Professional caregivers, such as babysitters, nannies, house-sitters and even dog walkers, are targets in a new twist on an old scam.
These caregivers have many ways to look for work, and it’s not just word of mouth anymore. There are many legitimate web sites where caregivers can post their qualifications, and would-be employers can shop around for the right caregiver for their family’s needs.
But scammers also use these sites to find new victims who they hope will fall for their ruse.
Here’s how it works: A bad guy poses as someone who needs to hire you for your services. They compliment you. They say have a great feeling about you. They hit you where you heart is, explaining all the trouble they’ve had with past caregivers. Maybe they’ve just gone through a divorce or they’re overwhelmed caring for an elderly loved one.
The catch? They’re still out-of-state and in the process of moving to your area, and they ask you to help them with some preparations before they actually come to town and your regular gig begins.
Perhaps they simply want you to fill the refrigerator before they move into their new place. Or they want you to find a local store to purchase medical equipment that will be needed once the family moves in. Or they may want you to pay for a furniture delivery that’s coming to the house early.
They offer to send you a check that will cover the costs of whatever they’re asking you to do, with some extra to pay for your fee.
After you deposit it — the check would clear in a day or two — your new employer contacts you again. They’re having a sudden money emergency and they need you to wire back the money as soon as possible.
So you send the money back.
And then a week later, or maybe two, your bank discovers the check you deposited into your account is a fake, and you’re still on the hook for the money.
“If you’ve already transferred the money to the third party, it’s gone – like sending cash,” said the FTC’s web site. “And, since the recipient can pick up the money from a different money transfer location than the one you sent it to, it’s nearly impossible to find the recipient. That’s how these con artists avoid detection.”
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) doesn’t share statistics on how many complaints its received, but the scam was recently featured on the agency’s web site.
And it’s enough of a problem that caregiver web sites offer some warnings to caregivers.
SitterCity.com tells its users about one variety of the scam: “Here’s how this scam works: a parent will offer you a job, plus advance payment. They’ll claim it’s a sign of their “good faith” and how they’ll prove they’re truly interested. If you agree, you’ll receive a fake check. When you’ve deposited this check (and it will look authentic, but trust us — it’s not), they’ll suddenly need you to wire some or all of the money back. They’ll either claim to have accidentally overpaid or say they can’t hire you after all. By the time your bank realizes your check isn’t legit, you’ll be out of your hard-earned money.”
Babysitters4hire.com warns of a similar scam in which the family hiring you asks for your bank account and routing number. Direct deposit may be a great convenience, but don’t even think about sharing your banking information until you know a job is real and you’ve already started working for the family.
If you’ve been a victim of any of these check scams, report it to the money transfer agency you used. You can reach Western Union at (800) 448-1492, and MoneyGram at (800) 955-3947.
Also report it to the caregiver web site you were contacted through so it can try to stop the scammer from targeting anyone else on the site.
Then report it to the FTC.
And finally, file a complaint with IC3, which is a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National White Collar Crime Center.
Have you been Bamboozled? Reach Karin Price Mueller at Bamboozled@NJAdvanceMedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @KPMueller. Find Bamboozled on Facebook. Mueller is also the founder of NJMoneyHelp.com.