The Nanny Scam

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About once a week, or perhaps every ten days or so, we get a decidedly suspicious entry as a family profile in the Find a Nanny website. When we see something we are not entirely happy with, we do some digging.

Recently, within a few days of each other, we had two entries that raised a “slightly reddish” flag. More of a pink one, actually.

We checked out the Singapore postal codes and noted the Singapore phone numbers they had supplied, but it was something about the unusual grammar and the insistence that the nanny be willing to travel, that made the flag flutter a little.

We did an IP Address search and sure enough, each submission came from slightly different locations in Lagos, Nigeria. Internet cafés, most likely.

Needless to say we immediately deleted the entries and their accounts with Find a Nanny. One slightly worrying fact is, that for a few hours, they would have had the contact details of all the nannies on the site, so there is a possibility that they may try to contact one of “our” nannies (the word “our” not being used in the possessive sense, but in the “we feel responsible” sense).

Find a Nanny is – by any measure – way ahead of other Internet job posting sites, most of which display phone numbers, email address and even postal addresses to the Wide Wild World.

I think it may be time to move to the paid listing model for families. A scammer is not going to pay to promote his grubby little scheme. His credit card number would never make it through the PayPal screening process, anyway. And if a family is not prepared to spend a few cents a day to find the best nanny, well so be it.

How prevalent is the Nanny Scam? Very. I bet that if you go to any of the on-line classified ads sites, you will find one right now. After a bit of practice you can recognize them quite quickly. Here are some common elements that may or may not appear in the ad:

  • Male with a very important position in a big company and is very busy.
  • Works in the “City” or “CITY”, note the capitalisation.
  • Often claims to be in London.
  • Wife has just died tragically. You will be looking after a beautiful little girl/boy.
  • They are a “loving God fearing family” (search that term in Goggle now, 2.5 million results, most of them scams)
  • Excellent monthly salary.
  • Your own room with hi-fi and TV.
  • No housework, or very little.
  • Lots of time off.
  • They already have a maid, you will only have nanny or babysitting duties to fulfil.
  • There is a driver, or alternatively, you will have a car to drive around in.

How does the scam work? There are many variations, but if you reply to the advertisement you will get the job very easily. Surprisingly easily in fact. They won’t even bother much with references.

You may get an employment letter from “Sir’s” lawyer (Sir is very busy and is currently overseas). You may receive a cheque for a large sum of money as a salary advance. Some of that money is for Sir’s local agent, so please bank in the cheque and write out another cheque for a lesser amount of money and post it, or hand it, to Sir’s local agent. Or everything is in order but there is a slight hitch with the visa processing, and because Sir is overseas, Sir’s lawyer requests you send some funds to cover the expenses. Don’t worry, you will be reimbursed. And endless variations on that theme. Needless to say Sir’s cheque is a dud.

There is also the inverse situation, where an excellent nanny has been found by a genuine family, she even looks like a perfect nanny in the photograph. She is well educated, lots of experience, adores children has superb testimonials, but at the last minute there is a problem with the travel arrangements and could she have just a small salary advance to help her to solve the problem.

So do be careful when making arrangements involving money. That’s why we insist that all of the nannies on Find a Nanny are residing in Singapore. There are a few exceptions. Confinement nannies often live in Johor Baru, and occasionally a nanny has planned to move here and is hoping to have a job ready for her when she arrives.

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