Con Man Victimizes Jobless Guy With Mystery Shopper Offer

You should always look at work-from-home and mystery shopper offers with heavy skepticism. Take it from a man who fell victim to a scam involving the latter that robbed him of $4,000.

ABC 7 Los Angeles reports the victim responded to an offer to do some mystery shopping at Walmart and received a money order for $2,000 with an assignment to buy some items, keep $200 and wire the rest of the money back.

The man repeated the process until he had spent about $4,000 in money orders, and you can guess what happened next: The bank told the victim that the money orders were fraudulent and he’d have to come up with $4,000. He says the bank is garnishing his retirement and unemployment checks to repay the money. He says that since his “boss” operates from the Philippines, law enforcement was unable to help him recover his money.

If you’ve ever fallen for an employment scam, share your story in the comments.

Scam artists target jobless w/ mystery-shopping gig [ABC 7 Los Angeles]
(Thanks, Jon!)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Wepwawet says:


    when will people learn?

    • cmdr.sass says:

      When the sun rises in the west

    • Lyn Torden says:

      They learn the first time. But the con men pick a new target each time. Most people are wise to this. But they only need one to bite the hook and we eventually get the news.

    • RecordStoreToughGuy_RidesTheWarpOfSpaceIntoTheWombOfNight says:

      When people tell them about it. Talk about scams with your friends and family. If you bring it up before anyone is involved with one, it’s far easier to prevent them from falling victim, because there’s no sense of pride to interfere with the intervention. It can be a fascinating topic in it’s own right, and if you pair it with websites like 419eater, it can be pretty amusing, too. It’s everyone’s job to help prevent these types of scams. Education is the best prevention.

  2. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    Is there any issue if he had deposited the Money Order, let it sit in his account, then the bank notifiy him that it is fradulent?

    The whole “wire money back” aspect is the biggest red flag of all these stories. I wonder if anyone out there tried (knowing it was a scam) to have the money order sent but not spend any of the funds?

    • IT-Princess: I work in IT, you owe me $1 says:

      One thing that gets me, is how does the bank allow the transaction to go through?
      I know if I deposit anything but cash to my bank, the funds are not available for me to do a damn thing with until it clears. I can’t even cash a check if I don’t have atleast that amount in my account.
      I assume this guy didn’t have the money in there already to match what he deposited since the bank is asking for the money back he spent.
      I’ve had the same bank account my whole life so my experience is probably limited.

      • Hooray4Zoidberg says:

        I believe the funds are only on hold for a few days until they clear the banks own internal processing. However it can take up to 2 weeks before it bounces from the issuing bank at which point they take the money back out of your account.

        These fake check scams kind of rely on that. Most people will wait a few days until the money clears this holding period and the funds become available. At that point they erroneously assume the check is legit.

        • IT-Princess: I work in IT, you owe me $1 says:

          Interesting, I did not know that. I’ve only ever bounced one check in my life and it was an immediate thing, within a couple days of it being deposited.
          Not that the fact that it cleared would make this OK, just the nature of it would make me not do it anyway, I just didn’t see how this could work.

        • Hi_Hello says:

          I don’t understand this… if the bank say it’s good… and they give you the money, how they going to take it back?? shouldn’t the bank just wait an extra 2 weeks to make sure it’s all good??

          • RecordStoreToughGuy_RidesTheWarpOfSpaceIntoTheWombOfNight says:

            The nature of banking prevents it from working like this. If everyone had to wait two weeks for funds to clear, the system would grind to a halt. Rather, the banks rely on essentially the word of the other bank that the funds are there. Most of the time, it is. Far easier to handle the one-offs that aren’t there in this way than to overhaul the whole system. It sucks, but it’s one of the things that, until we’re on an all electronic currency, is not likely to change soon.

            • AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

              I wish that would explain why when I deposite cash into a TDBank, it considers the cash “pending” until the next day.

              As if it’s pending authorization that the cash is in fact cash.

              • IT-Princess: I work in IT, you owe me $1 says:

                Interesting, when I deposit cash it’s immediately available.

      • Jevia says:

        A lawfirm I used to work for would let checks received from clients or anyone else sit in the bank for 30 days before drawing any funds on them.

