Secret Shoppers Mailer Has Alarms Going Off All Over

A reader raised alarm bells about a mailer they received. They said they knew of an elderly person who already lost $6,000 from this scheme.

The typical way the con works is the consumer receives a check that looks legitimate. They deposit the check and have to quickly transfer funds to someone else. By the time the check bounces the funds are gone and the consumer is responsible for reimbursing the bank for refunding the provisional credit their bank gave when the check was deposited.

The check looks legit enough.

Keep in mind that while this says it is a Cashier’s Check drawn on First National Bank in Fremont, Nebraska, it is really nothing more than a printed piece of paper.

A Cashier’s check is not a trusted form of payment. They can be easily forged.

The mailer the consumer received appears to have been crafted from someone who does not have a good grip on the local language. The phrase “Esteemed Secret Shopper” or “except you so wish” are not common expressions.

The mailer is full of other inconsistencies that should raise red flags for everyone.

The offer says to deposit the check and then keep $280 from the check for the secret shopping chore. It then says if the survey is finished within 24-hours the lucky consumer will receive a $100 bonus and get $3,870 instead of $280. Apparently, math is not a strong skill of the sender as well.

The instructions say the recipient should send $700 to a Clark Ramussen and $900 to Samson Stebbins.

This scam is a favorite and people fall for it all the time. The Federal Trade Commission recently warned, “You get a check in the mail with a job offer as a secret shopper. You deposit the check and see the funds in your account a few days later, and the bank even tells you the check has cleared.

Now you’re off to the store you’ve been asked to shop at and report back on, often a Walmart. Your first assignment is to test the in-store money transfer service, like Western Union or MoneyGram, by sending some of the money you deposited. Or you might be told to use the money to buy reloadable cards or gift cards, such as iTunes cards. You’re instructed to send pictures of the cards or to give the numbers on the cards.

Fast forward days or weeks to the unhappy ending. The bank finds out the check you deposited is a fake, which means you’re on the hook for all that money. How does that even happen? Well, banks must make funds from deposited checks available within days, but uncovering a fake check can take weeks. By the time you try to get the money back from the money transfer service, the scammers are long gone, and they’ve taken all the money off the gift cards, too. (By the way, money orders and cashier’s checks can be faked, too.)”

One woman who fell for the scam even wound up in jail.

Steve Rhode
Get Out of Debt GuyTwitter, G+, Facebook

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This article by Steve Rhode first appeared on Get Out of Debt Guy and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.