For those of you who haven't heard the tragic news about 24 year old Katherine Olsen from Minneapolis, here is a link to a news article. http://www.kare11.com/news/news_article.aspx?storyid=268354
Katherine was murdered by a 19 year old man after answering an ad on Craigslist for a babysitter. (In case you have been living in a cave for the past 10 years, Craigslist.org is a free classifieds service that is used by millions of people for everything from job postings to selling used cars.)
While the owner of Craigslist says that nothing like this has ever happened "to his knowledge" through Craigslist, this time it did. For years now we have offered Internet Safety Tips to the nannies who use NannyClassieds.com. I think it is important to once again post them as a reminder. Whether you are answering an ad on Craigslist, on a local newspaper website or through one of the big nanny recruiting sites like NannyClassifieds, you need to be cautious and smart. Just think of it this way, if you were answering a personal ad for a potential date, would your first meeting be at his house? never. The same should hold true for a first time meeting with an employer. Here are more common sense tips for safely using the internet to find a nanny or babysitting job.
Safe Job Searching on the Internet
1. Do not post your phone number for the world to see. Even if you have an unlisted phone number, it takes only seconds to access your name and address on the internet using a reverse phone directory. Be choosy about who you share your phone number with through email for the same reason.
2. Use a third party email provider such as hotmail or yahoo. If you are an AOL user and innocently filled in your profile with all kinds of personal information, get rid of it.
3. Stay away from services that are completely free to families. Online nanny databases that charge a subscription fee and monitor their subscribers will help weed out the less scrupulous.
4. Do your own investigating. Run a reverse phone directory search to see if the phone number they are using or have given you belongs to the name they have given you.
5. Be sure to exchange pictures via email or mail and make an effort to interview the family on several occasions. If the family is a two parent household and you have only dealt with Dad, ask to speak with Mom. If there are excuses for her absence, do not pursue the job any further.
6. Check family references. Yes, nannies can ask for references especially if you will be traveling a distance to accept the job. Even if you are not, it is a great way to find out what type of employer this family has been in the past. Ask for the names and numbers of the family's previous caregivers and call them. Ask them what their experience was like? Were they treated well by the family, respected? Were they paid on time?
7. Keep track of what the family has told you in previous conversations and make sure their answers are consistent.
8. If you will be traveling to a strange family's house for an interview, have the family send you a letter of intention to hire which would include their home address. Keep this with a family member. Bring a friend or family member with you. They can meet the family at the door and then wait in the car.
9. Try to stay with a friend in town if possible. If you have no friend to call on, ask that the family put you up in a hotel for at least the first night there and ask that a friend accompany you if you are within driving distance. Do not commit to staying in the house with them and ask that they supply the name and confirmation number for the hotel. Explain that this is for safety reasons. You should check into the hotel first and ask that the whole family including the kids meet you in the lobby for your first meeting.
10. Babysitters, meet in a public place for your first interview and ask that the kids accompany Mom or Dad.