Scammers Send Credit Cards Instead of Checks

credit-card-scamI have written more times than I can count about the mystery shopper scam where scammers send fake checks to people who believe they have been selected as mystery shoppers. The victims are told to cash the checks, evaluate local businesses, then wire money to other “shoppers” or back to the scammer. Some time later, the victim discovers that the check they deposited was fraudulent and the bank expects them to return any money they received from the bad check. Individual victims have lost thousands of dollars to these scams, and the total stolen is in the millions.

Now there is a new twist on this scam. A Georgia woman received a package that included several credit cards. She was instructed to use the cards to make purchases at WalMart, Target, Home Depot and the Apple store, then ship her purchases to an address on the west coast.
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8 Lies Mystery Shop Scammers Love to Tell

scammers-lieScammers lie. It’s what they do. Anyone who is willing to steal thousands of dollars from you has no problem telling a couple of lies.

Honest people tend to take what scammers say at face value. They believe them, because as honest people their first instinct isn’t to lie and cheat people. To protect yourself from scammers, you have to understand that everyone doesn’t think and act as you do, and you cannot assume that random strangers on the Internet are honest and have your best interests at heart.

Here are eight lies that mystery shop scammers tell:

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The FBI Says to Do Your Mystery Shop

fbi-agentA shopper called me recently and said she had been doing some mystery shops, but one of the assignments she received looked fishy. Well, if it looks like a fish and it smells like a fish, it is probably fishy.

This shopper (who asked that her name not be used) had received a check to do a mystery shop. She deposited the check and the money was in her account ready to be withdrawn and wired off, but she was having a bad feeling about it. She called to ask what I thought. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know what I told her: SCAM! Don’t wire the money, and let your bank know ASAP that you were the victim of an attempted scam. (Letting them know that you deposited a forged check that you thought was legitimate is better than letting them find out the check was fraudulent on their own.)

Because she was getting suspicious, she had been asking the scammer some questions. Shortly after, she got the email below:

US Fraud Unit <mail@fbi.gov> wrote:

FBI

Hello [shopper name removed],

We got a report just now from The Premier Mystery Shopping Company about your assignment.

We were told that certain questions were asked regarding the evalution program and the legitimacy of the company.

The Premier Mystery Shopping Company(Royal Care Customer Service Evaluation Team) is a registered and legal company under the United States government and we are also aware of the company’s ongoing secret shopper program. We have investigated this program and we have seen that it is legit and legal.

Please we will advice you to please carry out this assignment as soon as possible so you and the company can proceed with other assignment(s). We will not like to receive a report again regarding this issue.

Thanks.

*PLEASE DO NOT REPLY TO THIS MESSAGE*

==============================

Oh, geez, where do I begin with this?

Okay, I love the FBI logo in the email. That proves that it really came from the FBI. (Not.) And the email address: mail@fbi.gov. Uh, no. You can put any address is the return address or reply to fields. That means nothing. I also like the bit at the bottom about not replying to the email.

The entire email has a threatening tone to it.

  • We were told that certain questions were asked regarding the evalution program and the legitimacy of the company.  (How dare you ask questions!)
  • Please we will advice you to please carry out this assignment as soon as possible so you and the company can proceed with other assignment(s).
  • We will not like to receive a report again regarding this issue.  (And what happens if you do?)

By the way, I hope that the employees of the FBI have better spelling and grammar skills than the moron who wrote this fake email.

And how about this: We have investigated this program and we have seen that it is legit and legal. Really? The FBI goes around investigating every U.S. company to make sure they are “legit and legal,” then sends out emails to every person who asks a question about the company. Your tax dollars at work. Not happening.

When a scammer threatens you with arrest or legal action, do not take it seriously. It is not against the law to refuse to be scammed by immoral, illiterate jackasses.

Ignore the scammers and refuse to fall for their tricks or be intimated by their threats.

