TAMPA, Florida: You’re a college kid in need of a part-time job when a really tempting offer appears in your inbox.
Pays big. Involves puppies. What could possibly go wrong?
Consumer advocates say be on alert for scam potential: The US Better Business Bureau is seeing “multiple reports of a tempting scam that appears to be a friendly family looking for a pet sitter”. But it could actually be an attempt to mine your personal information and drain your bank account.
“Definitely with this new scam, I would say they’re using the emotional appeal of the pets,” said Bryan Oglesby, director of public relations and outreach for the Better Business Bureau of West Florida.
According to the consumer resource organisation, come-ons arrive through social media, legitimate job websites or school email, targeting students hungry for part-time cash. They often say a family is moving to town with a cutely-named dog or dogs – Zoe, Billy, Alpha and Scott, or in one case, an English bulldog called Eddy.
A University of Tampa student was offered US$350 (RM1,483) a week for nine hours of sitting for a “very kind family with wonderfully behaved dogs”, according to a complaint filed by her parent.
“And like any other college student looking for a part-time job, I went for it,” wrote a student who got a similar offer in New York.
“I wasn’t suspicious at all and got very excited about getting my first job ever, until I texted my friend,” wrote a student in Lakeland. “She said she also got the job, and we realised that our emails were the same, except for the fact that the place they were ‘moving’ into was right down the streets from our respective houses.”
The scammers ask for personal details including banking information so they can pay the pet sitter in advance – information that is gold to identity thieves. They also want to send a large cheque in advance, telling the target to deduct wages and use the rest to purchase supplies. The checks can be a few thousand dollars, according to the complaints.
The problem: Banks are required to allow a customer access to funds within days, but it may take weeks to discover a cheque is fake, the Better Business Bureau said. By then, the account holder may have spent money on supplies with a vendor who is part of the scam, or sent the extra money back at the check-writer’s request. Then they’re on the hook because the cheque turned out to be no good.
Tips for avoiding getting scammed:
– Never give personal information to anyone you don’t know.
– Pay attention to anything that gives you pause, like a too-quick job offer without meeting you or grammatical errors in an email.
– Do your homework. Someone telling a legitimate story should have records out there. Also, google the offer and “scam” and see what comes up. – Tampa Bay Times/Tribune News Service