    • SpiffWilkie says:

      I have a couple of friends that collect checks and money orders from scammers. I happy enough with them not having access to my name/address.

  3. Coffee says:

    I think this is stating the obvious, but ANY time an offer involves accepting a transfer of $X,XXX, then wiring back $XXX, it’s a scam. It’s just too bad that people don’t stop to think, “Hmmm…if he’s wiring me $2,000 and wants me to wire back $200, why doesn’t he just save a step and wire me $1,800?

    • Turn-n-Burn says:

      That is exactly what I think every time. I will say though that desperation can be quite a blinding influence.

    • dakeypoo says:


      Check for $2,000. Spend $200. Wire back $1,800.
      Should just get a check for $200.

      • Turn-n-Burn says:

        I think that his example still qualifies even if his math was wrong. I’m sure your rudeness helps though.

        • dakeypoo says:

          Usually my rudeness does help. Thanks!

        • gc3160thtuk says you got your humor in my sarcasm and you say you got your sarcasm in my humor says:

          Thanks for calling out the douchebaggery because I was having the same thought that the example was pretty solid regardless of wtf ever the exact amounts were actually. Some people should rtfa about netiquette and how not to be a douchenozzle.

          • Bunnies Attack! says:

            Actually the first poster’s example was also incorrect, they both need to RTFA.

            This is an example of a scam with just a little bit of extra believability because the person was told to spend the $1800 on the mystery shopper items then wire back the rest. This makes sense because the “company” wouldn’t know how much each of the products would be. Also, the person that got scammed sent back $4k and was apparently working for a while so the actual remainder of the $1800 each time would appear to be far less, which is also reasonable.

      • Bunnies Attack! says:

        Maybe YOU should RTFA. He got $2k, kept $200 as his fee, used the $1800 to buy goods, then returned whatever was left.

  4. What’s your problem, Kazanski? says:

    I have one word… Duh.

  5. bkdlays says:

    The whole problem in these situations in the bank. They accept everything and sometimes cash these fake checks. In the world of electronic transactions they certainly COULD verify these checks… but have nothing to gain by doing it.

    • There's room to move as a fry cook says:

      The bank does check – but can take a couple of days and they usually show the amount as pending in that period. The scam works by getting the rube to withdraw before it clears.

      • Hi_Hello says:

        the bank should NOT let people withdraw on anything deposit until it is completely cleared.

        • rmorin says:

          Are you kidding? Before I got direct deposit I had to deposit my payroll check every other week on Friday. By your logic I should have had to wait until Tuesday to actually use any of my money? The problem is not banks allowing you to have access to the funds its people who spend the money from dubious checks before they clear. Since it is not the banks call to judge how dubious the originator of a check is before putting pending funds in the account, it the costumers. Imagine if they did that? “Oh you’re payroll check is from XXX business, I heard they are doing poorly, so we are not gonna let you have access to your money till it clears”.

          I knew that my payroll check would be fine, so I made the decision to use funds even though they are pending. This guy should have done had some suspicion and at the very least waited till the check/money order clears before spending it. Crazy thing called personal responsibility.

          • Hi_Hello says:

            What happen if your pay check didn’t clear? you withdraw x amount of money. Two weeks later the bank say they want x amount of money from you ?

            I understand that the banking system can’t work if people have the wait, but at the same time, I don’t understand why the person have to get screwed if the bank told them it’s okay to use the money.

            • rmorin says:

              Yes that is exactly what would happen. It is then between me and my employer to figure out restitution. I can not believe you are upset that people get AN INTEREST FREE LOAN from their bank for a few days. You can still wait till it clears, or use it then, once again it is the personal responsibility of the individual to decide.

              “I don’t understand why the person have to get screwed if the bank told them it’s okay to use the money”

              When you present a check to the bank, they essential state “we believe you that this check is legit, here is an interest free loan until everything checks out”. They never once state “yep this is 100% great, go on and spend!” that is why it says “Pending” and not “Credited”. I can not believe you do not believe in personal responsibility and that the bank needs to save us from ourselves.

