Looking for work, couple duped on state's employment website

VERNONIA, Ore. - The last year and a half has been a river of worries for Tom and Rosemarie Nessman.

Tom's unemployment benefits ran out and the couple has been flooded with bills.

"Thank God we have health insurance because he's a veteran, but everything else has been very, very difficult," said Rosemarie.

In November they answered an ad on WorkSource Oregon, the state's employment website, with a company called First Alert Security in Woodburn.

"Being that it comes from WorkSource Oregon, it's like their seal of approval," Rosemarie said.

But the security company said they needed to pay for $422 worth of training. They were told to go to Walmart and put the money on a MoneyPak card. The employer then withdrew the money from the account.

"Something didn't feel right, but when you've been out of work that long and you're that desperate, you tend to kind of push that (feeling) away," Rosemarie said.

On training day at the Oregon Convention Center, the Nessmans arrived with four other people.

"We all find out that there was no training (and) no rooms had been reserved," Tom said.

KATU News contacted the owner of First Alert Security.

It appears the bad guy pulled the company's name and registration number off the secretary of state's website and then placed the bogus ad with WorkSource.

The state is now making changes.

"We've really tried to shore up our policies and procedures to make sure that the public really can trust when there's a job out there on the state website that it is a real job and that a real employer has put it up there and they're not going to be charging them a fee to apply," said Tom Fuller with the Oregon Employment Department.

Tom and Rosemarie haven't seen their $422.

"We're the ones that are trying to deal with the electric company and keep our water running and keep everything going against all odds," said Rosemarie. "And it seems to be slipping and slipping further and further out of hand."

The Oregon attorney general has investigated the case. KATU News is waiting to hear more from that office.

The KATU Problem Solvers urged WorkSource Oregon to put a warning on its website that job seekers should never, ever pay application or training fees for legitimate work. The Problem Solvers were told it will post that warning.

The company, First Alert Security, does appear to be a legitimate business and also a victim in this case.