Fake job ads posted with the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce tricked at least one local man looking for work, but the department won't say how many others might have been swindled.
A 55-year-old Lady's Island man seeking employment through the Beaufort County S.C. Works center said he was referred to a phony job offer in December, and it wound up costing him money.
The man, who said he is an Air Force veteran and asked that his name not be used in this story, leapt at the opportunity to be an armed security guard with DSI Security after the state jobs center on Castle Rock Road in Beaufort gave him a referral.
A man who said he was a manager for the security company called for a background check and later offered him a job. The interviewer said the man would have to pay $150 to cover half of the cost of a weapons-training class that would certify him as a security guard at a local gated community.
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After researching DSI Security online and finding it to be legitimate, the Lady's Island man paid the money through a MoneyPak card he purchased at a local drug store.
But he soon learned that although DSI Security is real, the position was not.
Scammers claiming to represent DSI Security have also posted fake job ads with state employment agencies and with Goodwill in Florida, North Carolina and California since late 2012, according to Eddie Sorrells, the company's chief operating officer and general counsel.
DSI Security does not do background checks over the phone or make prospective employees pay for training, Sorrells said. The firm posted an alert about the fraud on its website Jan. 4, encouraging people offered jobs through DSI Security to check whether the offer is real with the firm's Human Resources Department.
"Short of us getting the word out and encouraging people to contact local authorities, it appears that it's very difficult to stop them because we have no clue where they're located," Sorrells said. "Usually, they use a throwaway cellphone."
The S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce "makes every effort to research and investigate potential employers," department spokeswoman Adrienne Fairwell wrote in an email.
"During this process, we realized that there were irregularities in the DSI job order." The department is no longer referring job seekers to DSI, she said.
Fairwell said she could not disclose how many people were referred to the fake jobs through state employment centers because the FBI is investigating the fraud.
"In terms of recouping the money ... that will all be determined by what is found in the investigation," Fairwell said.
Columbia-based FBI spokeswoman Denise Taiste said the bureau has not launched an investigation, although it had been told of the fraud.
Fairwell said the department has helped job seekers referred to the fake DSI Security ads work with credit bureaus and the S.C. Department of Revenue. They are setting up safeguards similar to those offered in the wake of the recent Department of Revenue hacking scandal.
The Lady's Island man said Beaufort County jobs center representatives also contacted him when they discovered the job was a fake. He doesn't believe they were in on the fraud, but he said he ignored warning signs about the job partly because "the state of South Carolina was making the recommendation."
The scam has him worried about his security. He had turned over his Social Security number, his address and other personal information during the interview, but so far, there are no signs his identity has been compromised.