How to Avoid Nanny Scams

Nanny with little girl
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Online job postings for nannies are one of the more common targets for job scammers. The scammer will register as a family seeking a nanny, promising a terrific salary and great working conditions. For example, they will promise to pay $2500 a week for a part-time position.

These scammers will try to either take your money or your identity, or both. To avoid getting scammed, learn about the most common nanny scams, and discover safe ways to find legitimate nanny jobs.

How Nanny Scams Work

There are a couple of common nanny scams. Regardless of the type, the scam usually begins with a fake parent reaching out to you (via email or text) to offer you a job that seems too good to be true.

One common scam is that he or she will send you your first payment, in the form of a fraudulent check or money order, before you even begin working for them. The person might say that the family is moving, and therefore wants to pay you in advance.

After you deposit the check, he or she will ask you to forward some of the money to a third party, or he or she will come up with a reason that you need to return the money – for example, they overpaid you, or they need to pay for bills, a child's tuition, etc. Often, it will be a very said reason, like unexpected medical bills or other personal tragedy.

You will ultimately have to pay your bank for the fraudulent check, and you will lose the money you sent back to the scammer.

Another common scam targets nannies who want to work in foreign countries, but cannot get the appropriate visa. The scammer, posing as a family, will claim that they have a lawyer who can help get a visa, but the nanny has to send them money for the lawyer. Once the nanny sends the money, he or she never hears from the family again.

These scams can also work the other way around. Some scammers claim they are nannies that live out of the country and need money to apply for a visa, or need their first payment early (again, usually for a very heart-wrenching reason). The family will send money, and never hear from the nanny again.

Nanny Scam Warning Signs

Nanny scams are common, but it is easy to look for red flags if you remain vigilant. Check out this list of scam warning signs:

It’s too good to be true. Be cautious of nanny jobs that seem too good to be true, such as ones that offer an amazing salary for minimal work.

There is no interview. Beware of families that hire you without interviewing you. After all, would a real family let someone take care of their children without looking into his or her background?

The language is odd. One typo or two is normal, but if an email or text is filled with spelling and/or grammar errors, this is a sign that it is not an email from a real family.

They ask you for money. The most important rule to remember is never, ever send or receive money from a family you have not met. No family would actually pay you money up front, and no family should ask you for money either. Similarly, no nanny should ask you for money before working for you, and no nanny should send you money.

Listen to your gut. If anything – anything at all – makes you feel unsure or uncomfortable about a job offer, don’t respond. Your gut is really good at recognizing a scam or a bad situation.

How to Report a Scam

If you are in contact with someone about a nanny job and think you are being scammed, cut off all contact with that person. Do not respond to any emails or answer any texts or phone calls.

Once you cut off all contact, you can report the scam in a couple of ways. Firstly, if you are using a childcare agency like Care.com or Sittercity.com, report the scam to the site. Most sites have a link to an email address or phone number you can contact to tell them about the scam.

You can also report the scam to a broader organization, like the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). The IC3 accepts any online crime complaints.

If you have been scammed, you can also visit your local police station. Bring copies of any email or letter transactions you have had, and have all of the scammer’s contact information available. The police will not likely be able to get your money back, but the information is useful for them to have.

How to Find a Good Nanny Job

One way to avoid scams (or reduce your risk of scams) and find a good job as a nanny is to use a reputable agency. Keep in mind that an agency should never charge you, the nanny, to use the agency – all fees should be paid for by the family. Check out sites like Care.com, Urbansitter.com, and Babysitters4hire.com, among others.

If you are looking for international nanny jobs, work with an agency that can help you gather all required documentation, such as a work visa. You can also find local nanny jobs in the classifieds, both in your local newspaper and online. 

Also make sure you interview with a family before accepting a job. Meeting with the family, including the children, is a great way to decide whether or not a job is the right fit for you.