Today’s Scam of the Day comes from a Scamicide reader who, fortunately, was able to recognize a mystery shopper scam when he was contacted through LinkedIn by someone purporting to work for a company called BlueOctopus Research seeking to hire him to be a mystery shopper or, as the scam is sometimes known, secret shopper. 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, text messages or letters.
The manner in which the scam generally works is that when you answer an advertisement, or respond to a letter, email or a text message to become a mystery shopper, you are sent a bank check. 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 generally instructed to return the remaining funds by a wire transfer. In the mystery shopper scam reported to me by a Scamicide reader, he was sent a counterfeit check for $1,900, told to keep $250 as his compensation and use the rest to purchase gift cards. He was further instructed to take photos of the gift cards and to send the photos to the company. If he had done so, the scammer would have been able to use the numbers from the gift cards to make purchases and the person purchasing the gift cards would have lost the money in his bank account that he used to buy the gift cards.
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 or buy gift cards and provide the numbers 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 Don’t rely on provisional credit which is given after a few days, but which will be rescinded once a check bounces and never accept a check for more than what is owed with the intention to send back the rest.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 or send gift cards because this is a common theme in many scams because it is difficult to trace and impossible to stop. Legitimate companies do not use gift cards as payments.
If you receive a mystery shopper scam solicitation or check through the mail you can report it to the United States Postal Service at
http://about.usps.com/publications/pub300a/pub300a_tech_024.htm
You also can report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) which investigates these scams at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#crnt&panel1-1
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