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By Charly Haley, Published March 01 2013

Fake ads aim to raise awareness of college job scams

FARGO – College students here may have seen recent student newspaper ads asking, “Need extra money? Earn cash fast!”

Students who visited the ad’s website were met with a different message: “Congratulations! You have not been scammed!”

The Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota placed the misleading ad as part of its preparation for next week’s National Consumer Protection Week. The ad ran for the past three weeks in the North Dakota State University student newspaper, The Spectrum, said Dan Hendrickson, spokesperson for the BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota.

The website on the ad, www.collegework4ce.com, is actually a website with tips on how college students can avoid employment scams. The fake ad also had a phone number that led to a pre-recorded message on avoiding scams, Hendrickson said.

In addition to the Spectrum ad, the BBB placed fake Craigslist.com ads in the Fargo and St. Cloud, Minn., areas with the same information.

Travis Jones, the ad manager for the NDSU Spectrum, said the newspaper didn’t receive any complaints or questions from students about the ad.

The BBB’s scam awareness website received six views from The Spectrum ad and more than 150 views from the Craigslist ads, said Lisa Jemtrud, spokeswoman for the BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota.

“I do consider it a success,” Jemtrud said.

The BBB targeted the college age group because as a whole, college students may be more susceptible to employment scams, Hendrickson said.

“A lot of us learn our lessons in life at that age,” he said.

Although Consumer Protection Week is a national BBB effort, the campaign with the fake ads is local.

“That’s our initiative here,” Hendrickson said. “It’s a pilot project.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Charly Haley at (701) 235-7311