An overview of the main types of scam we deal with and the basics of how to avoid being a victim of a scam.
#12242 by AlanJones Thu Jul 09, 2009 2:27 am
Au pair scams often target individuals who have registered on a website as looking for au pair/nanny jobs and rely on the fact that most of the victims will not know the requirements for getting visas/work permits/tickets for the job. However, these scams may also be emailed to others who have not registered on those sites but have their email address posted elsewhere online.

The scam often involves a fake travel agency charging the victim a large amount of money to obtain visas and work permits, but in some cases might involve charging for accommodation.

The scam normally follows the following stages:

  1. An email offering work as an au pair is bulk-mailed to a large number of email addresses harvested from au pair web sites.
  2. Anyone replying is sent another email giving a bit more information about the family and telling the applicant to contact the travel agent to arrange visas etc.
  3. Anyone contacting the travel agent is then sent an email asking for details of the applicant and a copy of their passport. This email also sets out details of the fees that are required to enable the applicant to get their visa/work permit/flight tickets. These fees will usually be requested by Western Union.
These scams are very common at the moment and it can be hard for recipients to tell who is a legitimate family looking for an au pair and who is a scammer. However, there are a number of tell-tale signs that indicate you are dealing with a scammer.

  • The initial email comes from a different email address to the one that you reply to
  • The initial email does not have your email address in the To field. This is because it has been bulk mailed to a number of individuals.
  • The initial email is addressed to 'Dear Au Pair' rather than to you personally.
  • The job offers an unrealistically high salary/allowance.
  • When the travel agent is involved, they are using a free webmail email account rather than one from their own website.
  • The emails normally have poor grammar and spelling, even though they claim to be from professional people.
  • If the host family/travel agent claim to be in the UK and use a telephone number that starts +44 70 - these are re-direct phone numbers that can be forwarded anywhere in the world and are not normally used by individuals in the UK.
  • Last and most importantly, if you are asked to send anyone money via Western Union or MoneyGram. Legitimate businesses do not have money transferred by Western Union or MoneyGram, these services are meant to be used to send money to people that you know personally (such as family and friends).
Please be aware that you may still be dealing with a scammer even if some of the criteria listed here doesn't fit. Please feel free to post information for our support team to investigate if you are suspicious of someone you are dealing with.

Please do not tell scammers that they are listed here - it will take them seconds to change their fake details and their new details will not be listed for any future victims to find.

#62096 by Chris Fuller Sun Aug 14, 2011 1:18 am
Au Pair scammers are developing an increasing number of variations to the 'standard' scam above. These are some of the variations, but please bear in mind that there will be other unlisted variations too.

1. The fake host family may direct you to:

- A travel agent or travel consultant
- A lawyer
- An immigration bureau, immigration office, or immigration expert
- The UK Home Office
- The UK Border Agency
- An employment agency or au pair agency
- An estate agent or estate caretaker

All the above will be fake, even if they have the same name as a genuine company, organisation, or Government department. The emails from these individuals or organisations will be written by the same scammer who is pretending to be the host family, or by one of his colleagues.

Sometimes the fake host family does not put you in contact with anyone else, but instead pretends that he is receiving advice from one of the above.

2. The fake host family or the fake agent or organisation will ask you to transfer money/make a payment for:

- A visa
- A work permit
- A resident's permit
- Health insurance
- Travel insurance
- A National Insurance number
- A tax clearance certificate
- A contract of employment
- Proof/Confirmation of Sufficient Funds
- Flight tickets
- Delivery of documents
- Insurance for documents
- The opening of a bank account in the host's country
- The deposit for a rented apartment

All the above, even when backed up by document scans, are bogus and fake.

3. The scammer may try to increase your confidence that he is genuine by:

- Pretending to be female
- Sending you stolen photographs, pretending that they are of his own house, cars, pets, and family
- Sending you a fake passport scan
- Sending you fake forms, a fake contract, and other fake documents, including certificates, flight tickets, and receipts from courier companies
- Sending you a real visa form
- Pretending to pay fees himself
- Pretending to make payments on your behalf
- Pretending to purchase your flight tickets
- Pretending to book a hotel room near the airport for you
- Creating a fake website
- Creating a fake Facebook profile
- Communicating with you by phone, Messenger, or Skype
- Having a female accomplice talk with you on the phone
- Bringing children to the phone to talk with you

He may also give you the email address of his previous au pair - who will tell you that it is a wonderful family, and who may also recommend the fake travel agency or other organisation. The 'previous au pair' is also fake, and the emails are really written by the scammer himself, or by one of his colleagues.

How to protect yourself against au pair scammers

1. As soon as you start corresponding with a potential host family, google for their country's Embassy website in your own country, and find out how to become an au pair in the host family's country, and follow those instructions only.

