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Pet Sitters and Scam Artists

October 1, 2011

Topics: Business-of-Pet-Sitting

Pet-sitting scams are on the rise again!

It has come to PSI’s attention that at least 10 members in the past two weeks have been the target of an internet scam. These members recently contacted our member services team and described suspicious e-mails soliciting their services. As you may recall, similar scams have happened before. PSI wants you to be informed and aware! This new wave of scams involve the same old scheme, but with different players.

 

The scenario usually goes something like this:

A member receives an e-mail from someone (usually male) claiming that he has gotten their contact information from the PSI Locator and other association registries. He states that he will be in town for a long-term work assignment and that he needs a pet sitter. (There are warning signs to tip off the member, such as the scammer using an average American name like “Chris Brown” but typing the message in broken English.)

 

If the member responds, the scammer then tries to send a check for more than the cost of the service, asking that the member cash the check and then forward a copy of the deposit slip. The check is typically from a bank in Illinois. If the check is deposited in the member’s account and funds are transferred, the check turns out to be counterfeit and the member may be left on the hook for the transferred amount!

 

Sadly, the most recent scammers claim to be military personnel, particularly FBI, transferring from off-shore assignments to places in the US. Scammers hope to capitalize on the current condition of high sentiment in our country for service men and women.

 

The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National White Collar Crime Center, reports that counterfeit check schemes have even targeted U.S. law firms in much the same way that pet-sitting businesses have been targeted. If you receive a suspicious e-mail, the FBI encourages you to file a complaint at www.IC3.gov. While you’re there, be sure to read up on tips to help you avoid being scammed, such as:

 

How to tell if you've received a counterfeit cashier's check.

  • Inspect the cashier's check.
  • Ensure the check amount matches in figures and words.
  • Check to see that the account number is not shiny in appearance.
  • Be watchful that the drawer's signature is not traced.
  • Official checks are generally perforated on at least one side.
  • Inspect the check for additions, deletions or other alterations.
  • Contact the financial institution on which the check was drawn to ensure legitimacy.
  • Obtain the bank's telephone number from a reliable source, not from the check itself.
  • Be cautious when dealing with individuals outside of your own country.

If it sounds too good to be true . . .

The old adage “if something sounds too good to be true it probably is” definitely applies here. New pet sitters may be particularly susceptible to this type of scam and dismiss warning signs if they are in a rush to get clients. At the very least, make sure all checks clear before you spend the funds!

 

If an inquiry sounds suspicious, the best thing to do is follow your instincts and simply delete the e-mail. Remember, it’s far better to angle for good clients than to waste your time and money on fishy ones!

 

For more information about this scam, as well as other types of scams, please visit http://www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/fraud.

 

© Copyright 2011 by Pet Sitters International. All rights reserved. For reprint permission for this article, contact EllenPrice@petsit.com.

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