COLUMBIA - A student at the University of Missouri lost $2,000 after she received a part-time job as a nanny for the 6-year-old son of a counselor for the deaf. The Mizzou student from St. Louis wanted to remain unnamed, but said the summer job seem too good to be true.
The scammer sent a fake check worth $2,775 to the student and told her to take $375 as an advance payment for her first week's salary. The rest of the money should be used to pay for a wheelchair for the son who had been in a recent accident. After the student had already made the deposit, the scammer said to cancel that arrangement and send $2,400 via Money Gram to the wheelchair supplier in Texas.
The next day, the bank said the check was fake and that the student owed $2,400 for the withdrawal. The student's father had a joint account with his daughter and said, "It was a big slap in the head. She learned a horrible, expensive lesson."
Better Business Bureau (BBB) Branch Manager Mike Odneal said these types of scams have been going on for years, but this is the first time it has happened in mid-Missouri involving a mid-Missouri student.
"We are wanting to make sure that it doesn't happen more often. We're wanting to get this alert out early to make sure that other students who are looking for part-time jobs or perhaps a job for the fall don't fall victim to the same scam," Odneal said.
The student found the job through the site Care.com, which is designed to connect families with potential employees looking for help with their children, seniors and pets. The site has a warning posted on how to avoid babysitting scams.
The single mother identified herself as Amanda Smith and told the student she could only correspond via email because of her hearing disability. She said she was moving to Columbia and needed a babysitter for 5 hours a day.
The BBB warns consumers to be cautious when doing business through the Internet.
"People hide behind email to hide their actual location or to hide perhaps an accent from a foreign country. So making sure there is one-on-one conversation, if not in-person, at least via phone is best," Odneal said.
The BBB offers the following tips on how to identify a nanny scam:
- If there's a hesitancy on someone's part that is wanting to hire you for a job or is trying to sell you something and they are not willing to give out their phone number or personal information that's a big red flag.
- If a potential employer ask you for money for an reason, it's likely a scam. Never transfer money via Money Gram or Western Union to anyone you do not know.
- Beware of "sob stories" or anything else that appears to try to get sympathy.
- Be cautious if a "parent" only wants to communicate via email or text messaging. They may be trying to hide a foreign accent or withhold a phone number.