Scam of the day – July 8, 2017 – Mystery shopper text message scam

I have been warning you about mystery shopper scams for years, however what makes today’s mystery shopper scam so timely is that originates with a text message.  More and more scams are now being sent to targeted victims through their cell phones rather than just by email which reflects the increased use of all of us of our smart phones.

Mystery shoppers are people hired to shop at a particular store and report on the shopping experience for purposes of quality control.  Unlike many scams, there actually are legitimate mystery shopper companies, but they never advertise or recruit through emails.

The manner in which the scam works is that when you answer an advertisement, an email or now a text message to become a mystery shopper and you are sent a bank check to deposit and use for your shopping.  You spend some of the money on the goods that you purchase which you are allowed to keep and also are directed to keep some of the balance of the check as payment for your services.   You are instructed to return the remaining funds by a wire transfer.  The problem is that the check is counterfeit, but the money you send by wire from your own bank account is legitimate and that money is gone from your bank account forever.

The new text message version of the scam, which was sent to me by a Scamicide reader who fortunately recognized the scam before she became a victim begins with a text message inquiry about whether the intended victim is available for a “personal assistant job offer” and then gives an email address for the intended victim to contact.  If you contact the sender of the text message, you are prompted to provide some personal information and then told in a subsequent email that you qualified for the mystery shopper job and would be sent a package with further information.

TIPS

One reason why this scam fools so many people is that there really are mystery shopping jobs although the actual number is quite few and they do not go looking for you. An indication that you are involved with a scam is when you receive a check for more than what is owed you and you are asked to wire the difference back to the sender.  This is the basis of many scams.  Whenever you receive a check, wait for your bank to tell you that the check has fully cleared before you consider the funds as actually being in your account.  Don’t rely on provisional credit  which is given after a few days, but which can be rescinded once a check bounces and never accept a check for more than what is owed with the intention to send back the rest.  That is always a scam.  Also be wary whenever you are asked to wire funds because this is a common theme in many scams because it is difficult to trace and impossible to stop.

Additionally, this particular scam email was sent by the email address of a person entirely unrelated to any mystery shopping company which is generally an indication that you are getting the email sent from an unsuspecting victim of an email hacking whose email address is now being used as a part of a botnet of similarly hacked computers to send out scam emails such as this.

Scam of the day – December 21, 2015 – Phony job scams on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a popular social media website used by business professionals to network with other professionals.  According to LinkedIn, it has more than 400 million users.  LinkedIn is used by these people to get ideas, explore opportunities and even to list job postings.  Anything with 400 million members is attractive to scam artists so it is not surprising that scammers are constantly trying and often successful in posting phony job offers despite the best efforts of LinkedIn to recognize and take down these phony ads.  Here at Scamicide we have been reporting on job scams at LinkedIn for two years. Security software company Symantec recently issued a warning about an increase during the last year of LinkedIn job scams.   Symantec identified a common pattern found in many of these phony job listings on  LinkedIn.  The pattern includes fake accounts set up by the scammers posing as recruiters for nonexistent businesses.  They also often use photographs of women that they obtain from websites that provide images or copied from other online sources.  To make the ads seem more legitimate, they will  copy the exact wording of real advertisements appearing elsewhere.   What makes this scam particularly dangerous is that real recruiters use LinkedIn to contact prospective job recruits.  While some of the older job scams would ask for money from their victims to pay for credit checks or other administrative costs, the newer scams seem primarily to be done with a goal of gaining information, such as email addresses and other information about the people targeted and the companies where they work in order to facilitate directed spear phishing used to lure employees to unwittingly download malware into their companies’ computers.

TIPS

Although LinkedIn and other websites that carry job postings try to identify and either prevent or remove phony ads from appearing on their websites, you cannot depend on these companies to fully protect you.  Certainly a little skepticism helps when you see a job posting for a job that sounds too good to be true.  Ads that ask for you to pay upfront costs for any reason should be considered to be a scam.

To check on the legitimacy of photographs in these ads you can do a reverse image search using Google or websites such as tineye.com.  You can also check to see if the wording of the advertisement has been used elsewhere by merely copying a substantial amount of the text into your search engine and see what comes up.  Finally, research the company itself to determine if it is a legitimate company.  You can’t be too careful before providing someone with personal information.

Scam of the day – September 15, 2015 – Google Docs phishing scam

Scammers are sending phishing emails that appear to come from a company recruiting you for a position at their company.  The email looks legitimate, is written with good grammar and contains a legitimate looking company logo.  The email indicates that the recruiter found your resume on on LinkedIn.  Attached to the email is a link to Google Doc purportedly with a description of the job for which you are being recruited.  Clicking on the link will take you to a legitimate looking, but phony log-in page that looks like Google’s login page.  The scammers actually open a Google Drive account and mark it as public.  They then load their phishing program on to the file.  If you enter your user name and password, you will have turned over this information to an identity thief.

TIPS

As I often warn you, “trust me, you can’t trust anyone.”  This scam is particularly insidious because it looks so legitimate.  However, you should never click on a link in an email or text message unless you have absolutely confirmed that it is legitimate.  In this case, you should check out the company on Google or some other search engine to find out if it is a real company.  But even that is not sufficient to confirm that the email is legitimate because a scammer can use the name of a legitimate company to send out what appears to be legitimate emails that are, in fact, scams.  If a job is being offered by a real company, you can get information about the job posting on the website of the legitimate company or by calling the company’s HR department.

Scam of the day- October 9, 2012 – Latest employment scams

Searching for a job online has become the norm for many people seeking employment and there are many legitimate online employment websites such as Careerbuilder.com and Monster.com, however, merely because an ad for a job appears on a legitimate website does not mean that the job is for real.  It may be just a scam seeking either personal information to make you a victim of identity theft, your money or both.  Do not assume because you see an ad for a job on a legitimate employment website that the ad is legitimate.  Although Career builder.com, Monster.com and other online employment agencies do their best to screen their ads, they can’t be even close to perfect.  Some of the things to be on the lookout for are companies that want you to wire fees as part of the job application or those asking for personal information early in the process.  Make sure that the company has a brick and mortar location and is not just an online scam.  Also be wary of ads that appear to be from companies that you know are legitimate because the scammer may be faking that as well.

TIPS

Never spend money to apply for a job.  Legitimate employers do not require them.  Google the address, telephone number and name of the company to see if they match what you have been told.  Don’t send a resume with personal information, such as your Social Security number that can be used to make you a victim of identity theft.  If the ad appears to be from a company that you know is legitimate, confirm by a telephone call to the real company’s HR department that the ad you are answering is legitmate.  A legitimate company will eventually need your Social Security number, but not early in the process.  Make sure that you have confirmed that the job is legitimate before providing this information.