Your BBB® was recently contacted by a consumer regarding a check she received in the mail. The information she provided to us regarding the check indicated that it was most likely a scam. We wanted to let everyone know about this consumer’s experience so that if you come across something similar, you can hopefully avoid it. Here’s what we learned:
The consumer informed us that she had been looking for an opportunity online and got a text message from a “Kate” indicating that she would receive a packet with her first assignment the next day via priority mail. Sure enough, the next day, a package came that contained a check and her type written “assignment.”
The letter told the consumer that she was to deposit or cash the $2,350 check she received and “withdraw the funds immediately or the next morning.” $300 was to be kept as her “commission.” She was further instructed to go to Walmart and purchase something for $50, and then buy $2,000 worth of Walmart gift cards for no more than $500 each.
After she bought the gift cards, she was supposed to scratch off the security code on the back and take pictures of both the front and the back of the gift card and email the pictures to the gmail account in the letter.
Unfortunately, the above situation and situations similar to it, continue to make the rounds among unsuspecting consumers costing not only time, but their hard-earned money.
BBB would like to remind you that if you receive a check in the mail from someone you don’t know, use caution. Do your homework and research the company or person it is coming from online. You may even choose to use the word “scam” in your search to see if others are reporting similar experiences.
If you are asked to cash a check you receive and immediately wire money or buy gift cards or other monetary cards, this is a red flag that could indicate that the offer isn’t sincere. Checks can take weeks to clear and, as is often the case with similar offers, you may not learn of a bounce until long after you’ve already used the funds to complete the “assignment” or task you were given. If or when the check bounces at the bank, you are on the hook for all the money the bank gave you as well as any potential fees that may result.
And in this case, if you were to buy the gift cards, as requested, and scratch off the security code, you are giving the person on the other end of the text or email easy access to use that card online; therefore, there is a good chance those same cards are emptied almost immediately making it impossible to recoup those funds.
If you are looking to find sincere offers for mystery/secret shopping jobs, remember:
-Research mystery/secret shopping. Check your local library or bookstore as well as online for tips on how to find companies hiring mystery/secret shoppers.
-Search the internet for reviews and comments about the companies that are accepting applications online. And don’t forget to check them out with BBB!
-Ignore claims that you will make big profits easily as mystery shopping usually only at best provides part-time income.
-Never wire money as part of a mystery/secret shopping assignment. According to the Mystery Shopping Providers Association, you will never be required to cash a check or deposit money before completing a shop. You can see the mystery shopping scams that have been reported to them here.
If you’ve experienced a mystery/secret shopping scam, please report it to bbb.org/scamtracker as well as the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov/complaint.