Ho-Ho-Hoax: Top Seasonal Job Scams

Babysitting scam

Want to generate some extra cash these days? So do scammers pitching these hottest job hoaxes of this holiday season:

Mystery Shopping: True, you can earn about $20 per shop applying for opportunities with the Mystery Shopping Providers Association or at stores, but don’t pursue unsolicited emails or phone calls promising big money as a “secret shopper.” Those are the work of scammers who send phony checks with instructions to deposit them and then wire-transfer back a portion. What happens is, the check received later proves counterfeit, and you can be liable for all money drawn or forwarded from its deposit.

Package Processing: Yes, FedEx, UPS and other courier services have been hiring for the holiday rush, and legitimate opportunities are available at their websites. But email offers to work at home by receiving and shipping packages for a courier service are scams that get you twice: First, you are paid with the same phony deposit-and-forward counterfeit checks. Plus, the goods you receive are often purchased with stolen credit cards, so you could face criminal charges for “reshipping” them.

The Babysitter Scam: Unlike other holiday-job hoaxes where potential victims are randomly selected (those emails are sent randomly and en masse), this ruse often specifically targets adult babysitters who post their availability on Care.com or other legitimate caregiver websites. Scammers pose as parents who need a babysitter, often claiming they'll soon be moving to town.

In addition to the same counterfeit-check runaround, there’s a new spin, according to Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine: “The couple supposedly needs the babysitter to check out their new apartment. They ask the babysitter to deposit the (phony, advance) payment, withdraw as much as possible, and then purchase prepaid money cards and provide the couple with the cards’ numbers so they can provide the money to the ‘rental agent.’ In reality, there is no couple or babysitting job; it’s all a scam.”

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Vehicle Advertising: These offers, also delivered by unexpected emails, promise you hundreds of dollars per week for placing an advertisement decal or “wrap” for energy drinks or other products on your personal vehicle. There are several gotchas:

  • You may receive an advance check that again proves counterfeit, with the same forward-some-back instructions as the other schemes.
  • You may be asked to pay for the advertisement and get nothing in return (other than a charge to your credit card).
  • To apply, you’re asked to provide personal information — including your driver’s license and bank account number for alleged direct deposits — that officials warn could be used for identity theft.


To avoid falling for a job scam, know the telltale signs of an impending rip-off and how to spot fake checks.

For information about other scams, sign up for the Fraud Watch Network . You’ll receive free email alerts with tips and resources to help you spot and avoid identity theft and fraud, and gain access to a network of experts, law enforcement and people in your community who will keep you up to date on the latest scams in your area.

Photo: D. Anschutz/iStock

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