Want Ad Warning

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If you're looking for a job, beware! Investigators say con artists are ripping off people who answer a certain kind of want ad. And as Call For Action reporter Betty Sexton learned, the list of victims is growing here in Colorado and stretches across the country.

Right now, police know of 70 Colorado residents who've been duped. Many, like a Palmer Lake man, are down on their luck and think they've found the perfect job. Only they discover they're not making money. They're actually losing it, as well as their identity.

"You know, I mean they caught me at the bottom of the post. I'm ruined." Jim DeVasco saw a “Help Wanted” ad in the Gazette. A travel agency was looking for a delivery driver. The ad promised $13.25 an hour, a company car, a company credit card and a Monday through Friday schedule.

The ad asked for a faxed resume and that led to a phone call. Jim was asked to fill out an online job application. That application required a lot of personal information. "Everything about me---social, license number, cancelled check. Everything," says Jim. He also filled out a W2 form online and faxed over a voided check.

He was told the company, CGI-8, was out of Phoenix and company officials needed the voided check so they could deposit his pay directly into his bank account.

Jim's first assignment was to find office space for the agency, which would soon set up shop in Southern Colorado. "So I went out and found them the property," he says.

CGI-8 officials then told him they had deposited $630 into his account. Of that, $100 was for his hard work. The rest was to be wired to Cancun, Mexico so furniture could be purchased for the new office in Colorado Springs.

"I went to my bank immediately to make sure that they did, in fact, deposit money. And yep, it was posted to my account so I had no reason to be suspicious," he says. Because the money was deposited in small increments of $300 and $330, the bank didn't put a hold on the checks.

But soon after that, Jim got some bad news. Those two checks weren't valid and Jim's bank account was now cleaned out. "I don't have a bank account. I don't have any money. How am I going to look for a job without money to buy gas or whatever?"

Jenna Davis with the Colorado Springs Better Business Bureau has been working on the case with U.S. Customs, area police departments, and the local newspapers. She believes the crooks are in Mexico, using people in at least ten different states, and finding victims through the want ads.

Davis says three local papers are now policing their ads and have caught at least 20 fraudulent listings before they were posted. "We've never seen anything like this before. They have people working faxes all over the United States, fax machines and I guarantee these people are victims just like the rest of them," says Davis.

Palmer Lake Marshal Dale Smith says it's a wake up call for anyone looking for a job. "Being hired sight unseen---be very wary of that. Most jobs that one takes, one gets interviewed face to face."

The best advice---when applying for a job, don't supply personal information to someone you've never met. Your social security number and bank account information are critical to your identity. Voided checks can be used to print new ones and your information on W2 forms can be duplicated and used by illegal residents.

U.S. Customs is investigating. But it's up to you to protect your own identity.