A friend of the SAC family forwarded us a scam she uncovered while signing up with the website Care.com.

If you’re unfamiliar, Care.com provides global caring solutions for a variety of family needs. From babysitters to senior care to companionship for the mentally ill, their mission as described by their website:

At some point, every person and every family will have care needs, be it for children, seniors, pets or even homes. Our mission is to improve the lives of families and caregivers by helping them connect in a reliable and easy way. Our solutions help families make informed decisions in one of the most important and highly considered aspects of their family life: finding and managing quality care for their loved ones.

Anyone can sign up either as a person in need or as a caregiver. Caregivers set up a profile and select a service, and apply for jobs. Our friend Tina, a dog lover, signed up to be a pet sitter. It didn’t take long for her to receive a few requests via email. Let’s look at two of them in their entirety:

Email No. 1

Hello Tina,

Thanks for your response, I am glad to read from you. I am a single Mother of two, David and kelvin, they are 5 and 1+ years respectively .I attended Texas School for the Deaf where I achieved my highest qualification. I have my own business (Self Employed).

I attend the catholic. We are in the process of relocating to yourarea. I am 38 and I am hard of hearing. I work based on the development and counseling of the deaf people in the community, I am moving to your area in few weeks with my adorable dog and I really need a honest and responsible care for my pet. Cookie he is cute and adorable(Golden Retriever) he is very friendly and playful.he is also very much comfortable with other dogs and cat too he enjoys being indoors with us. Going for walks Cookie is very favorite activity. he plays well with other dogs too. Cookie is house trained and crate trained….. and have contacted a suppliers for the dog Cage, toys, blankets,food,bed and other things. You will care for him starting 15h of August. I will appreciate if you can tell me a few things about yourself and maybe attach one or two pictures of you, below are your duties:

House Sitting,Mail/Newspaper Retrieval,Watering Plants,Pet Sitting/walking,Daily Feeding.this could be a temporary/permanent job. It depends on what your schedule looks like but I do like to be sure if you are available the first month. I made some research on the wages for your service and I have decided to start with $400 per week and as time goes we can negotiate on a new pay as my dog get along with you.

I want to inform you that I have a seminar I will be attending to as soon as I arrive and will be having an interview section with you immediately I arrive with my Dog. Also I will like to include

your pay to our payroll for the period just to have you booked down and secure for my Pet. I will be needing the following information below to issue out the check to you and I need your

direct mobile number so i can text you in case I need to pass an urgent information:

Name:

Address:

City:

State:

Zip Code:

Phone #:

I have made some arrangements with the dog utility suppliers, so as soon as you get the payment, you will deduct your first week and have the rest sent to the dog utility suppliers as soon as the check clears, I hope my Dog will have the best of time while is in your care and I hope you will treat him right just like yours, attached is a picture of me,kids & cookie.

Get back to me as I have a lot of issue to put in place prior to my arrival. I look forward to hearing back from you.

Thank you and God bless

See anything fishy? This email is littered with grammatical errors and general spacing/formatting issues. The sender also included two pictures: one of a dog laying in the grass, and the other of a mom with two kids outside of a school building.

I reversed image searched the family picture and wouldn’t you know it, the results came back from a stock photo website. Shocking.

Email No. 2

Hello

Thanks for writing . Sorry for the late response,it has been a really busy period for me, having to move and trying to cope with work. I appreciate your interest to care for my pet sitting, My current work schedule has been increasingly tedious and would not permit me the chance to give them as much attention as I used to. I would love if you could treat them as you would to yours or a good friend. We are a devoted christian family, i would be needing your services for my dogs starting from August 20th. Monday-friday,5/4hrs daily at your convenience, they are friendly and they are both 10weeks old.

