the online babysitting scam I just barely avoided

While I wouldn’t normally use this platform to write about an online scam, I feel that as a victim of it I should share my experience because I know plenty of my friends that use Care.com as a reputable site to find babysitting jobs. This post has nothing against Care.com, in fact it is because of a notice that they published that my dad and I realized what was going on.

I’ve been a member of care.com for a couple months and don’t use it very often because my availability isn’t very open. That being said, I’ve been contacted a couple times via text or email from people on the site about jobs, which is why when I was contacted by “Marilyn Craig” through text I didn’t think twice about it.

On July 3rd I received a text that said “Hi, I’m Marilyn from care.com. Are you available for weekend babysitting? Pay is $18/hour. Kindly send your resume to marilyn’s private email (marilyncraig005@gmail.com) for more details.” Now being a broke college kid, $18/hour pay sparked my interest right away and I replied almost immediately with an email:

Hi Marilyn,

I am available Friday through Sunday all day and then Monday through Thursday all I have is class from 10-12:30. My resume doesn’t include prior babysitting experience because I use it for my professional environment, that information is listed on my care.com profile.

I have attached my resume though in case you would still like to see it.

Thanks,

Shelby Tate Major

And then I sent a follow up text saying “I just send you an email! Look forward to hearing from you!” to which I got the reply “thank you i will reply you” (which is the first red flag, the broken english)

Marilyn responded within 30 minutes:

Thanks for replying to my text. My name is Marilyn. I recently moved
from San Diego to Phoenix with my family but i`m relocating to your
area on 24th of July and i will need a nanny for my son immediately.
His name is Joe, 6years old and the time would be from  9am to 4pm
Saturdays and Sundays only. This is a long term position but its fine
to start temporary. Some weekdays are also flexible if you are
available but we may need to discuss that in person. I`m willing to
pay 18/hour. I believe its a great pay and i`m paying that much
because i want quality care for my son. The start date is 26th of
July.I lost my husband and a 4months old baby in January. It was my
late husband`s birthday and he decided to take the kids out while i
was still at work. Joe happens to be the only survival from the
accident but he currently uses a wheelchair. I have had terrible times
in the last few months and this is one of the reasons i have decided
to move because staying here brings back some sad memories. Kindly be
honest if you have experience with childcare because i want the best
care for Joe. 

I`m hard of hearing and can only communicate via writing, reading lips or text messaging. I hope that isn`t a problem? I`m easy going and love to laugh. I can send you a picture of me and joe in my next email.It will be nice to read about you. I want a nanny who is willing to be a friend and family. Please note that i have a few applicants for this position but i made you our first choice so i wouldn’t appreciate a waste of time. Make sure to include your complete name, address including zipcode and cell phone number in your response so i could check the map to read the distance between us also to have your address on file. You may ask questions in case you have any. I await your quick response.

Thank you!

Receiving this detailed email right away made me assume that I was dealing with a very particular situation and that Marilyn was genuinely going through some hard times and needed help. Being the caring, somewhat naive, person I am, I didn’t think to question the situation, or the fact that she asked for my address. I replied with my own email about my babysitting personality, something parents often ask for when hiring a sitter online.

Thank you so much for responding so quickly and thoroughly!
On my care.com I have two locations listed, I am only in Wilmington until July 24th and then I move back to Charlotte until August 20th when I leave to go abroad.
I’m not sure what area you are moving to so I understand if this doesn’t
fit your needs. I will tell you a little about myself regardless in case it does work!

[Here is where I put my name, address, and phone number]

I’m very sorry for your loss but you sound like you’re handling it well.
I do have a lot of childcare experience with all ages but I do not have
any experience in childcare with him being in a wheelchair. If that is a
deal breaker I understand but I am very willing to learn.

