With the economy still in rough shape for a good deal of the population, many of us look to babysitting, tutoring, handyman, or other personal service gigs as a way to help make ends meet. Job seekers, beware. We have seen a recent uptick in consumer complaints to the Fraud.org database about con artists targeting consumers searching for odd jobs with variations of the classic fake check scam.
People seeking babysitting, tutoring, or personal assistant jobs via websites like Thumbtack.com, Care.com, or Craigslist.com may become the next victim of the fake check scam. This is how the scam works: after creating a profile, the job-seeker receives an email, phone call, or other message from a potential “employer” who is eager to enlist their services. Once a price for the services is agreed upon between the victim and their potential “employer,” the victim is sent a check as payment.
In the last month, we’ve heard numerous stories, like this one from “Molly,” who lives in Los Angeles:
“[I was] hired as a babysitter from Care.com and my phone number was given out to the supposed employer. They said they were moving from Arizona to California, just one street away from our house. The son was in a wheelchair. They wanted to have it shipped to our address so it would be here when the child arrived … The wheelchair was to be delivered to my house, and I was initially supposed to pay the person in cash upon receipt of the wheelchair … then plans suddenly changed and I was told to transfer money from my bank to another bank in Illinois.”
Unfortunately, Molly followed the “employer’s” instructions and ended up losing more than $2,500.
In fake check scams like Molly’s, victims receive a check that – for whatever reason – they are supposed to deposit into a personal account and then send some amount to a third person, usually via a wire transfer. In reality, the check is a fake and if the victim wires the cash before the bank catches on, the consumer is left responsible for the funds. The scammer, on the other hand, gets the funds from the wire transfer almost immediately and walks away with cash in hand.
Don’t let this happen to you! With the growth of websites designed to connect job-seekers to potential employers for babysitting, personal care, and other odd jobs, scammers are becoming more adept defrauding victims with this scam.
Job-seekers should learn to watch out for these red flags:
- Be wary of any potential employer who is not currently located in your town, especially if they say they are located overseas (even if they promise they are “moving to your town”).
- If an employer asks you to deposit a check in your personal account and then send a portion of those funds somewhere else, it’s a scam.
- Before agreeing to any personal care or tutoring job, check out the prospective employer. If they say they have a job, call the employer and double-check. Ask if they’ve hired anyone else in your area for such a job and then call those previous employees to check the story.
- If the employer asks for sensitive personal information from you, like a bank account routing number, Social Security Number, credit or debit card information or similar information, it could be a scam.
- If an employer that sounds suspicious has contacted you, listen to your instincts, and report the incident to Fraud.org and to your local law enforcement agency.
Care.com is aware of this scam and offers more good tips here.