              • FrugalFreak says:

                You have to remember one thing here. We are talking about BANKS, They want you to overdraft/bounce so they can get fees from it. There is no incentive on their end to get you to wait because if they did that, a good portion of their profit would disappear.

                • rmorin says:

                  I sincerely doubt that “a good portion” of their income comes from people withdrawing money when checks end up being bogus. Its mostly people being unaware of their balance. I agree with you in that they have every interest in you over drafting and charging fees but that is not what we are talking about here in practice. Instead people are saying they should not offer a service, because some idiots can’t tell when they are being scammed.

                  You know how grocery stores say “returned check fee 20$”? It is because they believe you that the check you give them is legit, and if it isn’t well you owe them the money and 20$ for their trouble. Exact same thing with a bank; if you present a bogus check and then take out the money before it clears, you owe them the money. This is a basic tenet of checking.

          • longfeltwant says:

            Yes. That’s what we are saying. Until the money comes out of their account, it shouldn’t be spendable from your account. Yes, thank you, you understand perfectly.

            Direct deposit is in fact the perfect answer to this. People who live in the past and pass around written-on-paper Funds Transfer Authorization (“checks”) can also live in the past when it comes to waiting a few days for the check to clear.

            • rmorin says:

              Thank god the banks are protecting me from myself then! They have such a great reputation of being honest, caring, organizations. I can’t make decisions about the legitimacy of a check, so the bank needs to hold my hand and just take care of my money.

              /end snark

              They offer a INTEREST FREE LOAN to you, and you gripe? Note I said offer, you can wait till it clears and that’s fine too. That’s why it says “pending” and not credited, they are believing you that the check is legit and extend an interest free loan until it is all sorted out. If it is dubious you are free to wait, the bank will never make you take that money out early. If it is from a place you trust then feel feel to spend. Waiting 2-3 business days for money may seem like nothing to you but I would guess that for literally millions of people it is a big deal.

              • Peggee is deeply offended by impetulant, pernicious little snots disrespecting her and violating her personal space at Best Buy. says:

                It’s not exactly interest-free if they later (sometimes weeks later) claim it was a bad check and then charge you a fee.

          • psm321 says:

            WHY should it take 3 days to clear in this day and age? Exceptionally slow electrons?

    • Shadist says:

      I once got a 7k check from a lawyer as a result of an insurance claim (long story).

      My credit union put a 14 buisness day hold on the check to make sure it cleared. While it was an annoyingly long time to wait for valid funds to clear I didn’t mind when I thought about stories like this.

  6. RayAllDay says:

    to me it would obviously be a scam, since $200 sounds like fair compensation.

    that being said, wouldn’t this sort of thing be impossible if the bank was forced to eat the cost? beyond that, one could assume this kind of scam would quickly become extinct. the banks would fair better figuring a way to stop them.

    • Lyn Torden says:

      The bank lawyers will argue that they did nothing wrong. It isn’t the fault of the bank because the bank isn’t required to (even though they clearly are in the best position to) validate the money order before cashing it.

      We have high speed computers with network connectivity these days. Banks need to move away from their ancient mainframes with punch cards and make it so any negotiable financial document can be verified instantly. The way to get them to do that is to set a date (December 21, 2012 comes to mind) after which they are required to eat the entire loss if they cash it. Of course, by then, they would have the politicians they already have on secret payroll to reverse it.

      • spf1971 says:

        How do you plan that they do that? Should the banks call the account owner and ask if they have written a check? Just because the account exists and there is money in it, doesn’t mean the check is legit.

  7. sirwired says:

    Repeat after me: ANY transaction that involves a Western Union transfer is fraudulent. (With the single exception of using it to send cash to a family member abroad.) NO business uses Western Union for anything. When a real business talks about “wiring money” they always talking about an actual wire transfer done at a bank directly between two accounts; not the poorly-secured joke at the grocery store or Wal-Mart.

    • My lawyer made me change my screen name says:

      Not always. I work in accounts recievable management and we use Western Union Quick Collect for the 2% (I just made that number up) of our consumers that need to use it. Some people don’t have checking accounts; or to meet an immediate deadline, they can W/U money instantly. With Quick Collect, it is a flat fee of around $13 or something, no matter if you wire $1 or $1million (well maybe not a milli).

