Are Theft and Fraud Becoming a Normal Part of the Job Application Process?

Are Theft and Fraud Becoming a Normal Part of the Hiring and Interviewing Process

The hiring and interview process have taken on an air of grift lately, with many companies willing to string applicants along for what many suspect is free work and helpful trade information, only to ghost them once they’ve gotten what they want.

I was contacted by a potential employer recently and asked to complete a work assignment as a sort of paid tryout. It’s not the first time this has happened.

And, when someone offers me unspecified amounts of money and asks me to do copywriting work through a very public site like Indeed, I’m always suspicious. Between Indeed and ZipRecruiter, I’ve had about four to five legitimate scams attempted on me by some unscrupulous people in just the last three months.

And I’m not alone. Employment scams now rank No. 2 in the country, according to the BBB.

At first, and on a few occasions, the attempted fraud involved having to take delivery of an elaborate array of used office equipment like a MacBook Pro, and even fax machines and office printers for a remote, digital copywriting role. The person interviewing me over Skype attempted to gain random personal information about me that had nothing to do with work as well. 

In each instance, when I brought up the idea that I wouldn’t need the equipment and I also did a little bit of investigation into their company, or a separate company doing the same thing, both times, the line went completely silent and I never heard another peep out of them. 

The New Job Interview Scam for Shady Content Marketers: Get Applicants to Turn in Unique Samples

So, when the most recent employer who contacted me and asked me to do an assignment, I was slightly concerned that it might be an attempt to get free work from me and 50 other people on Indeed, work that they could then use in their local or regional content-based SEO business without ever having to pay a writer—they could just say they would. 

I asked if this opportunity was truly legitimate and how much they would be paying in a specific dollar amount, looking out for myself, my time, and testing the waters to see if it was real.

Because, unless they named the actual terms, they could promise everything in theory while providing nothing in reality. And I suspected that was part of their tactics.

Consider this: if a writing assignment takes a person 2 hours and 20 applicants complete the task, that’s a full 40-hour work week for a single human—for free. But let’s not stop there, because with AI writing tools, a person could take 20 unique sample articles and realistically automatically reword them three or four times apiece conservatively, and now they have 60 free pieces of content from a bunch of people looking for work.

Now, I’m not saying they were going to screw anyone over, but the CEO of the company returned my email and said it wasn’t a scam, and that I was hand-picked to complete the task. He did not, however, answer the question regarding how much the assignment paid, though he suggested a paid writing assessment.

A different company just contacted me last week. They requested that I complete not one, but four assignments for them, all unpaid. The amount of work they requested for my tryout t was more than a full day’s work at my most recent writing contract, which paid pretty well. The prospect of getting 8 hours of free work out of 10 people off is nothing short of a full workweek for two humans, all for free, if the applicants submitted all the work.

And I did not. Nor did they respond when I raised these concerns with them.

RPM Web Media/RPM Services Group Offer Job Seekers an Opportunity to Work, Just Maybe Not What You Had in Mind

But let’s get back to the original company that contacted me for a paid assignment. After my initial objections and questions, a few of which went unanswered, and after the reassurance of the company owner and de facto CEO saying I was hand-picked, I thought for sure I’d have a pretty good shot at turning in some work that could land me a spot writing for them. 

I followed the directions and instructions to the letter. I got creative. I used the provided template. Did I produce a perfect writing assignment? I seriously doubt it. But did I write something that I think shows that I’m a “highly proficient” writer, as Indeed says I am? Did I produce something that was good enough to sell air conditioner repair and HVAC services to someone with a broken air conditioner?

I think so. It’s not rocket science, and I’ve been doing this kind of work for over a decade now.

But the CEO who asked for the work and told me it wasn’t a scam went silent as well, even after I eagerly sent him the work and told him when I was available for an interview. I got a message back saying he’d look it over in 2 days and get back to me. I said I was looking forward to reading their feedback, and I legitimately was.