I am currently a student at UNCW but I grew up in Charlotte. I am
studying recreation management with a concentration in non profit
because ultimately I want to work for non profits specializing in hunger
and education around the world. I’ve volunteered at the Boys and Girls club as well as tutoring for Cornelius Elementary while I was still in high school.
As a babysitter I really try to keep a positive and creative environment.
I’m not a particularly big fan of letting the kids I babysit just watch tv. I
like to bring arts and crafts, play games outside things like that. I really enjoy babysitting and I am still in close contact with all the families I have worked for.

I would love to see a picture of y’all! There are pictures on my Care.com site but if you would like I can send you one of myself as well.

She replied with

Thank you for your email. Here is my own address 839 Scaleybark Rd,
Charlotte, NC. We are moving in on 24th of July. The sitting could be
in our place but if you want Joe at your place, I wouldn’t have any
problem dropping him. You re free to do outdoors if you wish. I
suggest that we meet on Friday 25th before you start working and we
can talk on your schedule. That way we can get to know each other in
person and share some interest about ourselves and the babysitting
activities. As said in my previous email, the last couple of months
hasn’t been good and i wouldn’t want to get stocked with my Son on
arrival so i`m willing to make a deposit to you ahead of time to
ensure a secured appointment to avoid disappointment. The total cost
of your pay per weekend is $252($18/hour x 7hours/day = $126/day x
2days). I hope i can issue your first week deposit check with the
below information.

[Here was the information I had given before; name, address, phone number]

Kindly let me know if everything is clear so i may proceed. Also
attached is a picture of me and Joe. Do have a great day ahead and i
await your quick response.

Thank you!

I started to sense that things were a little strange. She didn’t seem to be worried that I wasn’t going to be in Charlotte long, when initially she was looking for a “long term position”. Also, the idea that someone would pay me before even meeting with me to see if I was a real person seemed strange in this day and age. I chalked it all up to she had been burned before and was frazzled by the move and continued communicating with her.

I know you said you were looking for something long term but I am leaving in August to study abroad for the semester. When I come back I will be returning to Wilmington. I would love to help you out until you find a more permanent sitter. If that works for you I can meet on the 25th!

_________________________________________________

 

Good Morning Shelby,

Thank you for your prompt response and i`m glad that we re on the samepage and we will meet around 6pm on Friday and i want you to know that you can be working with me temporary till when you want to leave the town in August and i want you to know that am sending you the first week payment to secure the job. I have made arrangement to get Joe a powered wheelchair and i got a cheaper one in Sacramento so i`m
wondering if i could have the seller deliver it to you so you can help
pay on delivery. The wheelchair cost 2523 so i will be sending you a
check to cover your first weekend deposit and the cost of the chair so
you can take out your deposit and pay the cost of the wheelchair to
the seller on delivery and we will follow you to pick the chair after
our meeting on Friday. Please understand the aim of having you
purchase the wheelchair is to ensure the wheelchair is available for
Joe on arrival. The wheelchair isn’t assembled yet. Its still packed
in pieces so its not big at all. Due to her condition, i wouldn’t want
any delay with the arrangement of the chair so you can let me know if
everything is clear.I await your email so i can proceed to mailing
your check on Next week.Happy sunday

Thank you!

After this red flags were going off right and left. I called my dad and explained the situation to him and forwarded him all of the emails thus far. It was not only strange that she would be trusting a complete stranger with this amount of money but the language she used, as well as calling her son Joe “her” was strange. I still was not 100% sure it was a scam though because how could it be if she was giving me money right? My dad told me to hold off on responding to her until he looked over it further. After a couple of hours of not responding I got a text message from the number she initially contacted me on. “Good Morning,This is Marilyn,i just sent you an email please kindly check your mail and get back to me.Thank you” My dad told me to tell her he wanted to attend the meeting with us and see if that deterred her at all.

Ok 6pm on the 25th works, my dad would like to come as well. The package will be sent to his house so he will take care of it all because I won’t be back yet.

