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Watch For Scams Newsletter. Mystery Shopping Scams Increase
January 28, 2010
Mystery Shopping Scams Increase
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Mystery Shopping Scams IncreaseRecently we have received increased reports of employment schemes relating to mystery/secret shopper positions. Scammers are taking advantage of the fact that many retail and service corporations do hire people to evaluate themselves or their competitors.
We have been advised that the victims have been contacted by e-mail and U.S. mail to apply to be a mystery shopper and asked to send a resume and are supposidly subject to an extensive background check before being accepted as a mystery shopper.
The employees are then sent a check with instructions to shop at a specified retailer for a specific length of time and spend a specific amount of money on merchandise from the store. The employees receive instructions to take note of the store's environment, color, payment procedures, gift items, and shopping/carrier bags and report back to the employer.
The second evaluation is to evaluate the ease and accuracy of wiring money from the retail location. The money to be wired is also included in the check sent to the employee.
The remaining balance is the employee's payment for the completion of the assignment. After the merchandise is purchased and the money is wired, the employees are advised by the bank that the check cashed was counterfeit, and they are responsible for the money lost in addition to bank fees incurred.
In other versions of the scheme, applicants are requested to provide bank account information to have money directly deposited into their accounts. The scammers then have gained access to these victims' accounts and can withdraw money, which makes the applicant a victim of identity theft.
Here are some tips you can use to avoid becoming a victim of employment schemes associated with mystery/secret shopping:
•Do not respond to unsolicited [spam] e-mail
•Do not click on links contained within an unsolicited e-mail
•Be cautious of e-mail claiming to contain pictures in attached files, as the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders. Virus scan all attachments, if possible
•Avoid filling out forms contained in e-mail messages that ask for personal information
•Always compare the link in the e-mail to the link you are actually directed to and determine if they match and will lead you to a legitimate site
•There are legitimate mystery/secret shopper programs available. Research the legitimacy of companies hiring mystery shoppers. Legitimate companies will not charge an application fee and will accept applications on-line
•No legitimate mystery/secret shopper program will send payment in advance and ask the employee to send a portion of it back.
If you have received an e-mail referencing the above information or have been a victim of this or a similar incident, you should notify the IC3 via www.ic3.gov.
Remember - always watch for scams!
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