(KTVI) - Job hunters across the St. Louis area say they have been scammed by thieves claiming to represent Bio Advocate Pro, a company that does biohazard cleanup work, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns.
In each case, the company instructed the men to pay $89 for a criminal background check by using a prepaid Green Dot MoneyPak card. All of the men said the thieves collected the money and then cut off communications.
“I can’t lose money like that,” said a Florissant man who was a victim of the scam. “I have five children I’m trying to support.”
The BBB urges that job seekers be extremely skeptical of Bio Advocate Pro, or any business demanding upfront payments via prepaid cash cards or electronic wire transfer systems like Western Union or MoneyGram. Bio Advocate Pro used an address in the 8000 block of State Street, East St. Louis, but there is no business by that name at that location.
Michelle Corey, BBB president and CEO, said employment scams victimize those who already are vulnerable. “To take money from people who are struggling to support themselves and their families is reprehensible,” she said. “These thieves and others like them are using bogus job offers to draw people into their scams specifically to steal whatever they can get.”
A man from Alton, Ill., said he had been emailing responses to several online job postings when a caller claiming to represent Bio Advocate Pro contacted him about a $17-an-hour cleaning job. The scammers instructed him to load $89 onto a Green Dot MoneyPak card to pay for a pre-employment criminal background check.
He said after he gave the card’s identification number to the scammers, the thieves emptied the money from the card and then stopped communicating with him. He said he even went to what he thought was a pre-employment drug test, but when he arrived, the laboratory told him he was not scheduled and the lab had no information on any company called Bio Advocate Pro. “I should have known better than this,” he said.
A man from Spanish Lake said he, too, was told to load $89 on a prepaid card to pay for a background check. After transferring the money to the thieves, he could no longer reach anyone at their phone number. “They are preying on people who need jobs,” he said. “I was thinking ‘this is too good to be true.’”
A man from Overland said his job counselor saved him from being victimized when she discovered reports of similar scams on the Internet. “If it wasn’t for her, I probably would have gone ahead with it,” he said. “It’s not right. They’re taking advantage of people who are out of work.”
A website for Bio Advocate Pro, www.bioadvocatepro.com, said the company provides “high quality janitorial services and commercial cleaning.” The site provides links to another company in Indiana. That company said it had never heard of Bio Advocate Pro.
Bio Advocate Pro did not return a phone call placed to the number listed on its website.
The BBB offers the following tips to job hunters:
- Beware of unfamiliar companies contacting you through online job boards. Some of these so-called businesses may be set up to scam you.
- Be cautious about paying any fees upfront for pre-employment background or drug tests.
- If at all possible, visit the company’s office to determine that they are located where they say they are.
- Get references and contact them.
- Check for a BBB Business Review at www.bbb.org or by calling 314-645-3300.