      • sirwired says:

        Shoot… I forgot that W/U (expensviely) did stuff like utility payments, etc. I was referring to the “normal” W/U services, where you send money to a person.

        • FatLynn says:

          I had to wire in a mortgage payment once because my wallet and checkbook were stolen. I think you could more precisely say that nobody wires WU money to an individual in a legitimate business transaction.

  8. Delphinia says:

    Always check out any company first before signing up–there are a number of forums for mystery shoppers to discuss them. No mystery shopping company will ever charge a fee for you to work for them, or ask you to cash a money order of this magnitude. (There are bank shops, but those usually entail making a cash deposit into your own account or something similar in order to rate the teller’s service.) It’s also near impossible to guarantee that you will make $200 a day or any similar claims. Shopper fees range from $10-$20 per shop, and the availability of shops in your area fluctuates. In order to make a decent amount of money for steady work, you would need to sign up with several companies and prove yourself to be a reliable shopper. Mystery shopping is a legitimate job, but it’s not that easy.

  9. Max Headroom says:

    1. Find Mystery shopper suck
    2. Get sucker to accept your terms
    3. ????
    4. PROFIT!!!

  10. kyramidx3 says:

    A couple years ago I was looking for jobs on craigslist; sent a resume out to one, and received a response stating that because I’d be using the company credit card, I would need to complete a credit check, using the provided link. Stupid me, I started to fill it out, and actually submitted part of it before realizing it probably wasn’t the best idea, and clicked out.

    A couple days later, I had a 39.99 charge, plus some random $1 and $2 charges from their affiliates. Had to call my bank, luckily they were able to file a report and get me my money back, but because this “credit check” place had so many affiliates, they had to just freeze my debit card and send me a new one.

    Needless to say, I now only check craigslist for yard sale/for sale listings. I was very lucky.

    • Kate says:

      What someone needs to do is advertise a cool easy job on CragsList then when anyone applies, send them a ‘Why You Don’t Look For Jobs on CraigsList’ FAQ.

      • SmokeyBacon says:

        Actually my company posts legitimate jobs on craigslist all the time. They aren’t great jobs (usually grunt work and heavy lifting type stuff) but they are real jobs. Now the applicants we get – they make me think that posting on craigslist is a bad idea – not a lot of good candidates use craigslist I guess.

    • thomwithanh says:

      I’ve found and was even hired for legitimate jobs on Craigslist.

  11. FreeMarketFan says:

    This is just Darwin thinning the herd a little bit.

    Next time someone from the Philippines tries to con him, he’ll think twice.

    • Delphinia says:

      It would only be “Darwin thinning the herd” if the job killed him before he passed on his genetic material.

  12. Mom says:

    One of my employees, who was new to the U.S. came to me one day. A friend of hers (also a recent immigrant) had been involved in this deal, and she wanted to know if it was legitimate. She then described a classic 419 scam. The friend had already given the guy $300k, his house was mortgaged to the hilt, and his wife was about to leave him. The friend was absolutely sure that the $50 million was going to come any day now, but he was running out of money to feed into the scam. I think how this got to me was he was asking to borrow money from my employee, and she had enough common sense to ask someone before she handed the money over.

    I felt horrible for the friend.

  13. Hoss says:

    What’s worse — getting scammed out of $4 grand, or admitting you got scammed? And who exactly is going to hire this guy?

    • Mom says:

      And this is exactly why companies don’t fess up when they’ve gotten hacked, and a lost 3 million passwords, or whatever.

    • Bagumpity says:

      There’s an entire class of scams that take advantage of just that emotion: Often after getting scammed, you’ll get an email from someone who claims to be close to the original scammer and sick of seeing him victimize people. This person will offer to help the victim get their money back. They just want a small fee… which they want the victim to wire back after the check with the “reimbursement” is deposited.

      And sadly, it works. Read in the paper about some poor fool who fell for not just one, but TWO “get your scammed money back for you” scams recently.

  14. acarr260 says:

    I make my own fraudulent work-from-home scams…. at home.

