Senior Cara Hutchison writes:
During my last semester of college I began searching for a job, knowing that, in this economy, my prospects were low. Although I had heard of the dangers of searching for employment on craigslist.com, I gave it a whirl, thinking that I would never fall for an Internet scam.
I submitted my resume to several PR, marketing and advertising companies in New York City. Within a few days I received some feedback. When Universal Inc., a "marketing" firm called to set up an interview I was filled with excitement and confidence. They were flexible and had no problem setting up an interview for the next time I would be in New York, two weeks away.
The night before the interview, I sat with my boyfriend researching the company and devising thoughtful questions for the interview. He was the first to become wary of Universal Inc. His concerned stemmed from the postings on craigslists with titles such as “Entry Level Sales and Marketing-Ninja’s Only” and “Superheroes wanted.”
The company also posted listings every one-to-three days and said "no experience required." After browsing the website, www.pmg7.com, I too began to have doubts, but I ignored them, not wanting to pass up a job opportunity in a recession.
According to the fairly basic website, Universal Inc. is the New York City division of Pro Marketing Group (PMG). The company claims to have divisions, all with different names, in places like Florida, Texas, Alabama, and Atlanta. The site, however, provided basically no information about what they actually do.
They boasted their training programs that gave entry-level professionals leadership, communication and negotiating skills to help them in the marketing industry. Instead of talking about their clients or their services, they explained their management-training program that can be completed in just six to ten months. This program is intended to cross-train young people in administrative skills, client acquisitions and interviewing. I was confused; I was going to be interviewing potential candidates within ten months?
Despite my hesitations I decided at the least, interview practice couldn’t hurt. When I arrived at Universal Inc. at 35th street between 6th and 7th Avenue I was apprehensive. The building seemed almost like a creepy apartment building. I took the elevator up to the 9th floor and discovered Universal Inc. down the hall from a model agency that screamed rip-off.
I entered the glass door and was stunned by the office, the lobby looked like it was painted by the receptionist, and there were only three or four offices. While the few employees dressed in suits the place looked not one bit professional. I sat among two other candidates.
My interview lasted less than ten minutes. Brad, the eager man interviewing me, barely read my resume and did not question me about my past internships or what I studied in school. Instead, he wanted to know what sports I played, why I choose to go to UMass being from Philadelphia, and what my favorite country in Europe was.
He glossed over any questions I had, telling me it wasn’t time to ask questions because it was only the first round of a three-round process. He briefly recited a clearly memorized overview of the company. They are an outsource marketing group, doing marketing for companies not wanting to hire their own marketing teams, Nike? Sony? Ebay? Brad told me there would be over 30 interviews on that Friday, and only four people would be called back that evening.
After the interview I knew that the company was probably a scam, but couldn’t escape mindset that I should take anything in this economy. After discussing it with my mom I googled Pro Marketing Group and was bombarded with warnings from Ripoffreport.com and scam.com.
According to these sites the company recruits young people to do door-to-door sales then teaches them how to deceive people and when they try to quit give them guilt trips so they stay. Others claimed they were only paid $100 a week and often had to invest their own money in company endeavors.
And they wanted me.
Needless to say, they called me back that Friday night congratulating me on being motivated and driven enough to join their team. I refused, mentioning the information I read online and told them I wasn’t interested. It was like they had a speech prepared, “do you believe everything you hear online?” “Do you really think Fortune 500 companies would work with us if weren’t a real company?”
Despite my decline, they harassed me for the entire weekend, leaving messages trying to convince me to come spend a day in the office, telling me that I wasn’t keeping my word.
I didn’t need anymore convincing, all the flags were there, this is the type of company I had been warned about. This was a scam.