Nextdoor is a platform for local community members to share neighborhood gossip, alert neighbors about missing pets and keys, and maybe even hire a townie teen to babysit. Unfortunately, the seemingly wholesome site is also a ripe target for local fraudsters looking to rip off unsuspecting community members.
From contractors who charge money upfront and disappear after shoddy or nonexistent services to identity-stealing faux-nannies, a recent BuzzFeed News investigation shines a light on Nextdoor’s not so friendly neighborhood scamming problem.
“There’s a false sense of security on Nextdoor that, because these are people in your immediate community, they must be trustworthy. Because of that, people may be less likely to use due diligence in researching contractors and caregivers,” said Brandy Bauer, an associate director at the National Council on Aging.
Unsurprisingly, Nextdoor tends to attract older adults, who are already more susceptible to scamming. One 72-year-old in Colorado fell victim to a scam after writing a check for $11,800 to two Nextdoor-recommended contractors who disappeared, while a family in Texas paid another contractor upfront who vanished after the team of inexperienced teens he hired ended up botching the family’s kitchen backsplash.
As Baur told BuzzFeed News, this kind of scam is nothing new. Nextdoor has just given local scammers a brand new platform to streamline their schemes. “The scammers are simply using a 21st-century version of an old, effective tactic,” she told the outlet.
According to Nextdoor spokesperson Jenny Mayfield, the site’s scamming problem hardly separates the the platform from any other scam-ridden corner of the internet. “This is an issue that affects all online platforms, and we encourage our members to take this matter seriously and to continue to be vigilant online at all times,” she told BuzzFeed News.
Mayfield’s point is apt. What makes Nextdoor a particularly ripe hunting ground for scammers is simply its users’ misplaced trust in the platform’s illusion of neighborhood intimacy. To your average Nextdoor user — a 36-54 year-old homeowner, according to a small survey at Georgia Institute of Technology — the neighbors and community members on the site are a far cry from the cyber strangers we were warned about in the early days of the internet.
As BuzzFeed’s Nicole Nguyen puts it, “the parents who once warned us of the dangers that lurked online — cyberbullies, porn, hackers — are the very ones most likely to fall for these kinds of scams.”
Nextdoor is a 21st-century reminder that danger still lurks in your own backyard — or your own neighborhood chatroom.
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