Scams and the Holidays

Thanksgiving is just over a week away, and it is time to start thinking about the Holiday Season. We at Scam Victims United usually see an increase in the number of scam victims during this time of year. Many people are looking for a way to make some extra money to pay for the gifts that they want to give to family and friends, so they may sell something they own at an online classified ad site, like Craigslist, or they may look for an extra part-time job. It is because of this need for the extra money to get through the Holidays that some people may let their guard down and become more vulnerable to online scams.

Common online scams include the overpayment scams, in the form of counterfeit cashier’s checks and money orders, or work at home job offers such as the Secret Shopper Scam. Let’s review the signs of both.

Counterfeit Cashier’s check or Money Order Scam

You are selling an item over the Internet – it could be a used car or motorcycle, jewelry or even bred animals. You receive an email offer to purchase your item and the buyer says he’ll send a bank cashier’s check. The buyer is from Nigeria or “West Africa”, but has a business associate in the United States who will send you the cashier’s check. Then you are told that for some reason the check was already made out to you for an amount larger than your asking price. The buyer asks you to please deposit the check, wait for it to clear, and then send him the difference — “but only after the cashier’s check clears, of course.”

You are skeptical – but, sure enough, the bank cashier’s check arrives by Fed Ex, it looks real, your bank accepts the check, and the bank assures you the funds are in fact available. So you wait the time the bank recommends to verify that the check is clear and then you wire the difference to your buyer in Nigeria and prepare to ship your item.

A week later your bank calls: “We’re very sorry, but the cashier’s check was counterfeit” — a superb copy, but worthless. Your account is frozen. You must pay the bank back the entire amount of the cashier’s check. You may even be considered a fraud suspect yourself.

Secret Shopper 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

Support Scam Victims United by shopping at http://shopittous.blogspot.com/

 

Another scam victim arrested

A while back I told you about a scam victim who was arrested. Stories like these always frustrate me because as a former scam victim I know the hurt and pain that you go through when you find out that you have been scammed, but these victims have that feeling plus more because they now have been arrested. They do not just face the financial recovery process that people like myself went through, but they also have to hire a lawyer to prove that they are the victim in the case and not the criminal. What happened to innocent until proven guilty?

This victim was also responding to a Secret Shopper ad.

Here is the story of this latest scam victim in her own words . . .

I responded with all the requested information the next day. Shortly after I responded to this email I was asked by a local company to come into their office for an interview. I did and became very hopeful that I would get the job. I totally forgot about even responding to the Mystery Shopper email and wasn’t really expecting to hear anything from them. I few days later I received 2 Money Gram money orders @ $998.00 each sent to me via Fed Ex overnight mail. No other documents were inside. I couldn’t figure out where these came from and was not even thinking about that one email response I sent for the Mystery Shopper position. I had read an email in my AOL inbox a week or two before that I was a part of a class action lawsuit against AOL for some “footer” issue. I assumed these checks may have been a result of the class action suit since I had 2 screen names with AOL. I attempted to call Money Gram and went online and could not get any information regarding the tracking numbers on them. NO ONE EVER EVEN MENTIONED POSSIBLE FRAUD. When I went to the Money Gram station at the local Lucky store (in the town I have lived for 34 years and am now raising my 13 year old son) to cash these money orders I was arrested immediately. I was frisked, my car searched my purse emptied all in front of the Lucky store here in the quaint little community where most people know everyone. The 3 responding officers were absolutely sure that I was some check fraud “ring leader!” They would ask me where the money orders came from, I would answer telling them that they were sent via UPS next day air but I was unsure by who. Then I was told to shut up and stop lying. One officer told me “you and I both know no one sent these to you. You made these yourself” I was then “escorted” to Alameda County Jail where I remained for the next 10 hours until my $10,000.00 bail bond (for check fraud) was processed.

Once released from jail I made it my mission to catch this dirty rotten scum bag who was responsible for what I had been through. So…..I responded to an email that he had sent to me (which I didn’t even open until about 2 days after I was released from jail) indicating that he sent the package and instructions and he needs me to follow through with this task immediately (of sending his payment via Western Union) I played along with this guy to try to obtain as much information as I could. I advised him that the money orders were cashed and to please call me as I was a bit confused about something regarding his instructions. He called, about every other minute from that moment through the next 4 days. Once even forgetting to *67 therefore I was able to obtain his NIGERIAN telephone number. He even went so far as to send me text messages!!! He thought I had his money and he wanted it. I recorded our phone conversation on my MAC I MOVIE. I tracked down the gentleman whose email address they had hacked and were using to send the initial correspondence. He lived in S. Africa and was the administrator of a fishing forum. I explained to him my situation and advised him to contact the FBI before they contacted him as I had already given them his email information on my FBI report of this incident. He was grateful that I had taken so much of my time to track him down and explain this situation to him so that he could cancel his email address they were using before they had sent any further damaging money orders out to innocent people. I thought that since the local police didn’t really care about catching these losers that I would!!