  15. u1itn0w2day says:

    Didn’t Dateline do a thing where a guy in Nigeria or something was having people in the US order a bunch stuff for them?

  16. tbax929 says:

    I haven’t been a victim of a scam, but it’s certainly not for lack of effort from scammers. It’s sad that people put more effort into ripping people off than they do into making an honest wage. Scammers should all rot in hell.

    • FatLynn says:

      You do realize that most Nigerian scammers have no better options for work?

      • RecordStoreToughGuy_RidesTheWarpOfSpaceIntoTheWombOfNight says:

        You do realize that most Nigerian scammers are actually very well-educated, and could indeed get legitimate work if they wanted to, yet instead decide to prey on the elderly and desperate? Explain, please to the single mother of three that has just sent her life savings to them in the hopes of improving the life of her children that it’s okay, the scammer is only doing it because he has “no other options for work.” I’m sure she’ll understand.

        These scammers are not as bad off as they want you to think. If they were, they couldn’t afford to be scammers. Even sending an e-mail requires them to be able to afford to pay an internet cafe for time. The fact they speak English indicates that they are the recipients of at least a college-equivalent level of education. They are most emphatically NOT poor Africans who have no other recourse. They are scum, plain and simple.

        • gc3160thtuk says you got your humor in my sarcasm and you say you got your sarcasm in my humor says:

          I agree with your points in your post but just needed to advise that Nigeria’s official language is English and while there are over 500 other languages spoken there, a large part of the.population at least knows Pidgin English. Although from personal experience most Nigerians I have met speak English superbly.

          • RecordStoreToughGuy_RidesTheWarpOfSpaceIntoTheWombOfNight says:

            I know. English is a common language in Nigeria, but to speak (or write) it as well as the scammers do requires a bit more education than is available to the actual destitute people they pretend to be. Trust me, these guys have been to school. They’re easily part of Nigeria’s middle class.

      • gc3160thtuk says you got your humor in my sarcasm and you say you got your sarcasm in my humor says:

        How the flying fack is that our problem. That’s like saying someone who grew up poor has no other job options other than robbing banks.

      • Shadowman615 says:

        Even if they don’t have other options for work, that doesn’t excuse preying on others and stealing money from them. They still are scum.

        • FatLynn says:

          I didn’t say that it excused them, I’m just pointing out that an “honest wage” is not necessarily about effort. Nigeria is more or less a failed state, and the desire to earn an “honest wage” doesn’t magically make jobs appear.

          • RecordStoreToughGuy_RidesTheWarpOfSpaceIntoTheWombOfNight says:

            That still buys into the “they can’t help it” mentality that they use to garner sympathy. Scamming is a choice, plain and simple. There is nothing that justifies it. These guys aren’t using the money to put food on the table; they’re using it to buy fancy cars, gold watches, and expensive houses. There are plenty of things these guys could be doing, but they’re not. They keep doing it, even when they raise money that could be put to legitimate enterprises, get out of Nigeria for a better (legal) opportunity elsewhere, or used to improve that failed state. The money they earn goes back into scamming. Even if they do get out of Nigeria, it’s only to facilitate more and better scams.

            There are good, honest Nigerians. Nothing that I’ve written should be taken to mean otherwise. Scammers, however, are not to be counted among them.

  17. My lawyer made me change my screen name says:

    My uncle buys and sells custom guitars. He put 2 up for sale one day and started communications with an interested party. Not sure if they used eBay/craigslist/etc. But payment was to be sent by mail. That week 2 money orders arrive, but not for the $900 agreed, but 2 for $800. The buyer explained in email that his secretary made an error and asked if my uncle can cash both, keep the $900, and return the rest. He was skeptical but took them to the bank. He asked the bank to notify him when the funds clear his account instead of just cashing them. A few days later they said funds were available and he can take his money. He did and the next week was notified he was on the hook for all of the money.
    Shit is pretty ridiculous.

    • AK47 - Now with longer screen name! says:

      I’d really like to see the banks change their method of “clearing” checks and money orders like this. Don’t get me wrong – – it’s still up to the individual to do due diligence so they don’t get scammed.

