BBB: Pet-sitting scheme leaves victims on the hook for fake checks

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ With thousands of Rhode Islanders unemployed due to the coronavirus pandemic, it may seem enticing to get a message from someone asking to take care of their pet for a little bit of extra money.

But Paula Fleming of the Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning this pet-sitting offer is actually a check scheme.

Fleming said it’s one of many schemes that have poped up since the coronavirus pandemic began.

“People are out of jobs, people are looking to pivot their careers and that’s unfortunately where scam artists always take advantage,” Fleming said. “When there’s opportunity they strike, and the pandemic has a lot of opportunities for scam artists to take advantage of hard-working people.”

Fleming said the scammers will send messages through social media, as well as by phone, email or text.

She said the message is designed to look real and could include photos of the alleged owner and pet to entice you to accept the job.

“The message includes basic information, like the length of time. So if they’re going away for the weekend that you’re needed, the type of pet you’ll care for,” Fleming explained.

She said once the job is accepted, you’ll receive a check in the mail that’s much more than the original negotiated amount for the job.

“The instructions are to deposit the check, withdraw the cash needed for services and incidentals, and wire the excess to the owner,” Fleming said.

But if the pet-sitter tries to deposit the check, Fleming said they’re then responsible for any overdraft fees from their bank if “it’s determined that the check is a fake.”

Fleming said this isn’t a new scheme, but an old one that has a “pet-sitting twist.”

“We’ve heard of this scam before working in different ways in which you receive a check, you cash it there was a discrepancy in what the agreed-upon amount was,” she said.

Fleming said one way to find out if someone is trying to trick you is to press for an in-person meeting with the alleged pet owner.

“You want to make sure that you verify them, ask questions,” she said, “In doing so, that would eliminate significantly the chances of you getting scammed.”

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