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Tutor Scam (also Nanny/Babysitter Scam)


Graduates students and undergraduate students

How it works

New professor says university department referred them to you

Offers to pre-pay you as a tutor, babysitter, or as a nanny for their child

Overpays you (reasons sound plausible)

Red alert

Asks you to send a money order/cashier’s check, gift cards, or wire transfer to return the overpayment

The Scam

The original payment bounces (the money is never transferred to your account)


You lose the entire amount you sent as a refund for the “overpayment”

Protecting Yourself

Don’t take money from strangers.

If you receive an overpayment, it’s likely to be a scam
Do not refund it until your bank tells you the original payment has cleared

If this happens to you

  • Do not be embarrassed, this happens to lots of smart people.
    Be glad that you are an honest person who would return money that’s not yours. You should be proud of this.
    Be sad that there are cruel people who would prey on your honesty.
  • Contact your bank immediately. They may not be able to give you your money back, but they can help you learn what your options are and how to report this crime.
  • You may want to contact your parents and let them know what has happened. Remember, this situation is unfortunate but you shouldn’t blame yourself.
  • If this impacts your ability to pay your essential expenses (housing, food, utilities, safety, medicine, etc.) you may be eligible for help through the NC State Student Emergency Fund.

If you still have time

  • If for some reason you have received and cashed an overpayment, do not refund it immediately, no matter how heartbreaking and believable the story is.
  • You should stop communicating with them until you know the deposit has cleared (see below).
  • If you feel you must complete a communication because you believe someone needs urgent assistance for life, health or safety reasons, you can either call 911 (if you believe it is an emergency) or advise them to call 211 (United Way will help them find food, shelter, or other essential needs.) Do not continue to communicate with them.
  • If they are outside of the United States, advise them to contact their local Red Cross or Red Crescent. You can then be confident someone is taking care of them. Every other issue can safely wait until the check clears. Do not continue to communicate with them.

Spidey senses (what should make you suspicious)

  1. Someone you don’t know contacts you with a financial proposal, job offer, or opportunity to earn money
  2. You weren’t aware that you had been recommended for a position or job
  3. You are sent an overpayment
  4. You are asked to send money in an untraceable way that cannot be recovered (money order, cashier’s check, wire transfer, gift cards, cash)

How banks handle your deposits (how checks are cleared)

When you deposit a check or receive funds, the bank will make them available to you quickly, usually within a business day. BUT THE DEPOSIT HAS NOT CLEARED. Here is how it works:

  • When you make a deposit or receive a wire transfer, the bank will make the money available to you quickly, before they even receive the funds from the payer’s bank.
  • Then, your bank ensures that they’ve received the money. Once they confirm this, your deposit is “cleared
  • This takes time. Depending on the source of the deposit or transfer, this may take several days or even weeks. Call your bank and ask them how long it will take.
  • If the check you deposited is not valid, or if the wire transfer fails, the bank will TAKE THE MONEY BACK from your account.

How to defend yourself

  1. Do not send money to anyone you do not know personally and trust.
  2. Do not ever give your bank account numbers to anyone you do not know personally and trust.
  3. Do not accept overpayments. If someone sends you a check or money order for more than you agreed to, send it back uncashed and do not communicate with them further.
  4. Do not refund overpayments until the original payment has cleared.
  5. Always check it out – call the department’s main office and ask if you were referred as a tutor to that person.
  6. If the person claims to be a professor or new hire, only communicate through email addresses. If the professor has been hired, they should ordinarily have an NC State email address. If you’re unsure, contact your department.