SAN JOSE (CBS 5) — Diana Hicks spends a lot of time on-line looking for work. But back in October, a company called “World Financial Group” came looking for her.
The first contact, Hicks says, was an upbeat sounding message on Hicks’s voicemail, in which the caller asked Hicks to call back at her earliest convenience. Hicks did, and she agreed to come for an interview at a World Financial Group office in San Jose.
But, Hicks says when she showed up for what she thought was a receptionist position, she was told “in order to get into the company, we need to do a background check.” And Hicks says she was asked to pay for it. “He (the interviewer) says the company can’t pay for the background check, so it’s $100,” Hicks recounted during an interview at her home in Gilroy.
Eager to get a job, and see what was on her report, Hicks paid the money and asked for a copy of the report. She says it never arrived. When Hicks called to ask about it and her $100, she says she was told “It was an initiation fee, not a background check, you must’ve gotten it wrong.”
“Anytime there is a cost when an applicant goes in, that should be raising red flags,” says Eric Rood of California Department of Industrial Relations. Rood says California law is clear.
“Under labor section 450B, it’s illegal for an employer to ask for any amount of money to apply for a job.”
But World Financial Group says it is not a traditional employer.
The company, which is based in Georgia, says its “associates” are “independent contractors,” who work for themselves selling financial products.
The company also told ConsumerWatch the $100 Hicks paid was a non-refundable processing fee, so that she could become an associate.
“I was very surprised to hear that they changed it,” Hicks says.
She says she made it clear at the interview she was only interested in a traditional office job.
World Financial Group wouldn’t respond to CBS5 questions about why Hicks was still charged the fee.
Diana Hicks isn’t the only one complaining about World Financial Group. ConsumerWatch found about 20 complaints online from job seekers all saying they too were asked to pay, or did pay, $100 for “background checks.”
“I was duped, bottom line,” Hicks says.
World Financial Group e-mailed Consumerwatch a statement saying it is “upfront and clear” in its practices. And, after our phone calls, the company did refund Hicks her $100. Money Hicks says she needs to continue her job search.
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