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'Vultures' target job fairs

The lure of a few jobs has brought thousands of people to local job fairs, but the businesses that set-up at these events aren't the only ones in the vicinity collecting resumes. In parking lots and on sidewalks outside the fairs, a crowd of work-at-home recruiters has sprung up. They offer opportunities to sell books, travel, and insurance. And some say big money will follow. Chris Ware is part of an unofficial posse of people clutching colorful fliers and business cards stationed outside a job fair in north Charlotte. His card reads 'Increase Your Income' and lists a number to hear a pre-recorded offer. "Did you get one of my cards, sir?" he says to a passerby. "No, I didn't." "Well you need to have one," replies Ware. "All rightie." Ware takes the man's resume and once the man leaves puts it in an envelope with more than thirty others. Three weeks ago he says he was in the same position as the people he's hitting up. Ware needed a job to make ends meet and now for $5 a month he gets a book by pdf file and a website to help market motivational materials. "If you want to pay for a full year you can actually send a check for $60 to the company and that will cover you for the year. And if it's done through automation you pay $5 a month. If you're not interested you can cancel right away, no problem," explains Ware. He's doing all this for a company called TBA, which stands for The Bold Approach. The Better Business Bureau gives the company a B- grade because of the number of complaints filed against it. On this day there are at least six others offering work-at-home opportunities. One of them represents YTB Travel Network. California's Attorney General has accused the company of operating a gigantic pyramid scheme by recruiting thousands of members with deceptive claims. The state wants the business to cough up $25 million in civil penalties and restitution. YTB's representative wouldn't talk to us, but he did have a run-in with Lyle Stone. "Here's one over here. Let me go run him off," says Stone. Stone is a general manager at The Employment Guide, the company that runs this job fair. Lately, his job description has included keeping this crowd of parking lot recruiters at bay. This time he makes a bee-line for the man signing up people for the travel company. Stone says curtly: "If you don't mind we've got companies inside that have been recruiting that paid to be here. We really don't want folks standing out here in the parking lot trying to grab folks. Thank you!" Inside the fair, Stone warns his staff about the recruiters outside. And an employee tells him they caught one of them leaving the fair with a stack of resumes. "He said he was just grabbing the paper off the table, but he had multiple resumes in his hand, he wasn't just grabbing a paper," explains one staff member. Stone shakes his head and says shooing away these people has been a perpetual problem of late. "We've had to have the police escort a few people away at times that 'I refuse to leave. This is public property.' I'm sorry this is hotel. They own the property. You don't have the right to be out here soliciting, especially when folks are looking for a real job and that's not what you're offering," says Stone. Tom Bartholomy, the head of the local Better Business Bureau has some choice words for these sideline recruiters: "We kindly refer to them as vultures, bottom feeders, people that we hope have a special place in hell." Bartholomy says there are some legitimate work-at-home opportunities, but usually they're provided by an existing employer, not someone placing a sign on a telephone pole or passing out fliers. "In almost every case they're going to require an upfront fee from you. For more information, for a book, for access to a website, for software, what have youThat should be the huge red flag waving in your face that this is not right," warns Bartholomy. The North Carolina Attorney General's Office investigates complaints about shady business opportunities. Two years ago, the Attorney General sought to bar two work-from-home companies Imergent and Stores Online from doing business in the state. The companies were allowed back in North Carolina after they agreed to change the way they represent their products and pay refunds to consumers who filed complaints. Back at the job fair, colorful fliers dot car windows. One flier says you can earn $10 to $20,000 per month for marketing real estate education information. To get in on this deal, people must pay $75 and they also have the option to purchase materials ranging from a few dollars to $16,000 for a 4-week course at Nouveau Riche University. A week later this sales pitch moves from the parking lot to a booth inside The Employment Guide job fair.