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The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently issued a warning after hearing from several consumer protection agencies about scammers taking advantage of people looking to get licensed in a particular profession. These fraudsters lie and say they can help you get professional or business licenses. Sometimes they even say they issue licenses themselves.

Unfortunately, people reentering the work force after spending significant time out of it, are often the targets of such scams. They may be reentering after serving time in prison, for example. Many may not have the funds to pay application fees or may be worried about a background check. So when presented with an offer for an “easier” and less expensive route, they jump at it, believing they won’t be able to obtain a license through state agencies.

Most trade professions in Massachusetts require a license and have specific guidelines to follow and tests that require a passing grade. There are a few exceptions to these regulations, primarily for service members under the VALOR and VALOR 2 Acts (and in some instances of state reciprocity agreements).

Here are some suggestions from the FTC for steps you should take before paying any money to get a professional or business license:

  • Check with your state or local government first to learn how to get a professional or business license. In Massachusetts, the MA Division of Professional Licensure (DPL) is a good place to start. DPL staff can help you understand the process and direct you as to next steps.
  • If a company says it can issue you a professional or business license, look it up before paying any money. Contact the government agency that oversees licensing for your trade to see if the company is legitimate. You also can search online using the company’s name and the term “scam.”
  • Visit the U.S. Small Business Administration’s website for information on licensing and starting a small business.

If you spot a scam, or are suspicious of a company offering licensing, report it to the FTC online or at 1-877-FTC-HELP. You should also report any scams to our Office so we can help get the word out.

The FTC has also created the Economic Liberty Task Force to study occupational and professional licensing. Read more about the Task Force here.

If you have additional questions, contact the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation by calling our Consumer Hotline at (617) 973-8787, or toll-free in MA at (888) 283-3757, Monday through Friday, from 9 am-4:30 pm. Follow the Office on Facebook and Twitter, @Mass_Consumer. The Baker-Polito Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation along with its five agencies work together to achieve two goals: to protect and empower consumers through advocacy and education, and to ensure a fair playing field for Massachusetts businesses. The Office also oversees the state’s Lemon Laws and Arbitration Program, Data Breach reporting, Home Improvement Contractor Programs and the MA Do Not Call Registry.

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