(VVNG.com)- As computers and technology take ever bigger roles into our daily lives, criminals are getting more opportunities to prey on large amounts of people quickly, cheaply, and anonymously.
Scams, criminals, and con-artists existed long before the Internet was created, but as more devices now connect to the Internet than ever before, and people of all age groups move into a new digitally connected era, criminals see a ripe harvest of victims waiting to be exploited.
While some scams linger around the Internet for years, others are changed and updated to stop a potential victim from realizing it is a scam, even if it is based off the general story of an older scam.
The scam focused on in this article was brought to our attention by a Victor Valley resident. S was almost tricked to go along with the scam, but then realized something wasn’t right before any damage was done. She has asked to remain anonymous, but provided screenshots of her email conversations with the scammer to a Victor Valley News reporter. The scam is a job offer that targets babysitters and nannies who have posted online looking for work.
The scammer will search for a target on websites such as “Craigslist” or “Sitter.com”, and will send an inquiry about a potential job offer for a position regarding care for their child. Once a victim responds with their qualifications, the scammer claims to be leaving a different country to move to America and asks the babysitter to prepare items for the family’s arrival.
The victim is told that they will receive a check that will cover their first week’s payment, along with enough money to buy toys or other furnishings for the child’s room. The scammer says that they want to have the toys or room ready when they arrive. The victim is instructed to cash the check, take out a certain amount of money owed for payment, and then use the rest to go shopping for the necessary items. The scammer will ask for the victim’s personal information to send the check to them. While it is never a good idea to send even general personal information (such as your address and home phone number) to someone that you do not know, never send information such as your social security number or bank account information to anyone over the Internet!
The check the victim receives is counterfeit, and will bounce within a few days. The victim is then left with the fees for any money spent, and may even be charged with money laundering, fraud, or other criminal offense. Best case the victim only spends a small amount of money before the check bounces and they contact authorities immediately. Worst case, the victim spends a large amount or all of the money on the check, sends the purchased furniture or toys to the address designated by the scammer, sends any leftover money back to the scammer, and then gets in trouble with authorities for using a counterfeit check.
If an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If someone wants to send you money or hire you without meeting in person or even talking on the phone, something is not right. Many scammers have grammatical errors and other clues in their text that can alert you to a problem. You may notice that you have asked questions that were avoided or ignored, bring them up again to see if the person will answer your specific questions. Scammers often have a “script” they follow, and if you start to ask other questions, they will not have an answer for you.
Do not feel that you must rush into an offered position; scammers may try to push the victim into committing as soon as possible, sometimes even saying they have other people who want the job. If you are unsure if an offer is legitimate, take some time to do research and see if other people have had a similar experience.
Reporting and catching these criminals can be difficult, as they are spread throughout the world, but there are resources available to fight back. If you have already deposited a check or other funds into your account, immediately contact your bank and explain the situation. You can also contact your local authorities and file a report about the incident. The Internet Crime Complaint Center is a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center; submit a complaint with as much detail as possible about the crime. Do not attempt to set up an in-person meeting with the scammer in an effort to apprehend them.
Scam victims should not feel they are uneducated because they fell for a scam. Scammers can be extremely tricky and their stories are often believable. Just remember to look for the small warning signs, such as avoided questions, grammatical errors, and promises of money in advance.
We want to hear from you! If you have had a similar experience or been the victim of a different scam, tell us in the comments below.
Arrow Santos can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Arrow_VVNews