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More potential job scam victims come forward

Applicants handed over personal information for jobs that never existed

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Two potential victims of a local job application scam are worried about their identities because the people they say took their information haven't been charged or arrested.

Bernadette Harding and her daughter, Latifah Sumlar, are just two of dozens of people who handed over personal information thinking that they were applying for jobs. It turned out the company didn't exist.

"It's scary," Harding said. "We don't know what else they may have. Other people, I don't know, they could be from city to city. That's why we want to bring this to the light."

Jacksonville police said the people doing this so-called hiring would list information on social media, then have people meet with them at local restaurants for interviews and orientation.

Last Wednesday, police confronted a man and woman at one of those restaurants, but they ran off.

Officers recovered copies of more than 100 people's IDs and Social Security cards. But potential victims said it's the info the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office did not recover that has them concerned.

"They dropped all of the information. These are all these people's applications. We have 33 that they ran off and left," Harding said. "They even ran off and left their computer."

Dozens of people hoped they were candidates for a job they desperately wanted. Instead, there was no job, no company, and their applications -- some with driver's licenses and Social Security cards attached -- sit on the table of a mother and daughter, who thought they were getting jobs, too.

"This is my application. As you can see, this is my name on here, this is the title she gave me: Office manager. And this was going to be my pay rate: $13.50 an hour," Harding said.

Harding and Sumlar found the applications and computer in a backpack left behind at Panera Bread, where they and dozens of other people were meeting with a man and woman who told them they'd been hired for jobs.

They heard about the jobs through Facebook. They messaged the man advertising the jobs, who told them to meet them at Panera and bring an ID. So they did.

"What alarmed me was they took a picture of my Social Security card and ID with an iPad," Sumlar said. "And stated, 'Oh, we are just taking a picture because the office equipment isn't up yet.'"

They were hired on the spot and then paid for their own background check. But when dates kept changing, Latifah, her mother and other family members started researching and realized something wasn't right.

"That's the most devastating part, because you had these people thinking that they had a second chance at life," Sumlar said. "It is hard out here trying to get a job. The job market is getting better, but it's hard."

Harding and Sumlar said they contacted JSO, who investigated and talked to the people involved, but no arrests have been made.

They said they hoped more would be done before more people's information ended up on similar applications.

"You asked us to reach out to the JSO officers -- everybody in the community trying to come together, but when we tried to come together, we get a slap in the face," Harding said.

JSO said right now detectives are still investigating and even though these people took the information, they have to prove they used it illegally before they can be charged with a crime.

News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith said if you are a victim, make sure you file an incident report with JSO, and contact the credit bureaus, so that you will be alerted if there are any issues with your credit.