Care.com and Scams: How to Avoid Babysitting Scams

Criminals are targeting care providers in money laundering schemes scamming nannies and sitters into accepting fraudulent payment that winds up costing them money.  Care providers BEWARE.  "Overpayment Scams" tend to be the most common scam targeted at babysitters.  Here at Care.com, we want to educate you about these scams and ways to protect yourself against them.  Here's an example of what the scam is like:

Online scammers will email care providers saying that they are writing from overseas and need a babysitter for an upcoming trip to the United States.  Once the babysitting schedule and price has been secured, the person tells you that they will send a check for a pay deposit (your pay for babysitting).  The check, however, has extra money attached to it because the person would like you to buy the children some toys at a specific store before the family arrives.  The person asks you to deposit your half of the payment in your checking account at an ATM and take out the remaining money to bring to the designated store.   It has already been arranged that the manager (an accomplice to the crime) will send the children the toys after receiving the payment from you.

As innocent as this email seems, this scam is detrimental to you.  In reality, you have inadvertently cashed a stolen or bogus check into your bank account and you will be responsible for fees associated with this type of fraud.  You could be guilty of money laundering, passing a counterfeit check, or worse. 

How do you avoid this type of scam? Here are some good clues that a scammer, and not someone looking for a babysitter, is on the other side of the computer:

  • Not A+ Language:  Although most of us don't consider ourselves to be experts at the English language, it's a good idea to see if the scammer is.  Do they place a question mark at the end of a sentence that should have a period? See if any of the sentences make sense. If the sentences are confusing, don't reply back.
  • They complicate things: In this type of scam, we would think to ourselves-"Well, why didn't they just write two checks?  That would have been easier!" LISTEN TO YOUR INSTINCT. If they easily sent a check to your home, they can just as easily send another check to the store.
  • Check the names:  A good scammer will use the same names for their children, but if they are scamming many people, they may get confused and be a victim in their own web of lies.  If they tell you they have two boys, James and John, one day and the names are Peter and Paul the next day, there's a very good chance it is a scam.
  • Ask questions: Many of us don't want to be rude and bother people with useless questions, but always ask them.  If you have a solution (they could write two checks or send one to the store themselves), politely email that advice.  If they are contacting you every day with updates, it is ok to contact them as well with questions.
  • Avoid Sympathy: Most of us want to help people and we offer to help in any way we can. Don't let the "sob story" affect your judgment.  If something seems off, it usually is.
  • Listen to the Words:  Many scammers use the same email format (there is a chain of emails for each reply and they stick to that chain-none of the emails are personalized) so try to throw them off by having "something suddenly come up."  If they completely ignore your reply in the next email and re-send the instructions again, you know you are dealing with a scammer.
  • Watch the tone: Scammers become more and more impatient and just need a confirmation that everything has been done.  They just want to scam you and move on-to the next person.  If they become increasingly impatient, it is okay to back out of the babysitting job.
  • Check the check:  It sounds silly, but before you cash anything that is sent to you, have the bank or police make sure the check is good.  See if the name matches, the account number is legitimate, and that the account has sufficient funds.   If anything is wrong, do not cash the check.  Head straight to the police station and explain the situation to the authorities.
  • Get opinions: We ask for advice in almost every aspect of our lives.  Get the opinion of friends and family and see what they think.  Don't be embarrassed about the situation youare in-your friends and family want to help you avoid the scam too!

If you have already been in contact with the person and think that it may be a scam, you should cease all communications with the scammer as soon as possible.  Don't reply to any emails and hang up your phone if they call you.  Print any email exchanges and go down to your local police station.  These emails are useful because they can show a pattern for the scam and can be re-printed to educate others to avoid this type of scam. Scams should always be reported because the police will be able to tell how widespread the problem is depending on where and when they are getting the complaints.  If the number of reports spikes, police will use the knowledge of all of the complaints to track the scammer.

Above all else, listen to your instincts.  If your instincts say no, don't go!

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