How to Recognise a Nanny Scam

A popular option for young people to spend their summer break is to find employment as a nanny or au pair. There are many advantages to this kind of work: you get to see another part of the world, to meet a new family, spend time relaxing and having fun with kids…and get paid for it! The host family benefits as well – the stress to keep the children occupied during the long summer break is alleviated, the parents get to have some relaxing time by themselves, and there is a bit of help around the home. While this all sounds good, there are unfortunately people who have learned to exploit this market for financial benefit. Both prospective nannies and families can be caught in these scams.

Scams aimed at Nannies or Au Pairs

The most common way for potential nannies to be scammed is through private contact with a family who is allegedly providing a position. Through email, the family builds up a relationship with you, and goes through the whole ‘screening’ process. At some point, in order to secure your employment, they will send a check for a large sum of money, or will initiate a large bank transfer to your account. Almost immediately, they will claim to have made a mistake, and ask for some of the money to be returned, usually by wire transfer through an agent such as Western Union or Moneygram. As soon as you comply and send them something, they will cancel the check or reverse the bank transfer, leaving you liable for the amount that you have transferred to them. A variation of this that they will ask you to purchase an item (usually online), such as a wheelchair, for their delivery address. They then cancel their original payment, and you sit with the bill for an expensive item.

You can recognise a potential scam by being aware of the following symptoms:

  • you get offered a job without an interview, or with an unusually high salary
  • you are told that the person has been away and is soon returning to your city (i.e. no fixed address!)
  • you are sent money in advance, that is often more than you expected, or you are asked for your bank account details.
  • you are asked to cash a check, buy something or initiate a money transfer via an agent.

These are all clues that something is not right – why would anyone do any of these things with a complete stranger?

Scams aimed at families

Sometimes privately, and sometimes through large volume nanny websites, a potential nanny presents herself as highly qualified. She then initiates correspondence in order to build a relationship with the family. At the last minute, some kind of problem will come up (extra visa fees, sick relative, unexpected travel costs), and you will be asked for financial help.

You can avoid this kind of scam by selecting a potential nanny who has been given positive ratings by previous employers (on a nanny website), or has traceable references. Be sure to do your homework and follow up on the references! Do not provide any cash advances at all, and if upon arrival, your new nanny appears to have had a genuine need, you may consider providing some help – but never before the person has actually taken up the post in person!

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