Unfortunately online scams and fraud are becoming more common. And among those that fraudsters are targeting are nannies, babysitters and caregivers.
Online safety is extremely important to us at Care.com. So here are several tips to help prevent this from happening to you, and to help make sure that your job search is both safe and productive.
Scams that Have Initiated through Care.com
There are two main types of scams that are prevalent on the Internet: the “overpayment scam” and the “pay in advance scam.” They're very similar and usually go something like this...
A scammer poses as an employer and attempts to trick you into sending money. Typically, the employer reaches out via text message with a job offer that seems too good to be true.
Once you reply, the scammer may ask you to buy a needed item (like a toy or wheelchair) or claim they're relocating and want to pay you in advance.
After you share your full name and address, the scammer sends you a check (often for a large sum of money) and requests that you cash it and wire a portion of the money back to them. They may tell you to keep the rest.
But here's where the scam comes in: the check is fake. Unfortunately, you often don't learn that until it’s too late -- after you've already sent a portion of the money back to the scammer, which you're then responsible for repaying to the bank, as well as additional fees associated with this type of fraud. In some cases this can amount to thousands of dollars of lost funds.
6 Signs It's a Scam
Here are some clues you were contacted by a scammer:
- They Use Odd Language
Keep an eye out for messages with excessive grammar or spelling errors. Messages from scammers are often full of them. An occasional typo is no big deal, but an entire message of them is a red flag.
- They Complicate Things
In the overpayment scam, you might think: "Well, why didn't they just write two checks? That would have been easier!" Listen to your gut. If they sent a check to your home, they can just as easily send a check to the store.
- They Have a Very Sympathetic Story
Most of us want to help people and so we offer assistance in any way we can. Don't let a "sob story" affect your judgment. If something seems off, it usually is.
- Their Information Changes
Keep an eye out for lies and varying information. For example, a scammer may tell you the names of their "children", but if they're scamming many people, they may mess up. If the person tells you they have two boys, James and John, one day and their names are Peter and Paul the next day, it's probably a scam.
- They Stick to the Script
Many scammers use the same email format (there's usually a chain of emails and they stay with that chain), so try to throw them off by asking detailed questions about the job. If they completely ignore your reply in the next email and re-send the instructions again, you know you're dealing with a scammer.
- They're Impatient
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 the person is becoming overly antsy or anxious, back out of the job.
8 Tips for Staying Safe
Here are a few ways to protect yourself when using Care.com or other online services:
- Communicate Through Care.com
Use the monitored messaging system on Care.com when talking with a potential employer, rather than relying on text messaging or your personal email address. This guards your privacy and allows us to monitor all electronic exchanges for suspect activity, enhancing our ability to remove fraudsters from the site.
- Don't Give Out Personal Information
Be cautious of providing your social security number, credit card or bank account number to anyone. Care.com will only ask for your social security number when performing a background check. We'll only ask for your credit card if you sign up for premium services. The information will only be used in secure transactions, and Care.com will never call you for this information.
- Avoid People Who Mention Money
Don't reply to any text messages, emails or phone calls from a potential employer who requests that you cash a check, send a money card, purchase an item or wire money.
- Don't Accept Money
Never accept a check, money card or money wire from an employer you haven't yet worked for or met in person.
- Don't Send Money
And don't offer to send a check, money card, or money wire for them either.
- Don't Accept Extra
If you're paid by check or money order, only accept payment for the exact amount that you agreed on with your employer.
- Have an In-Person Interview
Before you accept any job, always meet the family or individual. Make sure your interview is in a public place and ask to see an ID so you can confirm who you're meeting with.
- Be Wary of People Relocating
Some potential employers may legitimately be moving and looking for a caregiver. But be careful. Watch out for messages from people who are “Moving to Your Area” or “Relocating". Delay accepting a job until you can have an in-person interview and don't accept any type of advance payment.
What to Do If You Think You're Being Scammed
If you have suspicions about a job or prospective employer, let us know! It’s simple: just click the “Report” flag in any message or job post. If you receive a text message or email from someone you believe to be a scammer, stop communication with them immediately and email our Member Care team by going to our Contact Us page and choosing “Report a Safety/Fraud Concern”.
We take reports from our members very seriously and work hard to respond quickly. When Care.com becomes aware of information regarding a member or prospective member that we believe makes them a potential danger to our community, we promptly remove them from our site and notify anyone with whom we know they’ve had contact.
If you've already been in touch with someone and think it may be a scam, stop all communications with the scammer. Don't reply to any emails and hang up your phone if they call you. Print any email exchanges and visit 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're getting the complaints. If the number of reports spikes, police will use the knowledge of all of the complaints to track the scammer.
Finally, when using you're using the Internet, avoid any offers that sound too good to be true -- they probably are.
For more helpful information about staying safe, check out Care.com's Safety Center.
Tiffany Smith is the senior associate editor here at Care.com. She has written for All You, Time for Kids and the Boston Globe. And as a former babysitter, she knows a lot about fun games to play with kids. Getting them to eat their veggies -- that’s a different story! Follow her on Twitter @tiffanyiswrite.