How Some Companies Are Deceiving You With "Internships"

Quite recently as I was updating a few things on my LinkedIn profile, I received a message from a man named *Matt. He claimed that he was a recruiter from a consulting company in the metro Detroit area and had "coincidentally" come across my profile. He praised my grades and achievements at the University of Michigan and proceeded to say that I would be a perfect candidate for a job at *ABC Consulting.

The beginning of Matt's message

He continued to give me a long list of accomplishments ABC Consulting had achieved and promised "positions" but was extremely vague about them all. He gave me two links: one to the company's website and the other to its Facebook page. I looked at them briefly, and I had to admit, they both seemed very legitimate.

In addition, Matt's LinkedIn page had over 500 connections and almost every single skill of his was endorsed at least 99 times. My wall of doubt crumbled a little bit as I thought this was the real deal. We messaged back and forth, but something felt fishy and creepy. For one, Matt always replied back within minutes after I answered:

My message was sent over 24 hours after the initial email yet he took about 10 minutes to reply

Second, he seemed so eager to start right away. He quickly tried to schedule an interview with me that Friday (with no formal application) and asked for my email address so he could send me a confirmation for my appointment. My stomach did a small twist as I realized something just wasn't right. Something just wasn't adding up. So before I responded, I did a little bit of digging on the internet.

The surface of the search results were what I had already come across previously: the company's website, Facebook page, LinkedIn profile, etc. I found a website of employee reviews. The entire first few pages were coated with chirpy, enthusiastic comments, praising the company's "atmosphere" and "environment." Then as I clicked and clicked, a wave of nausea swept over me as the sickness in my stomach grew stronger. Buried under the overly positive reviews of the "firm" were desperate, frantic voices of former employees warning everyone to stay away from ABC Consulting.

After a couple minutes, I learned that this company was one of thousands affiliated with or resembled a company called Cydcor/DS-MAX (now called Innovage). Nicknamed Devilcorp, these multi-level marketing groups are notorious for their cult like atmosphere and deceiving their workers. Promising management positions in the near future, these companies suck young, naive (mostly) college students into driving long distances selling their products.

They claim that workers don't have to go door to door, but in the end, that's what they end up doing, because that's the quickest way one can make any sales. Of course pay is 100 percent commission based (so no base pay) and none of the travel expenses are compensated. I've read multiple blogs about ex-workers who are now thousands of dollars in debt as a result of accepting this job.

To make a long story short, these companies essentially work in a pyramid scheme structure. The rough definition of this system is where individuals make money only by recruiting other people, promising them high returns. Since this practice is illegal in the United States, companies like Cydcor and ABC Consulting disguise this tactic under their products. For example, let's say the products are pens. These companies have you, the employee, buy these pens and are told that for every set you sell, you receive a cut of the sales. If you successfully recruit people under you to also sell pens for the company, you receive some form of payment. In addition, sometimes, you even receive a cut of their sales. So essentially, the only way you (and the company) makes money is if you just keep on recruiting and recruiting. The cycle goes on and on. Sneakily resembles a pyramid, huh?

To make matters even more frustrating, these companies such as ABC Consulting move around every 1-2 years, creating a new name so they're impossible to track down. This extensive list actually covers hundreds of the names that have been connected to DS-MAX and/or Cydcor across the United States. I quickly scanned the page, and soon enough, I had spotted ABC Consulting. That's when I saw the confirming red flag.

The more I researched these companies, however, the more enraged I became. It wasn't right for these places to prey on naive, young students, promising them "entry level management positions" only having them to do door to door sales for an insane amount of hours without overtime pay. Although technically legal, the practices that these companies use are nothing more than dirty, unethical, and just plain corrupt. If you have received an email similar to the one I got or you know a friend recently getting a job under a company in the exhaustive list shared above, please take a moment to ask yourself: what am I gaining from this experience? Is this ethical? Do their promises seem believable and legitimate? Answer these questions and then do yourself some more digging. Because a lot of times, things are not always what they seem to be.

Some helpful links:

A Breakdown of DS-MAX, Cydcor, and Granton Marketing

A firsthand account view by an ex-Cydcor employee

*Names have been changed

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