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Money

Looking for a side gig? Don’t trust this innocent-seeming request

There are plenty of ways to make extra money. From babysitting to delivering parcels, millions of Americans are always looking for ways to make a few extra bucks.

Unfortunately, there will always be criminals who don’t want to offer people jobs but rather steal their money. By posting fake ads or promises of employment, scammers use various tactics to line their own pockets.

Students and other economically vulnerable people are often the prime targets for these scammers. Due to eagerness to earn money, victims might overlook some red flags in initial discussions. Here’s one of the latest job scams making the rounds.

Here’s the backstory

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning of a new scam that involves the services of a pet sitter. Receiving an email from a polite sounding person or being contacted through a job site or social media, the scammer will offer you a pet sitting job.

BBB says scammers use clever tricks to gain victims’ trust. One way is by telling you more information than you’d need for the job. For example, sharing where they live or work, the pet’s name and other details that make them seem legit.

A long-winded story usually accompanies this type of scam. BBB says the scammers claim to be new to the area or will be moving there soon. Naturally, they need a pet sitter immediately and found you online.

Spotting employment scams

So far, it doesn’t sound so bad. But that is exactly what the scammers want you to think to gain your trust without raising suspicion. After you have negotiated an hourly rate, the devious plan kicks into gear.

They will ask for your personal details like your full name, address, phone number, Social Security number and banking information. They claim to need these details so they can make a direct deposit into your bank account. Sadly, the information they request is what they need to commit identity fraud.

Another twist on these scams is when they send you a check in advance for your wages or to buy supplies.

According to BBB, “In some cases, they may send you a check for a large amount of money and ask you to deduct your wages and use the rest to purchase supplies. If you follow their instructions, you’ll lose your own money paying for supplies when it comes to light that the check was a fake.”

Avoiding this pet sitting scam

It’s not just pet-sitting gigs that scammers offer. It could be any job that sounds too good to be true. Here are some tips from BBB on avoiding employment scams:

  • Never give your personal information to strangers. Don’t share sensitive details like your home address, Social Security number or bank account information with someone you’ve never met. You should only give this information to a person or business you know and trust.
  • Do thorough research. If a person contacts you with a pet sitting job and a long story about their life, you should be able to verify the details. Ask to connect on social media and look up the home address they provide. If the person is hesitant to tell you specifics or changes the subject when you ask for more information, don’t accept the job.
  • Stay alert to red flags. Correspondence with grammatical errors, offers to hire you without an interview, and pay that seems too good to be true are all classic elements of a scam. If you notice any of these red flags, steer clear.
  • Understand how checks work. If someone sends you a check and asks you to deposit it, know that your bank will credit the funds to your account before they are actually transferred to your account. It can take a few weeks to discover a check is fake. If you spend the money before then, the bank will hold you accountable for the funds. If you aren’t sure about the source of a check, wait 30 days before you spend it. Don’t give into pressure to transfer the funds to someone else before then.

If you’ve been the victim of a job scam, report it at BBB.org/ScamTracker. Your report can help others recognize and avoid common scam tactics.

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