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Wag! dog walkers, beware of scammers
What independent contractors need to be aware of with the Wag! app
There’s a sign in my dining room that says “Dogs Welcome, People Tolerated.” And some people are harder to tolerate than others, with scammers right at the top of the list. Dog lovers, such as Wag! dog walkers, need to be especially cognizant of people on the prowl looking to scam independent contractors.
I’ve been a regular Wag! dog walker since March with a total of 171 walks from 32 different dogs. As Wag! dog walkers are aware of, the company uses Payable as a payment source. This month, the company announced that they will be transitioning to Stripe. But scammers are taking advantage of this transition, and independent contractors in general, by creating fake dog owner accounts.
A month or so ago, Wag! made it easier for dog owners and dog walkers to contact each other via anonymous phone numbers. Although this makes meet-n-greets simpler to do without having to contact Wag! each time, it has become especially attractive to scammers.
How Wag! scammers trick dog walkers
How does it work? First, a scammer creates a fake dog walk order in Wag’s system. An unsuspecting dog walker accepts the walk. The scammer then cancels the walk before it can be charged but calls the dog owner. Because the dog owner’s number is anonymous to begin with, unless you immediately match the dog owner’s phone number with the “Wag! representative” calling you, it’s too easy to believe this person is from Wag!
For example, an “owner” who contacted me today had an area code 205 (Birmingham, Alabama). The scammer is aware that an observant dog walker may notice the two numbers match, hence the reason the walk is immediately canceled when he calls. And once that walk is canceled, all of its information is wiped from the dog walker’s system (unless the dog walker accepted multiple future walks).
The scammer will present himself as a Wag! representative, mentioning that Wag! is transitioning to a new payment system such as Zelle or Cash App. But alarms should go off the minute he says he needs to reach your bank to confirm that your Payable account can be transitioned to Zelle or Cash App. Why should this be alarming? First of all, Wag! made it clear in their June newsletter that the new payment method would be Stripe. Second of all, when you sign up with Wag!, this level of payment verification was never done. Payable’s secure third-party system required dog walkers to enter their checking account numbers independent of Wag!
Another strange factor that Wag! scammers will use is to ask for your phone number in case you two get disconnected. Now why would someone who just called you ask for your phone number? Wag! dog walking scammers have an answer for that too: They’re on an automated line to contact dog walkers during the payment transition.
But on Wag! mobile app and phone customer service, the company never asks for anything more than your first and last name and an email address. The only time that they may need to call you back is to fix a scheduling issue or confirm a dog walking job between the dog walker and a dog owner.
While there are moments where the phone number is verified, Wag! already has your real phone number on file. They can call the dog walker back immediately should there be a disconnection.
The Wag! dog walking scammer will then send a text message to you (mine came from area code 215 in Philadelphia) asking for my bank online username and bank password. The alarms should really be ringing now. Under no circumstance does your bank ever ask you for your password. Be suspicious anytime anyone asks you this question.
In this case, I refused to give up bank information and said I would call my bank myself to confirm new payment options. And just like that, the scammer hung up. Wag! has received several dog walking complaints about this and probably will receive more during the payment transition. Should you be the victim of one of these calls, keep a record of:
the phone number that called about the dog walker
the phone number where the bank information inquiry was sent from
the name of the dog in Wag! system
the breed of the dog in Wag! system
Wag! will promptly remove this account from their system. Of course scammers will always find creative ways to take advantage of unsuspecting independent contractors (and even 9-to-5ers). Dog walkers, let’s all try to dig in and make sure we aren’t the next victim of identity theft.
Shamontiel is a dog lover to her core: 171 completed walks and one dog-housesitting at the time of this publication.
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