A con artist scammed a MU student on Care.com

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COLUMBIA - A University of Missouri student who signed up for Care.com about two years ago to make some easy money on the side learned a hard lesson about scams.

Alexis Carter successfully worked with multiple families babysitting children, with her most recent job in 2014.

About a month and a half ago Carter received a text message from a woman who introduced herself as "Judith Williams." The woman told Carter she was moving to Columbia from Arizona. She said she could not speak on the phone due to a stroke caused by the stress of losing her husband and daughter in a car accident that also left her son in a wheelchair.

Before the woman contacted her, Carter said she had never had a parent contact her through via text. She said parents in the past would contact her through the website or email her directly and then eventually meet her in person for legitimacy.

The woman said she needed Carter's information in order to tell her agent the exact distance between them once Williams arrived to Columbia so it would not be a strain for Carter to watch her son.

"I've never had an in-depth explanation of why they needed the care," Carter said.

Carter said she thought Williams was more descriptive to try to make her feel more comfortable without having to talk to her on the phone.

Williams offered Carter $18 an hour and $3,000 to have her son's wheelchair sent to Columbia.

Carter said, "I was thinking this is gonna be great, I'm gonna have a summer job and I won't have to worry about doing anything else."

Carter said Williams wanted to pay $18 an hour because she wanted to provide the best care for him with him being in a wheelchair and everything.

After Williams gave Carter her Columbia address, she began talking about money.

She said she was going to send Carter a check for $2,775.90 plus prepay her for the weekend so that Williams could make sure she was receiving the wheelchair.

"She told me to deposit that money into my bank and to hand the cash over to the person delivering the wheelchair," Carter said. "She seemed agitated at me not having the check deposited, she just kept asking me about it."

Once Carter deposited the money, Williams' story changed. She asked Carter if she received the information from the doctor stating that she would get a $100 discount if she sent the money through MoneyGram.

Carter asked Williams why she could not do it herself and Williams explained that it would be easier since Carter already deposited the money.

 

"I even asked the lady at the counter, ‘I have to send this MoneyGram to France, I don't know what I'm doing, this is a lot of money," Carter said. "And in my head I wasn't thinking this was some kind of scam. I'm thinking I'm doing this nice thing for a kid in a wheelchair."

The woman at Wal-Mart helping Carter with the transfer told her she would have to pay a international fee.

"My bank even said this is a large amount of money to take out of my debit card," Carter said.

It turned out the scammer had used a stolen check from Fidelis Care.

"I didn't think it was weird at first. I just thought she got a settlement for everything she's gone through," Carter said.

Once she realized the woman scammed her, Carter realized the two other texts she received were probably scams as well since they pretended to be parents moving to Columbia from another state.

When Carter reported the scam to Columbia Police they took the check but not the phone conversations, Carter had printed.

Carter said once her card was declined at the store, she called Columbia Police Department eight times on Wednesday and no one was able to help her until Thursday morning. Carter said her bank would not give her money bank unless there was a case number for the scam.

Columbia police have not made a comment on the scam.

Carter said police eventually let her know she is unable to start a case until she has an affidavit from her bank. Her bank said an affidavit for a case like this is not typical and that there was nothing the bank could do.

Carter said the officer she spoke to was familiar with this type of scam.

Carter said it seems like Care.com protects the parents more than the caregivers. Carter does not plan on ever using Care.com and said her next step is to wait for Columbia Police Officers and contact Care.com about her issue.

Care.com has advice on its website on how to avoid scams.

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