Here’s a crafty scam. Scammers, posing as a legitimate Mystery Shopping company, send out checks asking the “shopper” to wire back a portion of the money in order to test the wire service. Of course, it turns out that the checks are fake — but it’s too late for the hapless victim. He’s already wired the money! It’s an old scam, with a new twist.
Reader Chris’ smelled something fishy when his friend told him about the great mystery shopping job he’d gotten, and now he’s wondering what to do to report the scammers.
Here’s the story, my pal “Clint” had just moved to NYC and was looking for employment. Luckily, today he scored not one, but two jobs! One as a sausage vendor (with all of its accompanying euphemisms) and one – and this is the one he was really exited about – as a mystery shopper. All he had to do was email some folks and they sent him a great big check! Sure, he’d have to send most of it back through Western Union, but he still got to keep…hey wait a minute…
Alarm bells went off. I had seen this story on Consumerist before! Thankfully, he was so excited that he told me all about it before depositing the probably-fake check, and I was able to reference him quickly to one of several stories posted on Consumerist regarding this common scam.
I wouldn’t have recognized this at all without becoming so addicted to Consumerist, of course, but now we need some more help. He has the maybe-fake check and some contact info for the maybe-scammers, what does he do with it? Who can he report this to? Is there any way to confirm that the check is fake without depositing it? What’s the next step here?
We look at the Mystery Shopping Providers Association’s website to see if they had any information about this scam — and they did!
Here’s how they describe the scam:
Consumers receive a large-sum check, typically between $1,000 and $5,000. They are asked to evaluate the service at a variety of stores and wire a portion of the money back to the sender while also evaluating the wiring service. Consumers are told to keep a portion of the money as payment.
The name of a real company usually appears on the check as well as real account information. The forgery of the check is discovered a few days after it is deposited, and the consumer is held responsible for the entire amount of the check.
“Scammers are taking advantage of the allure of Mystery Shopping to take money from consumers’ hands,” said MSPA Executive Director John Swinburn. “MSPA has long recognized the problem and is constantly working to make consumers aware of new scams related to Mystery Shopping.”
Here are the appropriate agencies to contact, according to the MSPA:
National Consumers League/Alliance for Consumer Fraud Awareness: http://www.fakechecks.org
Internet Crime Complaint Center:
http://www.ic3.gov/ (if the offer is received by email or you are directed to a website)
Office of the Inspector General, U.S. Postal Service:
http://www.uspsoig.gov/ (if the offer is received by mail)
Federal Trade Commission:
Federal Bureau of Investigation:
To see a list of legitimate companies go to http://www.mysteryshop.org.
The most important thing, however, is that you didn’t fall for this scam! Good work!