Credit Bureau Lead

    Nice article from concerned PIPS like you Robin. This is indeed very helpful. I also received the same email content from a person named Lance P-something. Sorry I can’t remember the last name cause I immediately deleted the spam mail after it requires me to obtain a credit report by clicking a certain like this (http://www.usa-credit-report.org/E163A3). I was just surprise that a certain company/organization will request something like this at a certain applicant right after submitting his resume… Then he even include the number of other applicants applying for the job (not sure why it is 16… probably it is his magic number.) This is just not the right to do for a particular employer..,My personal opinion about the matter. So i deleted the mail.. And then search the western-hr.com website… Then I found out your strings of blogs. I received the mail today ( Feb. 28, 2011 ) so these guys are just starting. I hope they’ll be stopped immediately. Just wondering why these guys don’t put there skills into good use. Or scam those people who have more than they have (i.e. corrupt and rich individuals… )

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