Is This Any Way to Get a Mystery Shopper Job?

stupid-walmart-crookA lot of odd news stories involve Wal-Mart or Florida. This one has both, with mystery shopping as the cherry on top.

Last Sunday, a man walked into the Wal-Mart in Delray Beach, Florida, stole some clothes and put them on over his own clothes, then headed to the manager’s office. He grabbed a trash bag and started putting electronics and other items into the bag.

Because Wal-Mart is not down with the whole shoplifting thing, they called the police. When they searched him the police discovered that, in addition to the items in the trash bag, the man had a loaded gun and a variety of drugs, including heroin.

The best part? This guy told police that he was in the manager’s office looking for a job application, because he wanted to be a mystery shopper, “because it seems like a cool job.” Well, yeah, if mystery shoppers could just take anything they want from a store, that would be a super-cool job.

For some reason, his explanation was not accepted by the police, and Alexander Weigard (age 20) is now a guest of the Palm Beach County Jail.

Does Western Union Get Mystery Shopped?

western-union-mystery-shopBy now you have probably seen the infamous check scam that tries to pass itself off as a mystery shopping opportunity. You know how it works: cash a large check, shop at WalMart or some other major retailer, keep a few hundred dollars for yourself, then wire the bulk of the check amount to someone via Western Union or another service.

The scam? The checks are bogus. Although banks are legally required to release funds within a few days, the fact that the check is a fake may not be known for weeks. The victim believes that the check is valid (or why would the bank have given them the money?), they send the money off and later learn that the check bounced and they are responsible for repaying the money from the check to the bank.

There are, however, legitimate mystery shops involving Western Union. Here is how to tell if a shop opportunity you received is legitimate or a scam.
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Where to Report Mystery Shopper Scams

The fake cashier’s check scam has been around for a long time (well before the Internet) and it continues to ensnare new victims every day. The scammers send one or more checks or money orders to the victim, ask them to cash them, keep some of the money, then wire the rest to someone. The latest twist is that instead of wiring the money, victims are asked to buy pre-paid MoneyPak cards and send the PINs to the scammer. That is just a minor variation on a long-running scam.

This is not just a “mystery shopper scam.” Yes, the mystery shopper scam works this way, but this scam has been run on eBay, CraigsList, and in other marketplaces, as well as in direct dealings with victims, such as this law firm.Continue Reading

The Green Dot MoneyPak Mystery Shop Scam

The scammers continue to come up with new angles for scams. One that is becoming more popular is a variation on the fake check scam. Instead of wiring the money to the scammer via MoneyGram or Western Union, the bad guys have their victims purchase Green Dot MoneyPak Cards or other pre-paid cards and send the PIN numbers to the scammers. Here is how it works:
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Another Mystery Shopper Scam Email

Most mystery shopper scam emails are pretty easy to spot. They are full of errors. They come from free email addresses (e.g., Hotmail, Gmail, etc.) instead of emails using the company’s domain name (e.g., steve@mysteryshoppingcompany.com). They ask you to respond to the email with all of your personal information instead of filling out an application at their website.

Then along comes a scammer who is just a little more sophisticated. Someone who understands how email and websites work won’t fall for this, but lots of people don’t even look. Here is a scam email I got recently that looks sort of legit. Someone who wanted to believe that it was real and didn’t look closely could easily fall for it. This is from the email:Continue Reading

Is This a Legitimate Mystery Shopping Company?

One of the common signs of a scam email is that the scammer uses a free email service, such as Gmail, Yahoo or Hotmail. But maybe the scammers are getting smarter.

A shopper recently emailed about an “offer” she received via email. Based on her description, it sounded like a scam to me, but she said that the company name matched the email. They even had a website. But something had her worried. Turns out, she was right to worry.

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Celebrate Safer Internet Day

February 11 is Safer Internet Day, but adopting a few simple practices can make every day Safer Internet Day.

Being safer on the Internet includes avoiding scams and keeping your data safe and secure when online. This article gives you some simple ways to stay safer.Continue Reading