And then, a few hours later, I got an official message from Indeed saying the company had decided not to move forward with me. No reasons were given. No constructive criticism, either. Just an official rejection, after a lot of unofficial back and forth from someone who said they hand-picked my application.

But, I did not in fact get paid. So, I did some research and found the CEO’s company address, the business names they use for marketing and their business compliance, and other former employee reviews.

I replied to the employer’s official message on Indeed, acknowledging that they said it was paid but respecting their decision. Because of this fact, were I not to be paid, then I would review the CEO and his company on my website and post it on LinkedIn, letting the world know they offer to pay to complete a writing assessment.

That got the ball rolling. Within an hour, I saw money in my account. But why did I have to prompt the CEO of a company for an unspecified, nominal amount of cash anyway? Why couldn’t the CEO just tell me how much the initial paid writing assignment would be?

All RPM Services Group CEO Joe Graisbery Wanted Was to Revenge-Task Me, As it Turns Out

The CEO later went on to message me, complaining that things I had said were “abhorrent.” But why did I have to threaten to expose him for not paying or being transparent to begin with? People like this CEO are the types who will take as much free work as they can from people who don’t insist upon being paid, if you let them. And most people who get rejected are not going to ask for payment, because they might perceive it as shameful. And people like this CEO know that.

No word was given regarding my actual writing ability or performance on the task, but it seemed to me like the CEO had no intention of hiring me all along and told me to “go ahead with the writing assessment” just so he could pull the rug out from under me later. Yay, what a victory.

Punishing people for trying not to get scammed and asking direct questions for the sake of transparency. Nothing at all about work, the quality, the value, the mission of informing the consumer or potential customer, helping people with a legitimate problem, and making a sale.

The main concerns raised were over the fact that I was just diligent enough to hold him accountable.

How Long Has RPM Services Group LLC Been Offering to Pay Writers for a Tryout–While Getting Away Without Paying?

But it turns out, again, that I’m not the only one. Here’s a review from someone else from a few years ago with a similar experience with RPM Web Media and RPM Services Group LLC:

“This place is a bunch of scammers, and I wouldn’t recommend any freelance writers apply. They ask you to write a sample with directions, but I’m sure this is a way to get free content. I followed the directions to a T and delivered ahead of time, and was told I would get contacted back in 1 to 3 business days. I never heard anything, and even followed up with no response. I wouldn’t mind if I didn’t get it, but at least tell me. At this point, I’m convinced that they are scamming writers out of providing free work.”

It also sounds like at least at one time, a significant portion of the content production team for RPM Web Media was even in located in the Phillipines, with some U.S. employees complaining that there was no U.S. headquarters. More on that later.

Businesses That Leverage Job Applicants for Free Work Are Nothing New

In the past few years, people have lost a huge amount of faith in society, its institutions, the currency, the economy, and the workforce. From hiring and interviewing to following seriously flawed medical mandates, employers seem to be unstable monoliths whose only goal is to reward people who do what they are told and without question.

It explains the long list of job applicants who complain about CEOs and interviewers trying to get as much useful info as they can out of them, or free work, and then completely disappearing and ghosting them, a phenomenon that’s gone up over 208% in the last four years.

I know for a fact that I’ve been on very long interviews where the interviewer noticeably shifted into research and development mode to extract as much info about my professional practices as possible, then shifted out and ended the interview as if they’d fully accomplished their goals for our time.

And that is just one more reason why many CEOs are really only as good as their moral compass and ability to weigh the needs of their own individual net worth and profit margins with the actual wealth of the community, which is manifest in both time and money. Telling someone they’re hand-picked and then dropping them like a deadweight isn’t believable, so Joe Graisbery could have just told me at the outset, “Sorry, looks like we might not be a fit,” but he took my willingness to stand up to potential fraud personally, then wanted to string me along to make the denial of my application that much more impactful.

And yet, it wasn’t. It was just proof that my premonitions were correct.

No wonder RPM and Joe are using the UPS Store as their business’s registered agent address but provide no info to their physical headquarters or place of operation.

They definitely don’t want any walk-ins, do they?