A Baltimore college student was hoping to make some money on the side of her classes, but instead someone took advantage of her good intentions. The Frostburg State University freshman now owes nearly $5,000 after someone pretended to want her babysitting services through Care.com.
“I'm in college, I need money, asking for my parents for money every week just doesn't work out because they still have to pay bills here so I needed to do it for them I just needed a job,” said Erika Banks who created a babysitter’s profile on the popular caregiver’s site.
She received several inquiries including one from a woman who identified herself as Julie. The woman said her family was moving from Canada to Frostburg and she needed someone to watch her 3-year-old son. She offered to pay Banks $300 a week and said she was sending a check in that amount as an advance to secure her services. Banks later received a check for $4,800.
“She contacted me and was like the $300 will be for your paycheck and then the other amount was for a store manager that would be in Frostburg,” Banks said.
Instead the address she was told to send the MoneyGram to was in Tennessee but Banks sent it anyway, because she wanted didn't want to disappoint her new employer.
“I didn't really think anything of it, more so I was just like this is my way of gaining her trust,” said Banks.
After Banks deposited the initial check, she sent several MoneyGrams according to the instructions sent by the person pretending to be the potential employer. Banks then went to withdraw some of the $300 left in her account but was informed that she had insufficient funds. The check bounced and Banks’ account was negative $4,800. Banks is attempting to work with her bank’s fraud department but so far, she hasn’t received the answer she’s seeking and could be on the line for the full amount.
“Most often they have to pay that money back to the creditor, to the bank, or if they wired the money, it is absolutely gone and there's no recourse for that,” said Angie Barnett, president & CEO, with the Better Business Bureau serving Greater Maryland.
Care.com posts warnings on their website about this kind of overpayment scam. They recommend users chat through their monitored messaging system, never accept payments by check in advance, to have an in-person interview, and to contact Care.com immediately if they think a job post or message is spam. For more on ways to avoid babysitting scams, click here.
Barnett said there have been several reports of scams on the BBB scam tracker. Most of them were scenarios similar to the one Banks fell victim to.
“They give you a plausible reason of why they're overpaying you and they want you to pay that money forward. That is the biggest warning sign because no business is going to do that,” Barnett said.
She also recommends looking for irregularities in language, incorrect spelling and grammar, inconsistencies in the information they provide, and to never accept more than the agreed payment amount.
If you think you are the victim of fraud, you should report the incident to your banking institution, the BBB, Maryland Attorney General’s Office, and Federal Trade Commission.