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How to Avoid Care.com Scams

Last updated: June 19, 2019
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Care.com is an online platform that connects people who need care — whether it be home care, babysitting, pet sitting, or elderly care — with qualified caregivers who can provide that care.

Like most any online platform that connects strangers, Care.com has unfortunately been a place where scams have occurred. These scams can be targeted at both caregivers and care seekers.

People looking for a caregiver have been scammed into hiring someone who misrepresents his or her qualifications, and caregivers can be scammed into turning over banking information with the idea that it will lead to a job that doesn’t exist.

For people looking to find a caregiver, you will be looking to find someone you can trust with a loved one. You will not want to be misled when hiring someone to take care of the elderly, or for a nanny job. For caregivers, you want to make sure that people don’t take advantage of the platform to post a fake job, and then use that job to either defraud you of money, or steal your personal identity.

In this article, we’ll share common Care.com scams and how you can avoid them. We’ll detail how Care.com does its best to protect its users, and also share details about a recent class-action lawsuit against Care.com that claims they should have done more. Lastly, we’ll answer some frequently asked questions.

A Brief Guide to Care.com

Care.com is an online platform that is part job board, part community message board, all focused around the topic of “care.” Care can take many forms, and people use the platform to hire everything from registered nurses to babysitters to pet sitters.

Founded in 2007, the company first started as a simple job board. It has since expanded to provide background checks and other services, which is how the company makes money — people can look at users or post jobs, but to contact caregivers or run background checks, they must pay a membership fee. (You can read more about Care.com‘s pricing in this comprehensive article.)

The company is publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange as CRCM, and its CEO is Sheila Lirio Marcelo. The company also boasts an impressive board of advisors. The founding CEO of PayPal, William Harris, serves on the board, as well as other powerful luminaries of the tech world.

Common Scams and How to Avoid Them

Avoid common Care.com scams and ensure proper treatment for your beloved petsThe most common Care.com scam is caregivers misrepresenting their background and experience on their profiles. This is a common problem among caregivers both on the platform and off of it, and we will discuss how Care.com is combating the problem in the next section.

There are other, more malicious scams that have popped up on the platform, however. Here are some to watch out for:

Fraudulent Checks

This scam is seen on Care.com, Craigslist, and many other job board sites. It can be targeted at both caregivers or people looking to hire a caregiver, though it is usually targeted at caregivers or anyone looking for a job.

The scam works like this: A “potential client” will reach out and say that they want to hire you for a job. They’ll even offer to pay you up front, and will offer you a check as an advance. They’ll then wait for you to deposit the check, then cancel the arrangement due to circumstances outside their control, and ask for a reimbursement.

If you pay them back, you’ll find a week later from your bank that their check has bounced. You’re out of the money you “paid them back” and often will have to pay a fee for trying to deposit a bad check.

On the flip side: A person posing as a caregiver could ask for money up front and not through the Care.com platform, then inform you that they won’t be able to take the job and will offer to reimburse you through their own check. Often this will be a fake check, and you’ve been scammed.

(One other variation on this scam: A person will offer to write you a large “verified cashier’s check” for more money than they owe you, and ask you to pay them back the difference. This is the same scam, slightly modified and quicker to execute.)

You can read more about this scam in an illuminating article on the Federal Trade Commission’s website.

Identity Theft

This is a simpler and more common scam, where people will target caregivers by taking publicly listed contact information on the website, then, under the promise of a job, lure their target into providing Social Security numbers and other personal information to steal their identity.

The scam works like this: Someone will use Care.com to post a job offer, say for child care or a dog sitter. Then, they might say they want to run their “own background check” through a third-party company. They will ask you to provide your Social Security number to help them do this.

Once you’ve “passed the background check,” they will ask you to provide your home address and bank account information to “set up instant money transfers.” People, thinking they’re getting set up to get paid, have just provided a scammer with full name, social security number, home address, and bank account numbers. That’s all someone needs to steal an identity and possibly empty your bank account.

Red Flags to Watch Out For

The two scams listed above are common, but scammers are always coming up with new ways to try and defraud honest people. There are some consistent red flags to keep an eye out for when it comes to Care.com scams.

Run the other direction if:

  • A potential client keeps pushing off meeting you for the first time, and seems to be avoiding face-to-face interactions (especially if someone is offering to hire and pay you up front without needing to meet you first).
  • Someone refuses to talk on the phone, and will only speak via text message. Or if they do agree to phone calls, they use a blocked phone number or a phone number that looks fake.
  • The person you are speaking to is cagey about biographical details, inconsistent with their story, or gets details wrong. For instance: A local babysitter who says she’s a college student but gets the name of the local university wrong.
  • You can’t find any digital footprint for a person. This shouldn’t be a deal breaker but should be something to keep an eye on. If someone doesn’t seem to exist online, that can be troubling. Sometimes this will mean a person is just private, but it should be something to keep an eye out for. Even more troubling is if a “licensed babysitting company” has no website or digital presence. In that case, you will want to dig deeper.
  • The person asks for money up front, either to pay you or get paid.
  • They inquire about banking information or credit card information.

How Care.com Protects Its Users

Know how to avoid Care.com scams when seeking elderly careAny online platform that connects strangers will be vulnerable to scammers who want to take advantage of it. Care.com works with people providing care, however, and the company knows that they must provide a higher level of protection for such sensitive work.

Unlike a platform like Craigslist — which will often have listings for childcare or home care via their part-time job postings board — Care.com does provide background check services to anyone who wants to do more due diligence about a potential caregiver. They also have requirements for new caregivers to join. The catch: You must purchase a membership to conduct that background check.

Care.com also uses their search results to highlight licensed professionals, and they try to showcase care providers with consistently high user reviews.

For care providers, Care.com will only list your first name publicly, so people evaluating potential providers would just see “Scott” or “Susan” and not your entire name. This can help protect you from people gathering too much information about you too quickly from the publicly available job boards.

The Class-Action Lawsuit Against Care.com

Some people believe that Care.com has not done enough to protect its users, and have filed a class-action lawsuit against the company.

The lawsuit comes in the wake of a Wall Street Journal article which highlighted several instances in states like Illinois, Texas, and Florida in which caregivers misrepresented their backgrounds, leaving off criminal history or lying about educational background. The article also alleged that several companies that used the platform advertised themselves as being “state licensed” even though they had no such licensing.

The lawsuit alleges that the company does not do enough to prevent criminals from creating Care.com profiles. The lawsuit also takes issue with the fact that you must purchase a premium membership to conduct a background check, and argues that the cost of more thorough background checks is prohibitive for most users.

The lawsuit is still ongoing.

Frequently Asked Questions About Care.com Scams

We’ve covered scams against caregivers and those looking to hire them, and looked at what Care.com is doing to combat those scams (as well as the people who don’t think they’re doing enough). Let’s get to the top frequently asked questions about Care.com scams.

1. Are there any competitors to Care.com that I can look at?

Sittercity is a popular website that offers babysitting services, and there are several websites, including Rover, Fetch, and DogVacay, that all offer pet care services. Most job board websites like Monster, Indeed, and LinkedIn will allow you to post job openings for care positions.

2. What should I do if I’ve been scammed?

Call your local police department. They may elevate your case to the FBI if they believe mail fraud or a more serious crime has occurred which crossed state lines, but that should be the call of the department. For most Americans, if a scam has occurred, the right move is to reach out to police.

You may also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC website will guide you through the process.

Use Care.com Safely

Care.com is like any online platform that allows connections between strangers — there is a risk that a scammer will try to take advantage of you. Knowing these Care.com scams, and how to combat them, can help you make sure someone doesn’t rip you off.

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