More on Secret Shopper Scams

For a listing of legitimate Secret Shopper companies, go to http://www.mysteryshop.org/

We have spoken with representatives at both Western Union and Money Gram. Money Gram does NOT use Secret Shoppers as a normal business practice. Western Union does use Secret Shoppers, but the shoppers are NEVER paid by cashier’s check or money order. If you have been contacted to shop Western Union or Money Gram, and it involves you receiving a cashier’s check or money order, IT IS A SCAM.

Often, the email address used by the representative of the company “hiring” you will be coming from a generic email address, and not one associated with that company. For further assurance, search out that company on your own and contact them for verification.

Shawn Mosch
Co-Founder of ScamVictimsUnited.com
There is strength in numbers!

Find us on Twitter, Facebook and more through
http://www.retaggr.com/page/ShawnMosch

Secret Shopper Scams

Many news reports are referring to this as the “newest” scam variation, but we have been seeing reports of these scams on our message board since 2005. The job description can be Secret Shopper, Mystery Shopper or Customer Service Evaluator, but it is all the same scam.The scammer will either place an ad in a legitimate classified listing, online or in print, or they will collect their victim’s names and email addresses off of resumes posted online. Some of them are even making “copy cat” websites of legitimate Secret Shopper companies to use in their scam to help convince the victim that this is all legitimate. For a listing of legitimate Secret Shopper companies, go to http://www.mysteryshop.org/

The victim will be told that they have been hired as a Secret Shopper and will be sent a cashier’s check or money order to cash and use on their assignments. One of the assignments is to review the service at a Western Union or Money Gram location. They are given a name and address to wire money to, from the check that was sent to them, and told to fill out an evaluation form on the service received and email or fax that back to the company they are working for. Everything seems fine, and some victims may even complete a few “assignments” before the check is discovered to be counterfeit. On average, it takes about 10 business days for the bank to realize that the check is counterfeit, but we have seen some cases where it has taken over 6 months. Once the bank dose find that the check is counterfeit, they will contact you demanding the return of the money and deduct the full amount of the check from your bank account. This sometimes leaves the victims with negative bank accounts.For more information on the check clearing process and the banking terms, please read http://scamvictimsunited.blogspot.com/2009/08/banking-terms-not-as-clear-as-they.html

Shawn Mosch
Co-Founder of ScamVictimsUnited.com
There is strength in numbers!

Find us on Twitter, Facebook and more through
http://www.retaggr.com/page/ShawnMosch

Looking for Victims

I am working with a consumer advocacy group and they are looking for recent victims who are willing to talk to the press and have compelling stories to tell – people who lost money, especially in the lottery/sweepstakes, grants, and work-at-home variations of fake check scams.

This could turn into somethng VERY big that would help MANY others from becoming scam victims.

Would you be willing to speak with them?   If so, contact me and I would be more than happy to share more details on this with you.

Chris Hanson and Dateline take on Secret Shopper and Work at Home Scams

I have only watched a portion of this segment, but I had to post it right away.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/30070044#30070115

Internet Crime On The Rise

The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) released it’s 2008 Internet Crime Report today.  You can view report in full by going to http://www.fbi.gov/page2/march09/internet_033009.html

There was a 33% increase in complaints in 2008 over 2007, with an increase of $25 million lost.  Just think, if more could have been done to educate people about scams and warn them before they became victims, that is money that those people would still have in their pockets.

With the economy in the state that it is, we need to do EVERYTHING we can to protect the money that we have.  One way to do that would be to increase scam awareness with signs in the post offices, banks, Western Union and MoneyGram locations.  PSA would also do a lot to get the word out to the masses.

Do Not Engage Mystery Shopper Scammers

Recent article on scams

I recently read an article on scams . . . It’s a new year, but the same old scams . . . which can be found here, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/28435684/

I totally agree with the author, Herb Weisbaum, that scams will continue to hurt the American financial situation in 2009.  With so many people being laid-off or working harder to just get by, when the check comes in the mail and you are told you have won the lottery, or have been accepted for a new position with an overseas company, sometimes the red flags don’t go up quite as fast as they should.

The work-at-home and secret shopper scams are the ones that I believe will have the largest increase in them.  So many people are out there now a days looking for some way to make some extra money.  If there are no companies that are hiring in your area, the next best thing sounds like a work-at-home job where you can sit in pj’s and work on your own time from your computer and make money.  If only it were that easy.

And the secret shopper scams are growing too.  The one I see the most is the one that says you are being hired to evaluate a money wiring service, such as Western Union or Money Gram.  The company that you are working for will send you a check for you to cash . . . you will need to have cash to wire if you are going to evaluate their customer service skills, right . . . so it makes sense in that respect.  People have said that they are given forms that look legitimate to fill out and review the services.  It is not until you have wired the money and are waiting for your next assignment that you will find out that the check that you cashed to get the money to wire is counterfeit, and then the bank will hold you liable for the entire amount.  Now, a person who was already tight on money and looking for extra work to try and make ends meet is really in trouble because they could be out thousands of dollars.