Your services are

  1. taking them for a walk
  2. getting their food

3.Puppy visits/Wellness check

4.playing with them

Like i said i would be traveling to your area and have already made arrangement for their coming as well, i really took my time in going through your profile on care.com and it got me rest assure you are a very reliable pet care, for this reason i would love my pets to be in your care, I’ve  also ordered for two specially built doghouses which they would be living as soon we arrives and i want them to be ready before my arrival .

This could be a temporary/permanent job. It depends on what your schedule looks like but i do like to be sure if you are available the first two weeks. I made some research on the wages for your service and i have decided to start with $500 per week so you will be paid $500 for the first week pending my arrival and as time goes we can negotiate on a new pay as my pet gets along with you. I want to inform you that i have a seminar i will be attending as soon as i arrive and will be having an interview section with you immediately i arrives. Also i will like to include your pay to our payroll for the period just to have you booked down and secure for my pets. I will be needing the following information below to issue out the check to you and i need your direct mobile number so i can text you in case i need to pass an urgent information:

Name:

Address:

City:

State:

Zip Code:

Phone #:

I have made some arrangements with the Doghouse seller about (the special built dog’s house,foods,cream and some dogs accessories) so as soon as you get the payment, you will deduct $500 for your first week and have the rest sent to the doghouse seller for delivery as soon as the check clears, i hope my pets will have the best of time while they are in your care and i hope you will treat them right just like yours,  Get back to me as i have a lot of issue to put in place prior to my arrival.

I look forward to hearing back from you.

Thank you and God bless,

Regards

 

The grammar is a little bit better but it’s almost exactly the same template. The scammer builds a story in an attempt to connect on a personal level. He compliments Tina on her profile before asking her for PII (personally identifiable information). And then he gets down to the meat of the scam, which is a request for her to cash a check, deduct her fee, and send the rest to the “Doghouse seller”.

Nice try buddy. Tina was too smart to further engage with either scammer and immediately reported them. It is unfortunate that a website with majorly good intentions is a major target for criminals, but that’s the world we live in.

Be Like Tina: Learn How To Identify a Scam

Like so many social engineering attacks, the emails Tina received had all the ingredients we associate with your typical scam:

Bad Grammar

It’s one thing to have an occasional typo, it’s a whole other thing to have the issues we see in both of these emails. Bad punctuation, odd spacing, capitalization issues and misspellings are major indicators you’re being scammed.

Sympathetic Stories

The worst part about this particular scam is it targets people that have big hearts, and are often blinded by them. Care.com is a legit website established to help the needy. Scammers recognize this an opportunity to prey on people that are already wrapped up in sympathy. The first example even used a physical disability, and sent pictures of herself and her pet to be more convincing.

The Request to Email

Tina made the mistake of giving away her email address. There’s just no reason, at least initially, to move the conversation away from the host website to personal email. As a general rule, it’s best to keep contact information at a minimum until you can confirm the legitimacy of the people you are dealing with.

A Sense of Urgency

These scammers don’t display the immediacy that we usually see in phishing emails, but there is definitely a sense of “let’s set this in motion ASAP”. Scammers are generally impatient and want you to pull the trigger before common sense sets in.

An Odd Financial Request

In both cases. Tina is asked to cash a check, withdraw her portion, and send the remainder to a pet supplier of some sort. This is your run-of-the-mill advance-fee scam, or overpayment scam. It’s a small-scale version of what you’ve probably received at some point, where you’re offered a large sum of money from a total stranger, most of which is yours to keep after sending them their share. It should go without saying: never send money to or accept money from someone you’ve never met.

As with all things information security, less is best. Websites that pair strangers and potential financial exchanges will always be targets. It’s an unavoidable fact of life. The only thing we can do is remain skeptical, use common sense, and never give out PII to total strangers.

Justin Bonnema

Lead Writer at SAC
Justin left the music business to focus on his true passion: writing. A talented writer and detailed researcher, he’s involved in every department here at SAC to make sure all content is fresh and up-to-date. In his spare time, Justin writes about fantasy football for FootballGuys.com and practices mixology (he makes a mean margarita).