This was the longest amount of time she had taken to respond but eventually she answered. It is said on Care.com to ask questions. Instead of being afraid of being rude or bothering them with useless questions suggest solutions (writing two checks instead of one in my case).  They also said to listen to the words. Many scammers use the same email format (there is a chain of emails for each reply and they stick to that chain-none of the emails are personalized) so try to throw them off by having “something suddenly come up.” If they completely ignore your reply in the next email and re-send the instructions again, you know you are dealing with a scammer. It seemed that I had thrown her off by asking about my father, causing a delay in the reply but at this point we had not read the information on Care.com about scams so we proceeded. She got right back down to business when she did eventually respond, talking about the check once again.

Thank you for your prompt response and for your concern about me and
my family and no problem your dad can come along.i will let you know
as soon as i mail the check.me and Joe cant wait to meet you.

I did not respond and the next day received this.

Morning Shelby.

I hope you are doing great. Sorry for the silence. I have been pretty
much engaged with moving arrangement but i was about to mail your
check last night via FedEx and the tracking number 770568452817 and
its on way to you this morning or must have delivered to you should
try to check your mail or front door. The check was made in the amount
of 2775.90. Kindly proceed to your bank to have it deposited into
your account and keep me posted when its deposited to ensure the funds
are processed for the wheelchair purchase.

Thank you and do have a great day!

P.S My other phone fell and the phone got broken last night but i will
be texting you from my other number ok?

Regards!

After a few hours of me not responding because I was busy I received a text message “Hi,I sent you an email regarding the payment mailed. Kindly check your email and keep me posted as soon as you receive and deposit the check this morning. My other phone fell yesterday and i cant read text but this is my other cell and you can always text me here.” At this point I got a phone call from my dad telling me to cut off the arrangement, he sent all the information from Care.com and I read over it before talking to Marilyn again. I replied saying I would not be able to proceed with the job and to please redirect the wheelchair and void the check to which I got the reply “ok”.

Here is the information we found online about the so called overpayment scam that helped us to realize what we were dealing with.

Online scammers will email care providers saying that they are writing from overseas and need a babysitter for an upcoming trip to the United States. Once the babysitting schedule and price has been secured, the person tells you that they will send a check for a pay deposit (your pay for babysitting). The check, however, has extra money attached to it because the person would like you to buy the children some toys at a specific store before the family arrives. The person asks you to deposit your half of the payment in your checking account at an ATM and take out the remaining money to bring to the designated store. It has already been arranged that the manager (an accomplice to the crime) will send the children the toys after receiving the payment from you.As innocent as this email seems, this scam is detrimental to you. In reality, you have inadvertently cashed a stolen or bogus check into your bank account and you will be responsible for fees associated with this type of fraud. You could be guilty of money laundering, passing a counterfeit check, or worse.

It says to look for “not A+ language”, someone using wrong tenses or mixing up words. I used the original emails in this post, not changing the format or language at all. Initially I chalked up her strange language to the fact that she was hard of hearing. Which was also a reason I didn’t suggest a phone or Skype meeting before our actual in person meeting.
They say to watch the tone, Marilyn seemed to get impatient as I tried to work out details or if I took longer than a few hours to respond to an email I received a follow up text message. She was always inquiring about when she could send the check. In reality, she had already sent the check because we received it at my dad’s house the morning that he told me to cut off ties with her. My dad tracked the check and it was sent from Hawaii, was from a bank in California but Marilyn had said she was from Arizona.
Finally it says to avoid sympathy and don’t let the sob story affect your judgement. I was hesitant to question anything because I thought it made me a bad person to second guess someone who had gone through so much tragedy. That’s exactly what they want and I fell 100% into their trap.

 

Luckily for me I trusted my instincts that something was fishy and went to my dad. That’s my biggest recommendation if you think this is happening to you or if you are unsure. Ask the opinions of people you trust, and if you are still unsure take it to the police and see what they think. It’s unfortunate that you have to think the worst of a situation to avoid being scammed but in the end it was worth it because I didn’t go through with it.

Here is the Care.com post that helped us realize what was going on http://www.care.com/child-care-how-to-avoid-babysitting-scams-p1145-q4894222.html

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