I have since retained a very good lawyer. We have met with the DA who still is unsure whether he plans to file charges against me or not. I appeared in court last week and at that time there were no charges filed yet BUT THE CASE WAS NOT DROPPED EITHER!!! I go back to court November 5th.

Ever since this happened I cannot STOP talking about it. It helps for me to get past the anger. Initially, I was consumed by researching scammers, trying to catch this guy and others like him. Then I realized that law enforcement officials are inexperienced and unequipped to handle situations like mine. They are not interested in catching the people responsible and therefore I needed to direct my ager somewhere else and for that reason, I would love to tell my story in hopes to make people aware of these scammers.

Secret Shopper Scams

Since the Secret Shopper and Mystery Shopper scams seems to be increasing, I wanted to post an example of the email that the scammer would send to their would be victim.

Dear Representative,
You have been selected for an assignment as a Mystery Shopper. You willearn $300 been a mystery shopper. Your employment packet will includefunds for the shopping, a training assignment which will be sent to youon the same day you receive payment for the assignment. A Pay check would be sent toyou for the assignment in the form of a Check or money order. The paycheck would be for a certain amount which you would be required to cash atyour bank, deduct your salary and have the rest used for the evaluation atthe store that would be given to you to evaluate.Get back with the following details if interested

Email me the below details:
Full Name:
Full Address (Not P.o.box):
City:
State:
Zip Code:
Phone Number:
Nationality:A
lternative Email Address:

As a mystery shopper you work and shop together for pleasure and the payis $300 weekly on Part time basis, You only work 2-3hours twice in aweek. Do get back to the recruiting department of Mystery Shopper Inc.

You may contact me at msparecruits01@sify.com
Regards,
Chad Stinson
Personnel Manager

Scam victim arrested – update

Back in August I told you about a scam victim who was arrested, and now I have an update on her case.

Her day in court came, and then the DA first started to read the documents in her file they commented “How could she not know” and “How stupid is she” . . . all while she was sitting just a few feet away. Then, as the DA continued to read their commnets changed to “Wow . . . he is very convincing!”. Too bad they did not appologize for his earlier comments.

When all was said and done the case was dismissed, which is wonderful. She is still struggling to find a job and to recover from the financial loss that she took due to this scam, but she knows that the worst is over.

Mystery Shopper Scam Email

Here is a Mystery Shopper Scam email that I found in my Spam folder.

Subject:MYSTERY SHOPPER NEEDED IN YOUR AREA
Date:9/10/2009 6:26:15 A.M. Central Daylight Time
From:jobs@mysteryshopper.com
Reply To:mysteryshopper@dowdles.org

“We have a mystery shopping assignment in your area and we would like you to participate”Secret Shopper® is accepting applications for qualified individuals to become mystery shoppers. It’s fun and rewarding, and you choose when and where you want to shop. You are never obligated to accept an assignment. There is no charge to become a shopper and you do not need previous experience. After you sign up, you will have access to training materials via e-mail, fax or postal mail.

ABOUT US
Secret Shopper® is the premier mystery shopping company, serving clients across America and Canada with over 500,000 shoppers available and ready to help businesses better serve their customers. Continual investment in the latest internet and communication technologies coupled with over 16 years of know-how means working with Secret Shopper® is a satisfying and rewarding experience. Secret shopping as seen on ABC NEWS, NBC NEWS, L.A.TIMES. Stores and organizations such as The Gap, Wal-Mart, Pizza Hut, and Banks. One amongst many others pay for Secret Shoppers to shop in their establishments and report their experiences. On top of being paid for shopping you are also allowed to keep purchases for free. Secret Shopper® NEVER charge fees to the shopper. Training, tips for improvement, and shopping opportunities are provided free to registered shoppers. Mystery shoppers are either paid a pre-arranged fee for a particular shop, a reimbursement for a purchase or a combination of both. Secret Shopper® has availableThe assignment will pay $75 – $200.00 per duty, depends on the amount of assignment.Kindly Fill Out the application form below and we will get back to you shortly with the assignment:
PERSONAL INFORMATION:
First Name……………..
Middle Name…………….
Last Name………………
Street Address………….
City, State, Zip Code……
Cell Phone Number……….
Home Phone Number……….
Age……………………

We await your urgent response, Thank you for your help.
We look forward to working with you.
Sincerely,
Thomas Bode
415 830 6195
Secret Shopper®

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