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Be wary of scams in flailing economy

October 21, 2009|By Dan Evans

Yes, we know. We’re in a recession. The latest unemployment figures are grim, both statewide and locally — 12.2% for the state as a whole, 10.4% in Burbank and 11.1% in Glendale. The September numbers, released this week from the California Economic Development Department, are worse than the month prior, with the labor force shrinking by 800 in Glendale and 400 in Burbank.

The impacts are increasingly obvious. Stop by the Verdugo Jobs Center sometime. On any given weekday, hard-working people caught in this maelstrom sit at computers, revising resumes that will likely be ignored, making connections for jobs that don’t yet exist, and trying their hardest not to put their fists through the screen.

This may seem a bit personal, and it is. Not long ago, I sat in front of my computer, sending out those resumes, making those connections and hustling for any work I could find. In December, at or near the height of this hemorrhaging economy, I was laid off from my job working the website of the Hollywood Reporter. (This may give some clue as to why I’m constantly talking about our online presence.)

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On some level, I was fortunate: I had plenty of company, and plenty of time to rethink the traditional modes of the unemployed. The stigma of being jobless is far less than it was even five years ago. People — and more importantly, employers — understand that being laid off does not necessarily reflect on one’s competence, work ethic or drive. Sometimes, it just happens.

It turned out OK for me, obviously. I worked hard to find this job, but luck and timing played a significant role. If I had not gotten this job when I did, it would have been increasingly difficult to stay in journalism — or in my house.

While I was unemployed, I used to marvel at the scams flowing into my e-mail inbox. Offers abounded to attend unaccredited schools, to take part in shady reverse-mortgage offers, or for quasi-legal work at $60 an hour. As the economy gets worse, the scams and shenanigans have only increased.

This week, I received a piece of mail from Citibank. More accurately, my wife received the letter. I mistakenly opened it, forgetting that there might be more than one Evans at our residence. Inside the letter, one of dozens we seem to get each month from various banks, lenders and the like was the following note:

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