Online Scams: What Carers Need to Know
While the internet makes it easier than ever to find your ideal care job, it also leaves the door wide open for online scammers to fraud you out of money.
The key to protecting yourself against online fraud is understanding the warning signs and knowing what to do when you spot a scammer.
Many online scams play out roughly the same way, but with some slight variations. The two most common scams either ask prospective caregivers to pay a third party or return an original payment. They often play out like this:
- Someone reaches out to you online saying they want to hire you, sight unseen.
- They offer to pay you upfront, give you a cash advance, and/or ask you to accept deliveries or make purchases on their behalf.
- They send you a big cheque (which turns out to be fake).
- They’ll then either:
- Ask you to keep a portion of the money and forward the rest on to someone you’ve never met.
- Tell you they overpaid or changed their minds and instruct you to return some or all of the money as soon as possible.
- Ask you to accept deliveries or purchase items, and tell you to send on payment to a third party (via cheque, wire transfer, gift cards, etc.) to cover the cost of the materials.
- The original cheque bounces and you’re out all of the money you paid back or sent on.
Not all carer scams are identical, but they do often have a few key things in common that you should watch out for. These include:
- The family is “relocating” or “out of town” and hires you without meeting you first. There are some very real, non-scammy families looking to shore up childcare before they move to a new city, but hiring you without some sort of interview — if not in person, then at least over the phone or via Skype — is a bad sign.
- Payment is upfront and/or unnecessarily complicated. Be wary of anyone asking you to accept payment before you start a nanny or carer job, or requesting you fork over money for any reason.
- It all seems really rushed. Scammers will typically insist on a fast turnaround to pressure you into acting quickly and limit the time you have to think things through.
- They insist on getting your personal information. Perfectly legitimate employers will ask you for your social security number and banking info in order to complete tax forms and arrange your payroll. But this all happens once you’ve officially been hired. That is, after the interviews have taken place and nanny contracts have been signed — not before.
- There’s a sob story involved. Some scammers will tell you a sad story to get you to lower your guard, such as saying their requests or rushed timelines are due to a sick child. These generally are designed to play on your sympathies as a carer.
- The pay is too high. If the supposed job is offering a lot of money for part-time or is way above average pay rates for nannies in your area, the offer is probably not legit.
Tips for staying safe
You might not be able to avoid these scams entirely, but you can take steps to protect yourself if you come across one. When job hunting:
- Google the potential client’s info (name, email address, phone number, etc.) to see if others have linked them to a scam.
- Don’t cash or deposit cheques from any potential employers and then send money on or wire it back.
- Don’t accept payment from anyone you haven’t met in person or don’t already know.
Reporting a scammer
Because scam messages are often sent via job posting sites, it’s important to notify the site of the scam as soon as you suspect something fishy. If you received a scam offer on Care.com, you can report it by clicking on the top right-hand corner of the message. You can also report the incident to the National Fraud and Cyber Crime Reporting Centre.
What to do if you think you've been scammed
If you’ve been the victim of a carer scam, there are steps you can take to try and get your money back and help stop the people who scammed you. You should:
- Report the scam to the job listing site where you received the message, as well as to the National Fraud and Cyber Crime Reporting Centre.
- Stop all contact with the scammer. On Care.com, you can block someone from contacting you again by clicking the upper right-hand corner of a message. [NOTE: This will not report the scam to Care.com; you should also separately report suspicious members]
- Contact the company you used to send money to tell them the transaction was fraudulent and ask them to reverse it or for a refund. You might not get your money back, but it’s always worth asking.
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