Scam Report

Don’t Get Taken In by the Secret Shopper Scam

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Don't Get Taken In by the Secret Shopper Scam
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There’s an old scam coming back hard and it combines secret shopping with fake checks

Scammers need a good story to get to your wallet. Once they find one that works, they use it again and again. One of their old favorites brings together fake checks and secret shopping, and now they’re targeting job hunters with a new atke on the old scam.

Here’s how it starts. You might have replied to a job advertisement and a week or so later get a check in the mail with a job offer as a secret shopper.

You follow the instructions and deposit the check. You’ll see the funds in your account a few days later, and the bank even tells you the check has cleared.

Now you’re off to the store you’ve been asked to shop at and report back on, often a Walmart.

Your first “assignment” is to test the in-store money transfer service, like Western Union or MoneyGram, by sending some of the money you deposited.

Or you might be told to use the money to buy reloadable cards or gift cards, such as iTunes cards. You’re instructed to send pictures of the cards or to give the numbers on the cards to prove you’ve made a successful transaction.

Fast forward days or weeks to the unhappy ending.

The bank finds out the check you deposited is a fake, which means you’re on the hook for all that money.

How does that even happen? Well, banks must make funds from deposited checks available within days, but uncovering a fake check can take weeks.

By the time you try to get the money back from the money transfer service, the scammers are long gone, and they’ve taken all the money off the gift cards, too. (By the way, money orders and cashier’s checks can be faked, too.)

The moral of the story? If anyone ever asks you to deposit a check and then wire or send money in any way, you can bet it’s a scam. No matter what they tell you.

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