At least 17 temporary workers placed at a Red Cross call center by Spherion have been indicted on fraud charges for allegedly rerouting donations made for Hurricane Katrina victims to family and friends. The Spherion temps are among 49 people under investigation in connection with a scam run out of the American Red Cross call center in Bakersfield, California which defrauded thousands of dollars in hurricane relief funds. Spherion, which hired more than 1,000 workers for the Red Cross, explained that it did not have time to conduct sufficient background checks due to the urgent need to provide assistance. The indicted call center workers were allegedly providing pin numbers to their friends and family, who would then go to Western Union to collect the funds. The scam was discovered following an audit of the call center that showed an unusually high number of claims paid out at Western Union outlets in the Bakersfield area.
Commentary: Frankly, Spherion is lucky that this story never made national press. One would expect that a staffing firm would have a database of personnel against whom they have already conducted background checks. Other corporations, were they to be aware of this story, might think twice about using Spherion for hiring activities.