      But when my bank says a third-party check/MO has cleared and funds are available, then I should be able to use the money without fear of having them come back weeks later and say, “oops! Just kidding.”

      • halo969 says:

        Agreed. I got burned on an ebay deal where I was sent a bad check that my bank said cleared then two weeks later said it didn’t. Buyer already had the goods. Luckily it was a very inexpensive transaction but I never accepted checks again.

  18. Kredal says:

    I know this is preaching to the choir here, but no legitimate mystery shopping company will ever “pre-pay” for a shop. You have to complete it, then send the receipt along with your report in order to get paid.

  19. chickensoup says:

    I’m currently working to receive my 18.7 million from a Nigerian man who recently passed away.

  20. RecordStoreToughGuy_RidesTheWarpOfSpaceIntoTheWombOfNight says: That is all.

  21. Evm says:

    We used to have a process at the Solicitors called “special clearance”. I think we got dinged for a small fee but we used to hand the cheques to the bank cashier asking for Special Clearance on it and they would call the issuing bank the next day and get confirmation that the cheque would clear (the customer had no stop on the cheque, had the funds, and the bank would allocate them there and then to avoid it bouncing later).

    This was the ONLY way that we could know a normal cheque was ok. Otherwise the bank could come back to us two weeks, or even a month to six weeks, later and tell us the issuing bank refused to honour it.

    FYI: This is in the UK but it appears the same is the procedure in the US.

  22. Back to waiting, but I did get a cute dragon ear cuff says:

    Not exactly the same scam, but this is how they try and scam us. I play along for humor and to see how many cards they try. Yes, they are getting better and send me legit cards and CCV numbers. I think I am getting some of the compromised Citibank cards from this person.

    After a few emails, they want to place an order and have me wire the money to the shipping company. So they only get the shipping company quote, $985, out of the deal and I get a chargeback for the whole amount.


    Thank you for the estimate cost of the order excluding the shipping,
    I’ve contact the company shipping agent and I gave him the name of
    your website to look up for the location. The order will be pick up
    when ready at your location. If the order is to be picking up from
    different location, please provide the manufacturing address or dealer
    for pick up.

    I understand you have to charge my credit card details for the order.
    I want you to charge additional $985.00 for the agent to pick up the
    order and other merchandise with them. The shipping agent do not have
    credit card facilities, that’s why I want you to render a favor to me
    in running the credit card for the agent fee.

    1. Order cost: $2431.39
    2. Shipping agent fee & shipping cost: $985.00
    3. Transfer charges plus compensation: $150.00
    Total to run on the credit card(s): $3566.39

    Here are credit card details for the charges. You are authorized to
    charge the below credit card for the amount listed above. I want you
    to run the charges twice on the on card(s) by splitting the total cost
    into two and run it twice. ($1783.19 x 2).

  23. mik3y says:

    Wasn’t there a blog or web site that had people going along with the nigerian scams long enough to get the scammers to take pictures of themsleves with hand written signs?

  24. nacoran says:

    Ric Romero for the win!

  25. nakago71 says:

    I’m sorry if someone explained this earlier, but I didn’t see it. If someone wants you to deposit multiple money orders/checks, then send an amount back, why not wait a full week to see if they clear (and not just in a half-assed, your bank said sure, why not)? If people make noise about it, then they a. are scammers, or b. are a legit business that shouldn’t have f’ed up in the first place and need to wait. It sounds like 3 days aren’t enough to see if these deposits really clear – would 5 suffice or does it take more time?
    Once again, sorry if this is very ignorant – I’ve never run an online business and just want to understand better how these scams work.

    • Evm says:

      A week is not long enough. It can be at least two weeks, even up to a month or more if the bank are slow or the transaction gets held up somewhere.

  26. thomwithanh says:

    I had an unrelated but similar experience when I tried to sell my car last year. The day my craigslist ad went up I got an e-mail response offering me my asking price, sight unseen. The buyer was going to send me a money order and then send an “agent” to come pick up the car and deliver it to him across the country.

    It just didn’t seem right and after a google search I discovered it was none other than a counterfeit money order scam.