We are now in the midst of the Winter vacation period between the Fall and the Spring semesters at colleges and universities around the country with many college students looking for part-time work as nannies and babysitters. Many college students use legitimate websites such as care.com to look for nanny and baby sitting job opportunities. Rebecca Holgreen recently answered a posting on care.com in which a family indicated they were moving from Australia to Chicago and needed the services of a nanny. Rebecca responded to the advertisement and was sent a check for $1,850 and told to use the money to buy groceries and other items for the family’s home, keep $400 for herself and exchange the rest for Green Dot Money Pack cards. She was told to email the account numbers for the cards to the family. You may be able to have guessed how this story ends. Of course, the check was a counterfeit one although it appeared to have been cleared by the bank before Rebecca made her purchases and sent the rest of the money back to the scammers by turning over to them the account numbers for the Green Dot Money Pack cards purchased with what turned out to be Rebecca’s money from her own checking account. Despite her best efforts to contact the family, she never was able to make contact with them after the check bounced.
This is just another variation on the scam whereby the victim, for whatever purposes receives a check in excess of the amount to paid to the victim and asks the victim to send back the difference. There are a number of tell tale signs to look for and steps to take to avoid this type of scam. First, you need to remember that although a check may appear to have been cleared by your bank after a few days, all you are really getting is “provisional credit” and when the counterfeit check eventually bounces, the credit is taken back from your account and you are left having sent your own money to the scammer. It is also important to note that merely because you are dealing with a legitimate website such as care.com, no website is able to completely guarantee that every posting on it is legitimate. Sending excess funds back to someone using prepaid money cards is another tell tale sign of a possible scam. Scammers use these cards because they are all but impossible to trace and once the information from the card has been provided to the scammer, the victim is out of luck. The prudent thing to do when being paid by a check is to wait until the check has fully cleared before you can feel confident that the funds actually are in your account. This may take a few weeks.