Readers beware: Caregiver Nanny check scam can sound reasonable

Readers should exercise caution on too good to be true job listings. Cashing a large check for over the amount you are due is part of this common scam

Squire classified likely bogus

By BETH ALTENA

An alert reader brought to our attention that one of the classifieds The Squire Newspaper published for the last two weeks is likely a scam that would have cost her several hundred dollars if she had fallen for it.

After talking with the Rockford Police, we learned the scam is a pretty common one. We also googled “caretaker help wanted scam” and came up with a website that spells out the whole scheme.

How it happened was this. We received an email asking us to run an “Advert” for a help wanted ad to care for an elderly parent in law. We took the person’s credit card information over the email. It went through for two weeks, a total of $32. The address was in Kansas and the emailer, a woman, apologized that she couldn’t talk in person because she was at work.

The ad offered $300 a week for about twelve hours of time to care for an elderly in law. The contact was an email. What happens if you responded to the email is they tell you they are relocating from out of town (ours said British Columbia) and are setting up caregiving in advance. The ad theoretically, according to the website we found, could ask for help with a child, an elderly parent or even a pet. It says the interaction almost always “tugs at your heartstrings.”

Our person said she was moving back to this area with her husband and his elderly parent. In exchange for the $300 a week, they expect compassionate care with this older person who is very beloved to them. They are trusting you to take good care of this person and have patience and compassion.

In the emailed conversation, the “woman” mentions that she and her husband are well off and are acting on the advice of their financier. That raised questions to our reader who brought this oddity to our attention. It really raised a red flag to our graphic designer, who heard of plenty of scams while she was in college. In those scams, someone asks for help of a courier service, to have electronics delivered to your home and you are supposed to mail it on to them. They send a cashier’s check for over the amount and ask that you pay for the order with the check and then keep the remainder for your troubles.

Likewise, our scammer next asked if our future “caregiver” would accept a cashier’s check for an amount of money and use the money to purchase a wheelchair for that beloved elder in anticipation to coming here. Our local officers said to tell them that they had been contacted and this would put an end to the transaction. We asked if there was anyway to pretend to be our reader and perhaps catch this scammer, but they said they are anywhere in the world, in the Ukraine or anywhere.

It means little to nothing that our original emailer sent us a credit card from Kansas and confirmed that their location was Kansas (despite the fact that they told our potential caregiver they were in British Columbia). It will inevitably turn out that the credit card was a stolen one and they payment for the classified ad will be removed from our checking account at a future date.

When we logged back into our email to review the original contact and the interactions we had with this person, a warning came up across the top of the email saying this message might not have been sent from the gmail user. That person, complete with the gmail image, a nice photo of a sweet looking woman (who does look too young to have a elderly inlaw) is probably a legitimate, innocent person with a legitimate, innocent email that was hacked.

So the bait and switch is a job that sounds really appealing and with good pay. They offer to pay in advance for the first week to secure your agreement because it is so important to secure reliable help upon their arrival. You accept the money and then they ask you use part of the money, or money from a second check, to purchase something in anticipation of your soon to be new job.

The check puts the money into your bank, so you feel pretty confident everyting is fine. You make the purchase or send a payment for something to an account or addresss or business  they specify (which turns out to be fake). Then the bank finds out the check or checks are no good, the money comes back out of your account and then the scam is complete. No couple ever shows up with a person in need of caregiving.

Another scam one of our graphic designers said happened to her was an apartment for rent, viewed online, that was too good to be true. She was moving here from out of state and so was looking for housing online. The apartment was in an ideal location where not a lot of apartments were available. It was beautiful and even allowed pets.

The only stipulation was that a background check was required. The “renter” asked our designer to pay $100 for the background check to the background check company of the “renter’s” choice. She was suspicious because the price seemed high for that service. She googled the company and found numerous hits identifying it as part of a scam. The apartment did not exist.

Finally, we know someone who fell for a scam that later was attempted on the mother of another employee. A caller calls and says it is the grandchild of the person and that they are in jail in Chicago and were in a car accident while drinking and driving. They ask the person not to tell their parent, but please wire money to get them out of jail. The place to send the money seems to be a bail bondsman and seems legitimate.

It ends up the caller is no relation, there was no car accident in Chicago involving the grandchild, who actually was at work in Holland that day. The money that was wired is gone. In that scam the caller, having succeeded in the first wire transfer, calls again to say they need more money.

We wonder how long the scam from our paper would have gone on if our reader was not smart enough to recognize something was off. Would the first check have been followed by another with further requests for purchase or preparation of the future, fake job. Our Department of Public Safety officers tell us this scam and all sorts of others, are common and they see them regularly.

We apologize to our readers for being an unwitting part of this potential rip off and will be as vigilant as we can be in watching for “adverts” that are dangerous and potentially expensive scams.