For whatever the reason, tough financial times like this current recession seem to bring out the worst in people. Scams targeting job hunters are rampant right now, and it should come as no surprise that the security contracting arena has its share of vultures as well. These scammers succeed by promising something that’s almost too good to be true, which is a particular problem for civilian contractors since the goal really is to go from unemployment to a six-figure salary!
Another reason that I wanted to write this article today was because of some recent traffic on the security discussion forums, where it’s become apparent that there’s at least one less-than stellar company hiring for security positions in Afghanistan. Some of the more common complaints are that the employees aren’t getting reimbursed for job-related expenses, that their weapons and equipment aren’t being provided, and that the company can’t even secure CAC cards or letters of authorization for their employees to work in the country! While signing on with a goatrope of a company doesn’t quite qualify as an outright scam, it still has the potential to cost you a lot of money and it will definitely cause you some heartburn.
With that in mind, here are a couple of the warning signals to look for when you finally do make contact with a company representative:
-Have you even heard of this company before now? If so, did you actually apply for the position you’re being interviewed for? While it’s not unusual for resumes to float around on the internet, especially if you’ve ever uploaded yours to a site like Monster or MilitaryHire, take the time to gather information on any company that contacts you. Do they have a valid website? Can you find their name listed as receiving part of a contract award on the Federal Business Opportunities website, or can you at least confirm that who’s letting them sub-contract the work? Even if you’ve gotten an email from someone claiming to work for a “household name” like SOC or EODT, you should still take the time to verify their identity. Email addresses will reflect a domain name like “@EODT.com”, which will be the company’s main website.
-If you’re still unsure about the situation, ask yourself if the job description meets your previous experience. Previous periods of employment as a bus driver and as a mall cop will not qualify you for a spot on a mobile PSD team, so it should be a red flag if one of these gigs is offered to you. This is especially true if you’ve only applied to “entry-level” gigs in static positions and all of a sudden someone offers you a golden goose job paying over $100k. Something like this might have happened back in 2003 when companies were hurting for bodies, but getting this offer nowadays would be more than a little suspicious.
-Is the company representative asking you to come out of pocket for expenses like travel or equipment? This should be a huge warning sign, since procurement is one of the easiest things for an established company to manage. It’s true that with the current Continuing Resolution a lot of contracts are operating on month-to-month funding, but any company big enough to effectively conduct work overseas should have enough capital on hand to cover these operating costs without having to pass them on to employees. Also, ask yourself this: If a company’s having trouble coming up with the cash to buy you a $1000 one-way plane ticket into some third-world hole in the wall, just how well do you think they’re going to do when it comes time to make payroll each month?
-Is the company requiring you to attend a training class before deployment? If so, they’d better have language written into the contract that guarantees you a job immediately after completion of training. One common scam is for schools to charge students thousands of dollars for their training classes, but they won’t guarantee that you’ll be able to find work afterwards. If any company requires you to complete a pre-deployment training or evaluation period, they should be paying you for the time it takes you to attend. Also, keep in mind that there’s a difference between legitimate training courses and a television infomercial. If you get the hard sell to “act now!” and shell out money up front, I’d recommend taking a pass on the opportunity until you’ve done some more research. Also, don’t ever give out your bank account information unless it’s as part of your pre-hire paperwork (that step should come very late in the vetting process).
Yes, you will feel rushed from time to time whenever companies are looking to bring you on board as quickly as possible, but you should never feel so pressured that you skip your research and don’t realize exactly what you’re getting into. In business terms, that’s called “due diligence”, and it’s a must in any transaction. Look, I realize that unemployment sucks and you’re hoping to snag a job as quickly as possible, but you can never afford to skip doing your homework before you sign on the dotted line. By spending as little as a few hours on the internet you have the opportunity to save yourself thousands of dollars and a whole lot of stress, so why not put in the legwork beforehand? Even if the job turns out to be a completely legitimate opportunity, there’ll be a lot fewer surprises when it finally comes time to put boots on the ground!