Secret Shopper Scam Arrests in Canada

Two operators of an alleged counterfeit cashier’s check scam have been arrested in Canada. This secret shopper scam has cheated potential mystery shoppers out of hundreds or even thousands of dollars each. Variations of the scam have involved lotteries, eBay and CraigsList purchases and other scenarios, but the mystery shopper angle has gotten a lot of attention lately.

These scams involve sending checks to potential mystery shoppers, often people who have posted their resumes on online job sites. The scammers try to look legitimate by using the logos of respected companies, such as Western Union, WalMart, Starbucks, and many others in the letter that accompanies the bogus check. Many times, the scammers use the name of a real mystery shopping company although, obviously, they are not connected to a legitimate company at all.

Christopher Nduka and Alicia Obermuller of Brampton, Ontario, operated an alleged counterfeit check scam out of their home by mailing letters to U.S. residents stating they had won a lottery or were selected to be a secret shopper. The recipients were instructed to deposit enclosed checks and wire a portion of the funds back to the operators of the alleged scam. However, after the victims deposited the counterfeit checks and sent the funds, the checks bounced and victims lost their money. It is estimated that hundreds of U.S. residents have fallen victim to this alleged scam, and have been bilked at least $150,000 in total to date.

Nduka and Obermuller were arrested this week after officers found shredded copies of the “Secret Shopper” solicitation letters in their home. A check printer and blank check stock were also found. The two accused have been allegedly operating fraudulent schemes such as “The Advance Fee Lottery” and “The Secret Shoppers” since January 2005.

Variations of the scam involve overpaying for an item purchased on eBay or CraigsList, then asking the victim to wire the amount of the overpayment as a refund, or claiming that the person has won a lottery and has to pay taxes or other fees before their winnings can be released.

Although these arrests are good news, this scam is not likely to go away any time soon. Be alert. If you have any doubts about what you are asked to do, do not call the phone numbers on the letter or the check. Those numbers will generally connect you to the scammer. Do an internet search for the bank on which the check is drawn and call them. Better yet, if you receive an offer involving cashing a check and wiring money, do not do it. Destroy the check or notify local law enforcement.

Comments

  1. janique says:

    I got a check in the mail for 1810.53 but I went to the bank and tried to cash it not knowing there were any scams out there…and the bank took all of my money, so in other words I lost all of my money what should I do now?

    • You can file a police report, but don’t count on getting any of your money back. Once you wire it to the scammers, it is gone.

      Sorry this happened to you.

  2. I received a check in the mail and I am very thankful now that THE ONLY way I bank is through a PREPAID debt card. The place I cash checks could not get there check reader machines to read the check so they would not cash it. OH I SO THANK YOU PREPAID CARD FOR BEING MY FRIEND

  3. i have emailed a secretshopper company with info in regards to a check i recieved in mail along with directions how to do the shop,i recieved a really wierd text last nite and have been recieving numerous amounts of phone calls different numbers ofcoarse prior to getting the check i recieved a text at 330am asking how i was doing….i replied who is this got no reply2 days later i recieved a test asking if i got the payment by fed ex yet not even 10 min later i opend my front door and it was there on the doorstep.Im not sure if its a coincident but i also replied to an ad on craigslist for tile work and was emailed back about being a personal assis. to recieve checks cash them wire money to bank account go shopping keep items i shop for….am i being targeted by these people how can all that happen ??

    • There is probably not any connection among the text, the phone calls and the check, but there might be.

      The check came because you responded to the CraigsList ad. It is a scam. Ignore them.

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