2. Google the name of the country and the words 'au pair', and read about the country's rules and normal conditions for au pairs there. Pay particular attention to any requirements that you might need to fulfil, and also how much pocket money you can expect to receive. Be very suspicious about any family who suggests a different method of becoming an au pair, or offers you a lot more money than is usual for that country - this is typical of many scammers.

3. Google a few sentences from the email in which the host describes their family, to see whether they are original words, or typical sentences from scam mails. Be aware that some scammers will write totally original emails. Genuine families, however, do not copy-and-paste sentences or paragraphs from scam mails.

4. Google the names, phone numbers, and email addresses of the family, to see if you can verify them online, or discover that they have already been identified as scammers. Some genuine people will have no 'internet presence', and some scammers will not yet be publicized as scammers, so a lack of results is not 'proof' of anything; this is just additional research.

5. Look out for telephone numbers which begin +4470 or +44070. Scammers sometimes try to disguise these by writing them like this:

+44 701 234 5678
+447 012345678
070 123 45 678
(0) 7 0123 456 78

All telephone numbers which begin +4470 or +44070, however well disguised, are not normal UK telephone numbers, but are 'redirect' numbers, redirecting all calls to a mobile phone elsewhere in the world. A scammer may make an excuse for using a redirect number, claiming that he is on a business trip. It is extremely unlikely, however, that even a travelling genuine family would use one of these numbers. Always assume that a +4470 or +44070 number is a sign that this is a scammer.

6. Never send money to a host family, nor to anyone who they have put you in contact with, nor to a courier company.

7. Never send money to yourself, or to a friend or relative, on the instruction of a host family, or anyone connected to them. Scammers can still steal this money, regardless of the receiver's name or receiver's country on the transfer form, if it is sent by Western Union or MoneyGram, and if they have the payment details.

8. Never open a new bank account on the instruction of a host family or anyone connected to them. This is another trick to steal your money.

9. Never send a deposit for an apartment to live in while you are an au pair. This is another scammers' trick.

10. If you are uncertain about any email you receive, please post it here:

Help! Is this is scam?'

Make sure that your own details (name, email address) have been removed from the email before posting, and please be reassured that if the family is discovered to be genuine, all information which could identify that family will then be removed from your post, to protect their privacy.
#191371 by AlanJones Mon Feb 17, 2014 5:03 pm
Different countries have different regulations on who can be an au pair and the process that they have to go through to get the relevant visa. Below are the requirements for the most popular au pair destinations.

If you are being offered an au pair job in one of the countries detailed below and you do not meet the criteria detailed or the host family is not following the procedure then you are dealing with a scammer. There are no exceptions to the rules detailed below.


Au pairs wishing to work in Australia must apply for one of two types of visa depending on their nationality:
Working Holiday visa (subclass 417) - Details here
Work and Holdiay visa (subclass 462) - Details here

Visa applications should be made as detailed on the official website


Canada does not have an official au pair programme, but young people from certain countries can apply for an IEC (International Experience Canada) work permit (previously known as a Working Holiday Maker visa). Details of the eligible countries can be found here

Visa applications should be made as detailed on the official website

United Kingdom

Individuals wanting to be au pairs in the UK who are nationals of countries outside of the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland have to apply for the Tier 5 (Youth mobility scheme). The Tier 5 scheme is very limited and only nationals of certain countries are eligible, as detailed here ... igibility/. If you are not a national of one of the countries listed then you are not eligible to be an au pair in the UK - there are no exceptions to this rule.

Individuals who are nationals of an EEA country (except Croatians at the time of writing - check the Home Office website for the current limitations) or Switzerland are entitled to freedom of movement throughout the EEA area and do not require visas to work in the UK and do not require proof of funds

United States of America

In the USA, all au pairs must go through one of a number of designated sponsor organisations - host families do not directly deal with the arrangement of the au pair's visa/travel etc.

This is the official US Department of State webpage on Au Pair J-1 Visas

This page lists the authorised sponsors for the Au Pair program
  • If someone claims to be an au pair sponsor and they are not on this list then they are lying.
  • If they appear on the list, but quote a website that is different to the one on this page - or they use an email address that is not linked to the website listed on this page then they are lying.

Other countries

Other countries will have their own requirements for au pairs and you should check with the country's Embassy/Consulate in your country to find out if you are eligible and what the process is.

If anyone tells you that they can get you a job as an au pair and are not following the procedures detailed above (or as stated by the host country's Embassy/Consulate) then they are trying to scam you.

  • Travel agents and lawyers do not arrange visas, Consulates or Embassies do - either in person or in some cases online using official websites.
  • Never send money by Western Union or Moneygram - any one asking you to use these methods is a scammer.
  • You will never be asked to send money to yourself as proof of funds - this will be done by verification of bank accounts.

Please do not tell scammers that they are listed here - it will take them seconds to change their fake details and their new details will not be listed for any future victims to find.

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