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Authorities Warn Of Predatory Trade School Scams

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The Department of Consumer Affairs says people are getting ripped off the old fashioned way: paying money for an education that's worthless.

"It's really just unacceptable and it's happening to too many New Yorkers," said Jonathan Mintz, Department of Consumer Affairs Commissioner.

Garvin Gittens of Brooklyn is one such victim.

"I felt cheated and the past two years of my life was for nothing and I have to start all over again," he told CBS 2's Vanessa Murdock.

Garvin spent more than $25,000 to attend a trade school, Katharine Gibbs School for graphic design.

"The things that they promised when I initially went there at the end didn't happen," he said. "After 24 months I turned around to find the degree was worth nothing when I tried to transfer the credits to obtain a bachelor's degree."

The promises he claims include graduation at Madison Square Garden and job placement. The school is now closed down, but stories like Garvin's are all too familiar.

"We've heard from New Yorkers who show up to get training and instead they're handed a test of all the answers filled out. They're clearly not learning anything. That's not a real school," Mintz said.

Many such predatory trade schools are privately owned and for-profit, but there are warning signs.

"I think the biggest red flag is when they guarantee you a job or guarantee whats going to happen with your career," Mintz said.

Avoiding questions should also make you question.

"Anytime they don't answer your questions or are very high pressure about signing you up before they answer your questions, there is just no reason to feel that kind of pressure," Mintz said.

Consumer Affairs says to trust your gut. If you're not getting a clear sense of what you're buying, how much it costs and what it's going to be worth, go somewhere else.

A media contact for Gibbs told CBS 2 the school closed because it did not appeal to a sufficient number of students.

If you feel you've been the victim of a predatory school call 311.

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