Have you received a letter or email asking you to be a “mystery shopper?” Maybe you are a legitmiate mystery shopper and have received this “assignment.” An assignment or job that appears too good to be true and that involves check cashing may just be a scam. Find our more about this particular scam, how to identify it and what to do if you have been a victim.
With the economy being what it is, as well as the holiday season taking a big bite out of our wallets, many people I know are looking for legitimate ways to make a little something extra. One job that is discussed quite often is that of being a “mystery shopper.”
Mystery shoppers are people who are hired by companies to do a little research project. They may go get their oil changed, get an eye exam and purchase glasses or just go shopping in a specified section of a department store. There are legitimate companies that hire people to perform this research which includes completing the assigned tasks and turning in a report. Compensation varies as you may get paid for gas, time or reimbursed for expenses, each assignment and company is different.
However, mystery shopper programs, like many work from home programs, encounter a high number of scams and hoaxes that people get involved in thinking it is part of the legitimate mystery shopper programs. One such scam is the “check cashing” scam offered to many mystery shoppers in particular, but also sent to just about anyone who has an address or email address.
In this particular scam, targeting those interested in doing some mystery shopping, you may receive an email or letter requesting you to receive a cashier’s check that you are to cash at a local bank and then use a wire transfer service to send the money to a designated location. In return for your services, you are able to keep several hundred dollars from the cashed check, with the remainder to be sent via wire services.
However, what you may not know is that this is not a real mystery shopper job. You are not really evaluating the wire transfer services, but are actually cashing a fraudulent check, which ultimately bounces and leaves you left holding the bag – and stuck with the bill. Now your “job” is to repay those funds that you obtained by cashing the check.
Fake funds may arrive in many different forms:
Remember just about anyone can print a legitimate looking document with the right software, paper and printing tools.
Another version of this scam is to request you cash the check, purchase an item and then send the item to an address. You are able to keep the remaining funds as your commission. In the end, you have no item to return (to even try to get some of the funds back) and you still own the money to the bank.
The offer that you receive may be very convincing, right down to the copy of a legitimate lettered from a mystery shopping service like CRI (Corporate Research International) or they may claim to contact you through job search services like Career Builder. However, there are several ways you can tell that this is a scam. First, look at the wording, grammar and punctuation. You may receive a message similar to this one, (Mistakes are in Capitals to point them out)
If you are intrested (MISPELLED) in getting the (A) job in our company please reply (TO) this email. We looked through your skills and (GRAMMAR AND SYNTAX) became sure that you correspond to our requirements.
Job scheme (REQUIREMENTS) will (NOT NEEDED) comprise the following:
1. You (WILL) receive payments from our customers (By checks, Money orders e.t.c)(NO PERIODS)
2. Than (THEN) you (INSERT WILL) fill (OUT or better yet COMPLETE) forms with details of received payments in your Internet Office.
3. Transfer money to our main office by requested methods.
Your earning will be 8 (NO SPACE) % of the amount of each completed payment please answer this message with your Ð¡ontact Infomation and Attach your Resume to e-mail.(MISPELLED WORDS AND PUNCTUATION)
One of the best ways to tell if the offer is a scam is to look at these kinds of details.
“This is an ongoing problem that seems to be on the rise again,” said Mike Mallett, CEO of CRI. “Law enforcement is obviously involved on a large scale, but we want to do our part in making consumers aware of these scams.” “There are many legitimate mystery shopping firms offering valuable services,” said Mallett. “But consumers need to be cautious. I tell people that they should never pay to become a mystery shopper and any offer that looks too good to be true is probably a scam.”
What should you do if you have been a victim of the check cashing scam?
Unfortunately, you are responsible for the funds. You will have to pay them back to the financial institution that cashed the check. The most important thing for you to do is to report the fraud to these agencies:
â€¢ Contact The Federal Trade Commission for the complaint form or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).
â€¢ Contact the U.S. Postal Inspection Service or call your local post office. The number is in the Blue Pages of your local telephone directory.
â€¢ Report to state or local consumer protection agencies – see this page for a list of state Attorneys Generals.
Show the reports to the financial institution and discuss with them their policies and procedures for repayment options.
These types of scams carry with them some major consequences, not only the repayment of the funds but they are also federal crimes against the postal service and federal banking institutions. Additional penalties may be involved including criminal charges, prison and fines. It is important to avoid these scams and to report them.
Looking for a legitimate work from home position as a mystery shopper? Consider Corporate Research International http://www.mysteryshops.com/ and
Mystery Guest Inc. http://www.mysteryguestinc.com/contact.asp