Company Posts Phony Job Listings, Makes False Promises Of Employment To Trick Thousands Of Consumers Into Paying For Expensive Training Courses; Schneiderman: Fraudulent And Deceptive Advertising Practices Are Illegal
(NEW YORK) – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced that he filed a lawsuit in Manhattan Supreme Court against a company and its owner for using phony job listings and false promises of employment to con consumers into paying for expensive security guard training courses. The New York City-based 1st Security Preparation & Placement, Inc. and its owner, Allen Haft, may have scammed more than 15,000 consumers since 2008.
The Attorney General’s office also secured a temporary restraining order freezing any assets the company or Haft may have and temporarily barring them from advertising job openings or selling security guard training courses.
“My office will not tolerate companies that break the law to take advantage of vulnerable, unemployed consumers,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “Posting phony job listings during an economic crisis is a particularly cynical effort to prey on the hopes of struggling workers and families. We will seek the maximum penalties against 1st Security as well as restitution for defrauded consumers.”
The lawsuit, filed yesterday, seeks full restitution for consumers defrauded in the scheme since at least 2008. As many as 15,000 people, many of them New York City residents, signed up for classes. The suit also seeks injunctive relief prohibiting the company from continuing to operate this scam. The company faces penalties of up to $5,000 per customer defrauded.
After reviewing about 200 consumer complaints, the Attorney General’s Office conducted an undercover investigation of the company revealing that it has posted hundreds of fake security guard job listings on Craigslist and in newspapers, including amNewYork, the Daily News, the New York Post and Metro. The advertisements make it seem like the company is hiring employees at high hourly wages when in fact the company is selling its courses.
When consumers respond to the ads, 1st Security falsely promises them that they have been selected for a position. The company tells applicants that before they can start working, they must complete a series of security guard training courses, typically at a cost of $449 to $667.
1st Security holds classes at 250 West 40th Street that last approximately four days and issues students certificates for those classes.
After consumers pay for and complete 1st Security’s training courses, they meet with 1st Security’s placement office and are given worthless “referrals” to security guard companies — instead of the promised jobs. When consumers follow up on the referrals, they are not hired for any position usually because the companies are either not hiring or not interested in hiring individuals with no experience. They find that the companies that they were referred to have no knowledge of 1st Security and are not expecting the consumer for an interview.
In addition to making false promises of employment, 1st Security also falsely represents that consumers must complete their entire package of courses to be eligible to work as a security guard. In fact, only one of the three courses in the series — the eight hour pre-assignment training course — is required to begin working as a security guard. In addition, 1st Security’s training courses are poor in quality, overpriced and do not comply with New York requirements for security guard training courses, including minimum hours of instruction and required topics.
If you were a victim of 1st Security’s scheme, please file a complaint with the OAG. Complaint forms are available at: http://www.ag.ny.gov/bureaus/consumer_frauds/filing_a_consumer_complaint.html.
Consumers seeking to work as a security guard should be wary of any security guard training school that poses as an employer of security guards or promises to place students in security guard positions. Consumers should read any contract with the security guard company carefully and, before signing any contract, check to see if the school is approved by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services. Consumers should also keep in mind that low-cost and even free security guard training courses may be available. For example, the State University of New York’s Manhattan Educational Opportunity Center offers free security guard training courses for individuals who meet certain income guidelines and many community colleges offer low-cost security guard training courses.
The case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Benjamin Lee and Investigator Andres Rodriguez. It’s being supervised by the Bureau of Consumer Frauds and Protection’s Deputy Bureau Chief Laura J. Levine, Bureau Chief Jane M. Azia and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Economic Justice Karla G. Sanchez.