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BBB Trends: Don’t be left in doghouse by scammers — beware of check overpayments for pet sitting job


By Sandra Guile
Better Business Bureau

If you’re thinking about going on vacation and having someone stop by to take care of Fifi or Fido, ask family and friends for references for a reliable, trustworthy pet sitter (or check bbb.org).

However, if you’re a pet sitter and receive a request to watch a potential client’s pet, make sure you know who you’re dealing with. Fraudsters love to scour the internet for online ads as well as traditional newspaper ads for opportunities to make a few bucks.

The scam works like this: the pet sitter receives an urgent request by email or text to watch a beloved pet and it includes basic information like the length of time, type of pet, care of the pet, maybe some photos and special instructions.

Before accepting the job, there are a few red flags to look for such as the entire arrangement is coordinated by email and text – never in person. If the job is accepted, a check arrives in the mail for much more than what was originally negotiated for services. This is a classic check overpayment scam used by con artists.

The explanation for the overage is to cover additional food, medical supplies, or any incidentals that may come up. All the pet sitter has to do is deposit the check and wire the excess to a third party so that the owner will be able to withdraw the cash and pay them back should anything happen. A word of advice to the pet sitter – don’t do it.

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Under federal law, banks generally must make funds available to the account holder from the U.S. Treasury one business day after the check is deposited. However, just because the funds are there doesn’t mean the check is legitimate. The bank account owner doesn’t know if there are enough funds to cover the check from where the check originated.

Ultimately, the fake check from the supposed pet owner bounces due to lack of funds and the bank account owner – the pet sitter – is responsible for the transaction fees resulting from the bogus check. Plus, the account holder could be arrested for check fraud.

Instead of handling the whole transaction by email and text, a real client would want a pet sitter to meet the pet, review any healthcare requirements of the pet or house rules, check out the feeding routine, visit the home and finalize details to put a pet owner’s mind at ease before leaving town knowing their beloved pet is in good hands. There’s only so much detail that can be covered in text or email.

Before accepting any pet sitting job, it’s best to screen potential clients, ask questions, and press for an in-person meeting with the pet and the owner. By doing so, a would-be scammer will more than likely decide to go somewhere else.

Report any overpayment scam you find to local law enforcement to handle the situation and then record it on BBB’s Scam Tracker.

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Sandra Guile is the Community Outreach Specialist for BBB. She promotes BBB’s message of marketplace ethics through public speaking engagements, presentations, media relations, press releases, web content, and other written materials. Contact Sandra at (513) 639-9126 or sguile@cincinnati.bbb.org.


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