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Mizzou Student Loses $2,400 In Nanny Scam, BBB Warns

A student at the University of Missouri-Columbia lost $2,400 in a 'nanny scam,' the Better Business Bureau warns.

With jobs of all types scarce, college students are looking for work online as well as at traditional sources of summer jobs. BBB Investigator Bill Smith looked into a report that a Mizzou student from Florissant lost $2,400 to a scammer who posed as a parent needing a nanny for her son over the summer. Here's what he found:

St. Louis, Mo., May 30, 2012 — A student at the University of Missouri-Columbia thought she had found the perfect summer job — as a nanny for the 6-year-old son of a counselor for the deaf. Instead, she lost $2,400 in a con game.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning people looking for child care jobs to be extremely cautious when dealing with anyone they meet through the Internet. Scammers have been using so-called “nanny scams” for years to steal money from unsuspecting job seekers.

Michelle Corey, BBB president and CEO, said the thieves are becoming increasingly sophisticated and will go to great lengths to build online relationships with their victims.

“In this case, the scammer said she hoped the student would become a part of the family and even emailed what was supposed to be a photograph of herself with the boy,” Corey said. “These people are calculating, cunning and devious, and will do whatever they need to do to steal money from innocent people.”

The Mizzou student, who is from Florissant, said she made contact with a person who identified herself as Amanda Smith through the site Care.com. Care.com is an online resource designed to connect families with potential employees offering
care for children, seniors and pets. The site has posted a warning on how to avoid babysitting scams.

In an initial email, “Smith” told the student she could only correspond by email
because of a hearing disability. She said she was a single mother, living with her son in Portland, Ore., but they were planning to move to the Columbia area this month. She said she needed a sitter to be with the boy five hours a day.

The scammer ultimately sent what was alleged to be a $2,775 deposit to the
student’s bank account, telling the student to keep $375 as advance payment for
her first week’s salary. The remaining money should be used to pay for delivery
of a wheelchair for her son who had been involved in a recent accident.

Soon after, though, the mother told the student that she had made other arrangements to buy a wheelchair.  The scammer told the student to take out $2,400 and send it via a MoneyGram wire transfer to a wheelchair supplier in Fort Worth, Tex.

The day after she sent the MoneyGram, the student discovered that the bank had determined that the $2,775 deposit was fake and that she now had to repay the bank the $2,400 that had been withdrawn.

“I never thought (the deposit) would be counterfeit,” the student said. “It never
crossed my mind.” 

The bank even froze her parents’ bank account. The parent had to borrow money to repay the money that had been removed.

The student’s father said the nanny arrangement seemed almost too perfect.  “She will never make a mistake like this again,” he said of his daughter. The family contacted police, but said they were told there is little that can be done.

The BBB offers the following tips on how to identify a nanny or babysitting scam:

  • Be cautious if a “parent” wants to communicate only via text messaging or emails.  He or she might be trying to hide a foreign accent or withhold a phone number.
  • Look out for emails or texts containing poor English or grammatical errors.
  • Be wary of anyone who is hesitant to give out personal information, such as place of employment, address, names of friends or other references. He or she might be fearful of a potential employee checking out his or her background.
  • Beware of “sob stories” or anything else that appears to try to get sympathy.
  • If a potential employer asks you for money for any reason, it is likely a scam.  Never transfer money via Western Union, MoneyGram or a Green Dot Money Card to anyone you do not know.
  • If you are worried about a potential scam, contact the BBB at 314-645-3300 or go to www.bbb.org.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

george theodorakos May 31, 2012 at 01:13 PM
I TRIED TO BUY A TRACTOR THAT WAS ADVERTISED ON CRAIGS LIST...AND ATTEMPTED TO SEND A "DEPOSIT" THROUGH FIRST COMMUNITY CREDIT UNION (MY BANK) FORTUNATELY FOR ME...THEY HAVE SAFEGUARDS AT FIRST COMMUNITY THAT PREVENTED THE WESTERN UNION TRANSFER WITHOUT MY PERSONAL SIGNATURE......SUBSEQUENTLY...I SAW THE SAME TRACTOR WITH A DIFFERENT STORY ON SEVERAL OTHER CRAIGLISTS SITES......INDEED BUYER BEWARE...MANY OF THEM SOUND LEGITAMATE.....THAT OLD ADAGE...IF IT SOUNDS TO GOOD TO BE TRUE ...IT PROBABLY IS...BY THE WAY....I FEEL FOR THAT YOUNG STUDENT.....WHO HAS LITTLE LIFE EXPERIANCE...YOU WOULD THINK ...IT IS EASY TO FOOL SOMEONE LIKE THAT...BUT I AM OVER 60...BEEN QUITE SUCCESSFUL...TRAVELED THE WORLD....AND I STILL GOT FOOLED....BE CAREFUL OUT THERE
Ray Antonacci May 31, 2012 at 01:31 PM
I have done business on craigslist multiple times as both the buyer and the seller. All of my experiences have been positive. It's a shame we have to be so cautious but that is the world we live in. The key ingredient to this scam is the overpayment and return of funds aspect. When selling on craigslist never accept more for your item and reimburse the remaining amount. Also, I never ship my Item until after the check or money order clears the bank. It's funny but in many cases both myself and the buyer do this dance both requiring some sort of assurance that we are not being scammed.
Jerri Stroud May 31, 2012 at 01:31 PM
Mr. Theodorakos: We've seen the tractor scam, too, and reported on it a couple of years ago. As always, you can go to stlouis.bbb.org and click on "File a complaint."
Jerri Stroud May 31, 2012 at 01:53 PM
Mr. Antonacci: We know that there are honest people on Craigslist, too.
ward y June 01, 2012 at 01:14 AM
You make the punishments steep and the same whether it be Madoff or a punk.Rich or poor. Murder, who cares who dies,it is still murder and the end result should be the same.Hate crimes,what a joke,they are crimes regardless! Dont need a label.
Angelika June 02, 2012 at 05:48 AM
Mr Theodorakos, What does being quite successful & traveling the world have to do with being fooled? You just have to watch out for scammers & not believe everything you see or read. Ever hear of the saying "Believe nothing you hear and only 1/2 of what you see??"
araceli rodriguez July 22, 2012 at 03:33 PM
These same scam happen to me her name supposely was maggie i did deposit the check into my account but once she told i was suppose to wire trough western union o money gram i refused she gave me attitude and all by text cause she was supposely hard hearing so in that moment i check my bank account and the check was place on hold from that day she hasnt email me or text me good thing i didnt send nothing or i would have been 2400 short

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