Before deciding to hire a nanny or other caregiver for a family member, make sure not to skimp on the criminal background check and always personally verify all references for an applicant.
Care.com is a Massachusetts-based business that markets itself as the largest web site for finding and hiring nannies and other family caregivers. The site reportedly has almost 18 million members in over 16 countries.
People can also pay for a range of background check services from Care before making the decision to hire a prospective caregiver from the site. Unfortunately, Care’s background check reports don’t appear to be worth the paper that they are printed on.
The company is currently being investigated by a Massachusetts couple after the background check that they paid for missed a lengthy and disturbing criminal past on the nanny that the couple hired.
In early 2013, the couple, Grace and C. Grover Heintz, decided to hire nanny, Stephanie Lee Fox, from the Care site after Stephanie’s background check showed a clean criminal history. That decision would later cost the couple dearly.
Care’s “background check” on Fox missed a problematic criminal history that included numerous theft and fraud charges in her home state of Massachusetts. In fact, Fox had recently been in jail and was still serving probation when she signed up on Care.com as a nanny. She also was required to make court-ordered restitution payments to businesses that she had ripped off in the past.
Unfortunately, the Heintzes only found out about Fox’s criminal past after she stole almost $300,000 from them. In the summer of 2015, the Heintzes discovered that Fox had stolen $285,000 from their checking account by forging Grace Heintz’s signature on 65 stolen checks.
Fox admitted to the police that she had used the money that she stole from the couple’s checking account to buy expensive watches, jewelry as well as a new truck and pay for several luxury vacations.
Fox pleaded guilty to federal bank fraud charges in December 2015.
Attorney Keith Halpern is representing the Heintzes in this matter. He told The Boston Globe that he is currently investigating Care’s failure to do the background check on Fox that the Heintzes paid them for. The Heintzes paid $79.00 for Care’s Preferred Plus background check, which claims to include criminal records for all states and counties that the prospective nanny has lived in for the past seven years.
An investigation by The Boston Globe discovered that from 2004 to 2011 Fox had 28 criminal cases filed against her, which involved 111 individual charges, in various places where she has lived in the state of Massachusetts. Around a dozen of Fox’s criminal cases should have been found by Care’s background check since they occurred in Norfolk County where Fox has lived for the past seven years.
According to court records, Fox has also had numerous criminal convictions against her for various offenses including: credit card fraud, forgery, check fraud, larceny, identity fraud and possessing stolen property.
Care offers four different types of background checks to anyone who is considering hiring a caregiver from Care.com. Basic preliminary screenings cost $9.00 and more thorough background checks cost $59.00 and $79.00. Care’s most extensive and expensive background check is $300.00.
The company reportedly outsources their background check work to various investigative services, but they won’t identify the companies that they work with.
It requires a lot of legwork to do background checks in the state of Massachusetts, since the state does not offer access to a master database of statewide criminal records. Most of the counties in the state have multiple courts and none of their records are searchable online. To obtain criminal records in Massachusetts, you have to have public record retrievers visit each court in person.
This old school way of obtaining criminal records in states like Massachusetts is time consuming and costly. However, Care claims that they use court runners and record retrievers in the state to physically obtain criminal records for their background checks. At some point, Care will probably have to explain why their “record retrievers” in Massachusetts missed all of these public records on Fox.
In addition to the problem in Massachusetts with the Fox situation, Care is also facing two wrongful death lawsuits. The company is currently being sued in Nebraska and Wisconsin by parents whose children were allegedly killed by nannies hired from Care’s website. In both cases, Care reportedly sold background checks to the families which incorrectly showed no criminal histories for the nannies.
Back in 2011, Care settled a lawsuit with a couple from New Jersey. The couple said that Care sold them an inaccurate background check on a nanny that they hired through the company. The nanny ended up stealing a number of valuable items from the family during her employment.
See our related blog post: Hiring Private Investigators To Spy On Nannies.