There needs to be a raised awareness about these scams, or 2009 will be an even harder year for the people who fall victim to the scammers trap.

Secret Shopper Scams and Re-Victimization Scams on the rise.

For Immediate Release
 
The current economic situation is causing a strain on many people, and scammers are cashing in on it.  There has been an increase in Secret Shopper Scams and Re-Victimization Scams in recent months. 
 
Unsuspecting people answer ads placed online for Secret Shoppers or Mystery Shoppers, thinking that this will be a great way for them to earn some extra income to help make ends meet.  They are sent official looking letters and forms, and instructed that they will be sent a Cashier’s Check or Money Order by the company that they are working for, and they will use that money in their Secret Shopping Assignments.  The check arrives, they bring it to the bank and soon they are told that the check has cleared, so they proceed forward with their given assignments.  Usually, they are told to go to several different Western Union, Money Gram, or other money wiring locations.  Once they have wired the money they fill out an evaluation of the customer service at the location, and send it in and wait for their next assignment.
 
The problem comes in about a week, when their bank contacts them to let them know that the check was counterfeit.  The bank then deducts the amount of the check, sometimes for several thousands of dollars, from their bank account.  This leaves the person that was already feeling the strain of the current economic situation in an even tighter spot.  There are some people who end up with negative bank accounts.
 
The other scam on the rise is the Re-Victimization scam, in which the scammer sends a letter saying that they are working with a very official sounding agency, like The Fraud Alert Investigation Agency (FAIA) of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.  They explain that they are assisting scam victims in recovering the money that they have lost.  Many of the emails and letters will even claim that they are working in efforts with agencies like the Internet Crime Complaint Center, the National White Collar Crime Center, the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and most recently our own site, ScamVictimsUnited.com, has been included on this list.  Scam victims who are desperate to try to recover any of the money that they have lost may contact these people.  They may as for lawyers fees to be paid to recover the money, or ask for the victims’s bank account information so that they can deposit the recovered money directly.  Both of these are ploys to deceive the victim and drain them of even more money.
 
To protect yourself from these scams, do not accept any jobs posted online where you do not interview with someone in person before acquiring the job, and do not reply to any emails in which someone tells you that they can help you to recover lost money.  Another good safety procedure it to do a search on the name of the person who contacts you, the company that they are claiming to be with, their phone number or email address.
 
Shawn Mosch
Co-Founder of ScamVictimsUnited.com

Check out our blog at
http://scamvictimsunited.wordpress.com
There is strength in numbers!

Scams and the Holiday Season

I saw this article today, http://www.kpcnews.com/articles/2008/11/30/features/columnists/cindy_bevington/hid116445sect_a85973188b5d8586bf.txt

and I just wanted to say that it is so sad that every year at this time we seem to see a rise in the number of people who become victims of scams.  People are looking for ways to make a few extra dollars so that they can have a happy hoilday season.  Many of them decide to sell something they own to bring in the extra cash . . . and then the scammers come along and the next thing they know they are even MORE strapped for money!  I wish I could just tell the scammers to give us all a break and take a couple of months off of work and let people just enjoy the holidays.

Secret Shopper Scams

I have talked to a lot of people over the years that have become victims of this scam, and I recently had a brush with it personally. 

I have been looking for a new job, so my information is out there on a lot of the resume posting sites, and I am guessing that is where the scammers found me.  I got a letter in the mail, along with a check for $500.  Basically, the letter told me that I had gotten a position as a secret shopper/customer service evaluator.  I was to take the check enclosed and cash it, keep $100 for my payment for the work I am doing, and then take the rest of the money and go to a Money Gram location and wire it to Ontario, Canada.  After that, I was to fill out the survey questions and fax that in to show that I have completed my assignment.

Obviously I did not do any of this.  Because I have heard of this scam, and worked with victims of it at ScamVictimsUnited.com I knew that the check was counterfeit, and if I did cash it and wire the money off, in a few days the bank would come back to me looking for me to refund the money.

With times being tough right now, and the holidays just around the corner, I could see how some people would fall for this even though all of the warning signs are there . . . a letter from a company I have never heard of before, a check that I did not know was coming to me, the letterhead says the company is in New York, the check is from a bank in Minnesota and the postmark on the letter is from Canada, I am supposed to complete the entire thing in 48 hours (they always want you to work fast so that you wire off the money before you have time to realize the check is fake).

I even went as far as to google the name of the company on the letterhead, and it turns out that they are aware of this scam and they have posted a warning on thier website.  http://surveyclub.com/e/ScamAlert.aspx

Be careful!

Secret Shopper Scam Letter

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