Stratford police are reminding residents to be on the watch after a local couple fell victim recently to the “mystery shopper” scam and was defrauded several thousand dollars.
How these scams work
The scam artist sends a letter, email solicitation or places an ad in a newspaper or on an electronic message board describing a paid, stay-at-home position in which the consumer will evaluate customer service at large retail stores—businesses with familiar names. In reality, these stores have no affiliation with the scam artist placing the ad.
After responding to the ad, the consumer receives an “employment packet” containing a training assignment, a list of products to purchase at different stores and a realistic-looking cashier’s check, often for $2,000 to $4,000.
The “training assignment” is to deposit the check into the consumer’s bank account, pose as a shopper and then use wire transfer to send the balance of the check’s proceeds (minus the cost of the purchases and the consumer’s “salary”) to an address.
The problem is that the check is fake; so when it bounces—which occurs after the money is wired—the consumer is accountable to the bank for the entire amount of the fake check, plus additional penalty fees.
Also, in some instances, consumers are asked for personal bank account information. The company will then “deposit” money into their account for payment and funds with which to perform their secret shopper tasks. These consumers often then become victims of identity theft.
How to protect yourself
Don’t open or respond to unsolicited e
mails asking you to become a mystery shopper or secret shopper.
Never deposit a check you receive in the mail from a “mystery shopping” company. No legitimate business will pay in advance and ask you to send back a portion of the money.
If you have posted your resume to an online job site, verify with the site any job solicitations you receive.
Don’t click on or respond to online ads or websites offering free gift cards.
Remember, if it sounds too good to believe, it is.